Rock discusses working with Sam Mendes, the actors and how Tobe Hooper gave him his first job

If you're making a movie where there is any type of gunplay involved you would be wise to employ Rock Galotti as the Weapons Coordinator. Galotti served this role recently in Sam Mendes' powerful war film Jarhead. The movie, based on Anthony Swofford's book which depicts the life of some soldiers in the first Gulf War in 1991, is layered with honest performances and a sense of reality that heavily recalls such powerful films as Full Metal Jacket and Stalag 17.

For a war movie to work they depend on the little things that the audience takes for granted. It is these things that Rock Galotti specializes in. Whether it is how a weapon is handled, the kind of weapon that is being used or choreographing a gunfight, Galotti has his hands on every aspect of this part of the production.

What exactly does a weapons coordinator do on a movie like Jarhead?

Rock Galotti: A weapon coordinator's job is basically to supply, maintain and supervise use of all weapons on a film set. This would include taking care of armored duties when a weapon goes down, fixing it, making sure that the gunfire sequences are safe, getting involved in the choreography with the director and the stunt personnel to make sure that the line of fire is safe, or the weapon is capable of doing what they want it to do. Basically, just all around weapon related issues have to go through them.

On a movie like Jarhead, are you watching every scene to make sure that a weapon is being handled properly?

Rock Galotti: Absolutely, every scene.

Of a percentage ratio, I am assuming you were probably on the film the entire time?

Rock Galotti: That's correct. I had prep time to get the weapons ready, to have weapons fabricated because we had to build the M40A1 sniper rifles. Then I'm on the set every single day because of law... the weapons are machine guns, assault weapons, so I'm permitted for those. I have to be on the set for legal reasons and secondly to make sure that actors don't do anything ridiculous or stupid with them. Or, that weapons don't come up missing and that all safety procedures are adhered to.

Did you find that the actors took pretty easily to handling the weapons? Was it a big learning curve or is everybody different?

Rock Galotti: Everybody was different. Some guys were good. There were a couple of guys that definitely caught on very quickly. Some guys were a little bit slow learning but we have ways of making them remember, and those ways were implemented. The last thing they wanted to do was see me make a beeline across the set for them to get in their face.

On a movie like Jarhead, does Sam Mendes direct you at all? Or, does he come to you as an open book and really tap into your knowledge?

Rock Galotti: Well, every show's different. On this particular show at first he was very set in what he wanted. I think once he realized that I, myself, was a Vet of that time period and I kind of knew what I was doing, I think he felt more comfortable. Then, towards the end of the film it became, "Well, what do you think about this, Sam?" He'd say, "That's a great idea." Or, "Can we do this, Rock?" And I'd be like, "Yeah, sure we can do that." As long as the weapons were being handled as the military would for most scenes, there were a couple scenes where creative license was taken, that were items in the book and there was nothing I could do. I bucked it and I argued it and I said, "There's no way," but it had to happen because it was there, it was in the book.

How did you come to work on Jarhead

Rock Galotti: The military technical advisor Sergeant Major Jim Dever is one of my best friends and he and I talk everyday if not every two days. He had been approached to do the film for Universal and he said, "Well, if you want another Gulf War Vet, the weapons guy that I work with a lot is the only Gulf War Vet in the industry that does firearms." They pulled me in for an interview and I hit it off with everybody and we were off and running.

When you watch historical War movies that you don't work on is your antenna up to make sure that the proper weapon is being used in a scene? Or that it's being handled correctly?

Rock Galotti: Oh, absolutely. Not only is my antenna up just for weapon usage because I've been doing this for twenty years... it's up for everything. Lighting! My girlfriend and I will go see a movie and she�ll turn to me and say, "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. It's supposed to be four o'clock in the afternoon and the sun looks like it's going straight down!" We just rip movies apart constantly.

The weapons part of it... I'm always looking for things like firing a weapon and it not going to slide lock, running out of ammo, the hammer back one angle and forward the next angle, fingers on the trigger as people are walking and all kinds of stuff.

It seems that in most jobs people work their way up but you started off on A List movies doing Oliver Stone's Platoon. How did you get into this line of work?

Rock Galotti: Well, Platoon was the third film I ever did. The first film was a movie called Invaders from Mars. I was on temporary active duty in the Marine Core and they were using some Marines for a show, and I was coordinating, working as a liaison, to get some reserve Marines to do some work as extras.

One day I was on the set and a weapon malfunctioned and broke, and the person who was on the set and responsible for it, really didn't know what was wrong with it. It was an M16A1 and I took the thing apart... the nipple of the firing pin had broken off. So I asked to use the phone. I called my Armory at the base, had him bring over his firing pin and put it in the weapon, it was off and going.

Tobe Hooper, the director, turned and said, "Fire that guy, hire that guy." And I said, "I'd love to do it but I still got a couple more weeks on my Marine Core contract." And I went back and told my Commanding Officer and he said, "If you don't tell the Marine Core, I won't." The next day I showed up on the set and said, "If the job's still open I'll take it?" The propmaster Doug Fox and I hit it off, and he took me to New Orleans to do The Big Easy.

Then a gentlemen named Dale Dye that I had met on Invaders from Mars, asked me to come on board and work with him on Platoon. I did Platoon and after Platoon became a hit my career just went kind of crazy.

At the time when I first started doing firearms there weren't dedicated weapon's people in the film industry, really. There were FX guys that did it, most of the propmasters did it and I felt that the bigger the film... there was a need to have dedicated weapons people, which I had a resistance to for 20 years and now it's become more commonplace. You know, propmasters have a ton of stuff to worry about, it's not all about a glory position and a lot of them realize that. It's really about safety and making sure nobody gets hurt.

How can you tend to an actor who's complaining about one thing, or what's this or what's that... you've got 20 extras to worry about, you're putting stuff with, there's a cast of 20 people on camera. Then you have to worry about 10 guns firing with stunt people. It's much easier to have a guy dedicated, strictly doing firearms and deal with those aspects and build a rapport with stunts and with FX.

What's next for you? What do you have coming up?

Rock Galotti: Well, I've got a couple of things that I'm in negotiations about. There's three films right now that are being discussed. I hate to say anything but they are substantial in size, lets just put it that way.

Jarhead marches on to DVD March 7th, 2006 from Universal Home Entertainment.

Dont't forget to also check out: Jarhead

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs