*Based on true events, “War Dogs” is definitely not your run of the mill movie. It depicts a time during the George W. Bush administration when huge no-bid contracts to supply the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being awarded to conglomerates like Halliburton, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Enter into the equation two friends in their early 20s—played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller—who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows smaller businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts.
Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan military—a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.
They say fact is stranger than fiction, so I asked Hill and Teller, who were at the Mandarin Hotel in New York for the press conference, if this is the strangest story they have done? “Yeah, for sure,” Hill said. “It’s up there,” was Teller’s response. “I mostly like documentaries so I always think things that happen in real life are so astounding that why even make a movie about something fake,” Hill continued.
“I’m always more like, wow, real life is so endlessly fascinating. “In this movie they’re not breaking the law until they do because if the government says it’s legal, is it o.k. to do? That’s what I found really interesting about this movie.”
“I’ve had the experience to play a couple of real-life guys and every single one of those stories is absolutely insane,” Teller told me. “This one is more relatable I guess because I was a 22-year-old stoner. That’s why my dad sent me the [Rolling Stones] article and said, ‘You’ve got to tell Todd [Phillips, director] to put you in this movie.’ It’s pretty insane.”
Agreeing with Hill and Teller, Phillips found this story about legitimate arms dealing to be incredulous. “For me,” Phillips admitted, “I like to make movies about guys who do f**ked up things. I read the Rolling Stone article and I couldn’t believe that it was real. It’s so unbelievable.”
“It a strange experience watching your work emerge on the screen” Guy Larson, the author of the 2011 Rolling Stone story called “Arms and the Dudes,” offered. “There’s a lot of important issues being brought to the world about America’s role in proliferating weapons, about the lack of responsibility of anyone in authority in this country…It’s ridiculous. There’s never any consequences.”
Although a comedy, Teller also sees the seriousness of the factors in this film and says, “Our movie ends but still something of that size is going to have a huge, rippling effect. These are real people, so it was interesting to see that it’s still going on. For me, it was interesting to see it (war) as a business, or the fact that people were profiting off of it. Some of my best friends are military, so I always look at those things on a more personal level. I look at just the people that it’s affecting.”
Hill has been affected by “War Dogs” in a way he never expected. “For me, it was just an eye-opening experience of war as a business and the things our government does. I was at a restaurant this week and two young men that were dressed similar to these guys in their heyday of financial wealth came up to me and said, ‘We’re South African arms dealers and we can’t wait to see your movie.’ They gave me a fist bump and I didn’t want to fist bump them—it’s not support by playing the character, you know what I mean? I tried to ask them more about their business and they immediately deflected and wouldn’t talk about it.”
“War Dogs” that co-stars Bradley Cooper, opens August 19.
Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]
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