21 years after Tom Berenger first played U.S. Marine marksman Thomas Beckett in the 1993 action-thriller Sniper, Beckett's legacy lives on in Sony Pictures' Sniper: Legacy. After the original film hit theaters in 1993, Tom Berenger returned as Beckett in two straight-to-video sequels, but in 2011, the franchise was revived with Sniper: Reloaded, which starred Chad Michael Collins as Thomas' son Brandon Beckett. This estranged father-son duo come face-to-face in Sniper: Legacy, available on DVD September 30, as they must work together to take out a rogue shooter who has been taking out high-ranking military leaders.
I recently had the chance to speak with Tom Berenger over the phone, where he offered a sneak peek into the production process, explaining how the original script's ending may have ended this franchise before it even started, the possibility of a new Major League movie, and much more. Take a look at what he had to say below.
Did you ever think, when you first signed on to play Thomas Beckett in Sniper, that you'd be revisiting this character 20 years later?
Tom Berenger: Absolutely not. I had no idea, not even a thought. In the original script, I'm killed by Billy Zane, who shoots me so I don't get tortured anymore, when I signal him. You know, one shot, two kills, he reads my lips and then he carries my body out of there. But, they changed that ending. Maybe they were thinking about it, at the time, or they just like happy endings, who knows. I was kind of disappointed, actually, because I thought it was just a great ending. I thought it was great that he has to kill me to keep me from being tortured. So, here we are. I guess there are five of them now.
I actually talked to Chad a few years ago, for Sniper: Reloaded, and he was talking about doing a sequel with Billy Zane again. Do you know if he was ever approached to come back for this one as well?
Tom Berenger: I don't think so, because, as far as I know, that character wasn't written in. It's conceivable that they could bring him back, though, yeah? By the way, that's a pretty interesting idea.
Absolutely. It'd be interesting to see the franchise come completely full-circle, bringing you and Billy and Chad in. That would be awesome.
Tom Berenger: Yeah, I had never even thought of that (Laughs). That's a very interesting idea.
The locations are quite gorgeous in this. Can you talk a bit about where you shot this, and how long you were on set for?
Tom Berenger: Originally, it was supposed to be in the jungle of Colombia, but that changed. As it turns out, the location is supposed to be Santorini, Greece, at the end there, which is very nice and we spent about five days there. But, the location now is the border between Turkey and Syria, and you can see how the timing is on that. It's like refugees from Syria trying to cross the border into Turkey, and we're fighting paramilitary rebels, that sort of situation, who are not particularly against the Syrian government, but it's more of an ISIS sort of deal. So, wow. The timing couldn't be better, could it? But yeah, it's right there on that border area, because right when we begin, we're in Turkey, and then we go down into Syria, yeah.
I thought both you and Chad had a really good dynamic together. Brandon obviously has a lot of issues with his father, and I thought that was portrayed nicely without hitting it over the head, I guess.
Tom Berenger: Yeah, I think so too. It could have been a lot more... what's the word, indulgent or melodramatic. I guess both of these guys have feelings of guilt about it, but they get past it, one, because they have to, and two, it's just sort of their nature. In other words, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
I've always been fascinated by the mentality of the sniper and everything they do. There was such a long gap between these films, did you go back and do any research about how modern snipers work?
There are some technical advantages they have now, but, of course, the enemy has them too. Otherwise, it's all pretty much the same, you know. Sometimes, you can't depend on all the high-tech stuff, you have to go back to basics. In the early Sniper, we were doing land-nav by map and compass, same thing in Platoon. Now they use GPS, and they know exactly where they're at. They don't even have to figure it out. During the second war in Iraq, I talked to a National Guardsman, who was re-training at Fort Stewart in Georgia. They were like mechanized infantry, and they were practicing firing from their Bradley vehicles, kind of like a tank carrying infantry. Anyway, they were practicing down range, I asked the lieutenant, 'Do you know how to do land navigation by map and compass?' He goes, 'Yeah, I do, they trained us in that.' I go, 'Could you do it right now?' He goes, 'I'd have to study a little bit again,' because they're using GPS. I suppose it's the same thing at sea. You don't really have to use a sextent anymore, with the GPS. It's kind of interesting, though, that if you had to, you could still do it. It's interesting that sometimes, you just have to improvise.
It's interesting seeing a film like this now too, when drones are being so heavily used in the military. These planes are 5,000 feet in the air looking over everything.
Tom Berenger: I know. It's sort of like the end of Patton, when George C. Scott says, 'I don't know about the future of war,' because they just dropped two A-bombs on Japan. He says, 'I can't imagine going to war and never, ever seeing your enemy.' He's talking like an old warrior, but there's some truth to all of that. You can see where he's going with that, and the drones are certainly an example of it. I don't know. I'm sort of a history buff, so I kind of like the Civil War stuff, and the Macedonian Greek phalanx, how they did all that, their discipline, their strategy. Then you get into such high-tech stuff, and there's nobody even on the battlefield except the guys being killed. It's sort of weird. It's not as interesting to me. However, we had a marine adviser, a former sniper, and he told us about all this stuff they have now. It's interesting that these guys are kind of quiet, generally speaking, probably more so when they were younger. They're used to being alone a lot, or in twos. They can go days without talking, just using hand signals. It's a lot different than conventional infantry.
I've been a huge Major League fan since I was a kid. I remember a few years ago, Charlie Sheen was talking about how he wanted to make another one. Has there been any serious discussions about getting the whole team back together?
Tom Berenger: You know, I talked to David S. Ward, and he's trying to get that going. He just wanted to know if I'd do it, and I said, 'Yeah, of course I'd be interested.' It was fun and, to get these guys back, it'd be great. He's very good with baseball, and he's also good with comedy and humor, so whatever it is, it'd be funny, I'm sure. He's a real talented writer, and as a director, he's already done this twice.
When I was a kid, my friends and I watched the original Major League non-stop, I swear.
Tom Berenger: Listen, I've talked to guys who go, 'You know, if it's on and it's right in the middle of it, I just leave it on.' I'd go, 'Well you probably know all the lines,' and he'd go, 'Yeah!' It's just one of those things (Laughs). I was up in Connecticut recently and I was in a coffee shop with my son's father-in-law, and a guy walked by, maybe late 60s, early 70s, really healthy-looking, he comes up to the table and says, Major League, etc. and introduced us to his son, who pitched for the Mets. It's kind of like three or four generations now, and they just keep watching it because it's baseball and it's traditional. The game doesn't change that much, and it just gets passed on from father to son to grandson and so on and so forth. It will be around long after we're all dead.
Is there anything else that you're developing or that you're working on right now that you can talk about?
Tom Berenger: No, I'm in San Diego for the Film Festival, but there's nothing in the wings yet.
What would you say to fans of the original Sniper about why they should give Sniper: Legacy a shot?
Tom Berenger: I'm not just trying to sell a project, but I saw it myself a few weeks ago, and I really liked it. I was really impressed by the rewrites that Don (Michael Paul), the director, did. I had a pretty good feeling when I was doing it, and I watched other scenes and the editing, and I thought it was really, really good. I thought he did a great job on it. I was really, really impressed. It wasn't just some cheesy take-off on the one before. He really is a good director, and also a good writer, because I thought the rewrites were great when I read it. Once we started doing it, it was fun, a lot of improvisational stuff. I'm pleased with it.
Excellent. That's about all I have. Thanks so much, Tom. It was a real pleasure.
Tom Berenger: Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.