Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Jerry Ferrara and director Peter Berg talk Lone Survivor at the AFI Fest premiere
Just one day after the Veterans Day holiday, the cast and crew of Lone Survivor hit the red carpet at the AFI Fest in Hollywood last night. This adaptation of retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's book is steadily building award season buzz leading into its limited release December 27 and expanding wide January 10, 2014. The film takes us inside the lives of four Navy SEALS (Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Taylor Kitsch), who are sent on a mission deep into the Afghanistan mountains to kill a wanted terrorist. After their mission becomes compromised, these four soldiers are ambushed by an onslaught of Taliban soldiers in this intense tale of brotherhood and survival.
Mark Wahlberg described his emotional time on the set playing Marcus Luttrell (i.e. the title character), and how he felt a responsibility to accurately portray what really happened.
"It was amazing, but also sad and prideful. You were very emotional every single day you were out there. Having Marcus out there, and a lot of the SEAL guys out there, having met all the family members of the guys we were portraying in the movie, we committed and promised to them that we would do the right thing, and do them justice and make them proud. But, that also carries a lot of responsibility. It's hard making a movie, let alone making a good one, so you've got to do it right, and pay attention to every single detail."
He also talked about having Marcus on the set, how he opened up to the cast during the production, and how even the most complex shots would be done over again if it wasn't completely right.
"We had to just train and prepare. Marcus didn't want to be around for a lot of the gunfights and stuff like that, which is obviously understandable. I didn't want to pry too much, and ask too many questions until we were really comfortable with each other, and then I asked him what was cool to talk about and what wasn't cool to talk about. You have to be respectful, considering what these guys have been through. He opened up to us a lot. They were all adamant about us getting it right. Even in the middle of a big gun battle with explosions, if it wasn't correct, they would call bullshit, yell 'cut,' straighten your ass out, and you'd get it right. That's how it was, and that's how we wanted it to be."
"It didn't have to be like, 'Oh, let's hang out or go to dinner.' We were all there for the same reasons. We were there for those guys. Everybody knew what it was, and what it entailed. Ben Foster and I had been friends. I never met Emile or Taylor, but I knew right away what those guys were capable of, and what they were bringing to the table. It was an unwritten rule. We're doing this for these guys. There's no complaining, no bullshit. Get up there and get it right."
"You know, in this movie, in Afghanistan, a lot of the SEALS grow their beards out because a lot of the local guys, they don't respect guys unless they have beards, in that region. So that's where most of that is from."
The actor also echoed Mark Wahlberg's comment about the instantaneous bonding between cast members.
"We were a tight-knit group. We all really respected one another and trusted each other. We did a lot of out training with live fire, with the M4 weapons system, and certainly in that type of environment, you learn to trust the person next to you. We had absolute trust in each other. We had to. We all felt that way very quickly."
He also took us through the training process all the actor's went through, while revealing that it's merely a fraction of what real Navy SEALS must endure.
"It's 1/1,000,000th of what these actual guys go through. Yeah, we trained for a few months, six days a week, just running and working out, getting our butts kicked by these guys, but still, it's nothing. You watch these videos of what actual SEAL training is like, and it's a lot harder."
Jerry Ferrara, who plays Sergeant Hasslert, didn't have to endure any of the physical training for his role, but he did talk about the challenges of getting the Navy SEAL lingo accurate.
"For me, there were no physical demands, compared to what these four guys went through. The hardest thing was just the way these soldiers speak, in a real life technical way, and also how they speak to each other personally. Luckily, Pete (Berg) knows everything there is to know, and if there was anything he did not know, there were real-life soldiers there they whole time. I said after every take, 'Please, if I'm saying something wrong, just jump all over me, because I want this to be right.'"
He also talked about how producer Randall Emmett brought him on board, and how he was happy to play a small part in this big story.
"It literally came together from (producer) Randall Emmett, and I've known Pete for awhile now. I worked on Battleship with Pete. He just presented me with this role, and I was honored to be a small part of this really, really big story, with these real life heroes."
Director Peter Berg spoke about how he was introduced to the book nearly five years ago, when he was shooting Hancock.
"Four and a half or five years ago, I was on the set of Hancock making that film. While we were filming, my partner said, 'You've got to read this book.' I said, 'I'm in the middle of making a film. I can't read. I need to focus.' She said, 'Trust me, you've got to read it.' I read 50 pages, then I went into the trailer at lunch, locked the door and read the whole book, cover to cover. That was five years ago. It just put me in that moment. It put me in the moment of these four young men, fighting for their lives. I knew I wanted to share that."
He also spoke about Marcus Luttrell's involvement as a producer on the set.
"Marcus has become a dear friend of mine for the past five years. We've been together a lot, and Marcus has been very clear about what happened on that hill that night, making sure I understood it. Marcus has been a wonderful resource for me."
That about wraps it up for my coverage from the Lone Survivor premiere at AFI Fest. This harrowing drama arrives in limited release December 27, before opening nationwide January 10, 2014.