Lone Survivor QA

Normally, the director has 100% final say on a film set. He’s the man. However, that was not the case on the set of Lone Survivor. Director Peter Berg and producer/star Mark Wahlberg were so committed to realism on the set, they hired several Navy SEALs as advisors and told them they could stop filming or call B.S. on anything, at any time.

The film tells the harrowing true story of four Navy SEALS on a mission in Afghanistan who are posed with an impossible decision with unthinkable ramifications. Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell, the real life SEAL who wrote a book about the experience, and he was among the SEALs on set with this unusual filmmaking power. Luttrell, along with Wahlberg and Berg, spoke about this at a recent screening of the film at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, presented by Film Independent. Read the quotes below.

Here’s what Wahlberg had to say about this unorthodox, but successful attempt at realism:

Marcus being there was a huge help, but also a huge amount of pressure. We also had a number of other SEALs there training us, leading up to the film, and also during the entire course of the shoot. And they had free reign. Normally when you have a consultant, you have somebody who you want to keep at arms length then. When you want to ask a question or you need a bit of information, you bring them in. Unfortunately that’s usually how they treat writers on a film, right? You bring them in when you need them and kick them out, keep them as far from the director as possible.

But with these guys, they had free reign to call B.S. on anything that was wrong. Even if it was in the middle of a huge action sequence that entailed helicopters, explosions and everything else and it was going to set us back a day, a week, whatever it was. They had the right to come in and say “Stop,” grab you by the back of the neck, and say “Stop, that’s wrong, do it like this. We’ll do it 100 times until you get it right.” And I loved having that. I encouraged them to have that freedom. And they never took it too far where they start giving you line readings in an emotional moment. Once or twice a couple of them tried. Marcus could, absolutely. “Yes sir, Marcus sir, tell me what to say and how to say it, absolutely.” But it was just a different ball game. They knew better than us and we relied on them for their support to make it as authentic and realistic as possible.

According to Luttrell, there were 8-10 SEALs working on the film, with at least three on set every day. While they tried not to step in too much, when they did it was mostly in regards to language or movement:

We tend to speak our own language in our community. It stars with military talk, everyone in the military talks military, and after that in teams it goes a step further. It was actually kind of difficult in the beginning to open ourselves up to someone who isn’t in our community and allow them inside to see what we’re all about. It’s kind of one of those rites of passage where if you want to understand that world, you have to go through the things we went through. But that being said, it was so critical these guys understood, spoke the language, walk, talked, moved used their weapons systems, everything, just like we would.

Because of that we stepped back, opened ourselves up and were there for them. Anything they needed, any situation. But we tried not to press our limit. We didn’t want to overstep our bounds because they’re the pros….When it came time to do the shoot and get the movement and stuff, that’s when we came in and said “You’re gonna listen to what we have to say” and then they took it on board but when Pete called action, we stepped back and watched them do what they do best.

It paid off. Lone Survivor is a harrowing, dramatic and heartbreaking real life war story. It opens on a limited basis December 27. It opens everywhere January 10.

Photo Credit: WireImage, used with permission of Film Independent

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