stealth movie photo

Part 2: Moving and Grooving

Blake J. Harris: Do you have any strong memories from working on Stealth?

Jon Iles: I think that the biggest memory I have is from the scene where the hangar gets blown up; just the enormity and the danger that was involved with that one stunt…it’s just a different level. So much effort and time and resources go into a shot that, really, is only on screen for 2 seconds.

Blake J. Harris: And what about any memories with the principal actors? Did you have much interaction with them?

Jon Iles: Yeah. I worked with Josh [Lucas]. Richard Norton—Richard was the stunt coordinator—and I worked with Josh for about six weeks on certain fight scenes. And then I worked with Jess, Jessica Biel, on some weapons handling stuff. She had tricky weapons that she had to reload, so I helped her with that; showed her how to hold it, where to hold it and where to stand.

Blake J. Harris: It’s kind of amazing (embarrassing) how much of this I never think about as an audience member.

Jon Iles: [laughs] Overall, Stealth was pretty quick for me. And a lot of the stuff I did was with the Korean soldiers. Especially stuff with the helicopters.

Blake J. Harris: You mentioned earlier that being a film’s military advisor is largely a director-driven job. What was [director] Rob Cohen like to work with?

Jon Iles: He was very gung-ho. Yeah. He wanted to see lots of aggression and lots of shoot-em-ups. Really charismatic. I think in the film he’s actually shooting a 50 Cal at the end there. In one of the trucks.

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Jon Iles: He’s like, “Jon, how do I shoot this thing?” I said, “Pull the trigger. Then keep pulling the trigger till all the ammo runs out. You don’t want to stop. You just want to keep going.” He says, “Okay, okay.” [makes a bullet-firing sound] 100 rounds through the 50 Cal; he was whooping and hollering for a few minutes afterward. Yeah. So that’s my memory of Rob Cohen.

Blake J. Harris: After Stealth, it looks like you didn’t work on another film for several years. I assume that’s because your military obligations came first. But tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on since returning to film.

Jon Iles: So I worked on Stealth. Then Mad Max. And then I did a couple of TV series. After that, let’s see…I did Unbroken. And then there was Gods of Egypt, which was just training all the soldiers how to march and move with speed. Then I worked on Suicide Squad. And then after Suicide Squad was Hacksaw Ridge.

Blake J. Harris: Do you have a favorite from that list?

Jon Iles: They each have their own highlights. But as far as being involved in a film… well, you know, in Mad Max I had a character. I was Ace; the guy on the side of the truck. So that was another eye-opener for me. Actually having to do the actor thing.

Blake J. Harris: You strike me as a versatile guy.

Jon Iles: Yeah…and pretending to be a soldier on the side of a truck? That’s not such a far reach for me. So that was great. And I got to hang out with Charlize Theron for a very, very, long time. Plus the actors too. And being around that caliber of people in the acting world is great. You realize they’re human beings at the end of the day…[laughs] they’re just really good at acting.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah…

Jon Iles: Suicide Squad was another one that was great. Because in Suicide Squad I had a lot to do with how Will Smith moved and grooved. So I got to know Will fairly well. He’s a professional; just so good at so many things. And Margot Robbie. I tried to nab her for a long time. She’s a fantastic kid. And I got to work on a lot of the underwater scenes. So I felt like I got to add a lot of value.

stealth behind the scenes photo

Part 3: It’s Entertainment

Blake J. Harris: You’ve talked a bit about the compromise between what looks cool and what looks realistic. What are some of the things that happen in movies that are the most inaccurate that maybe someone like me wouldn’t notice?

Jon Iles: Yeah. I mean, you frequently see gunfights where one person takes on multiple people. And it doesn’t matter who you are; you are going to die. That’s the one thing. Lethal Weapon; one guy pulls out a gun and shoots five people. It just doesn’t work that way. Just does not work that way.

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Jon Iles: What else is there? Explosions. That’s another classic. Like everything explodes… Well, I’m gonna tell you right now: nothing explodes unless you actually put explosives on it. So, you know, cars exploding and airplanes exploding and all that sort of stuff…I was talking with my business partner the other day, and we were talking about the reaction of a human being to explosions. So in movies you always see…they fly out, their bum facing out and their hands and legs traveling behind them.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

Jon Iles: In reality, it’s the absolute opposite way. Your legs go first and then your body. Because of the pressure. So when you see a real one, it’s just sickening; because the body contorts…what happens is the directors, over the years, go “well, no, that’s how it is. That’s what I want to see.” Because they believe, that’s what it is.

Blake J. Harris: Right!

Jon Iles: So in essence, reality wouldn’t serve you much good. Because people would look at it and go: Oh, did they do that wrong? But in actual effect, it would be right.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

Jon Iles: But, you know, at the end of the day it’s entertainment. It’s not a bloody documentary. It’s a movie. So, you know…you could do that for a documentary. You could make a documentary about all the things that are incorrect.

Blake J. Harris: That actually sounds like a good idea for a documentary.

Jon Iles: [laughs]

Blake J. Harris: Just one last question for you. Whether it’s Stealth or a different movie about combat, there’s an inclination for movies to romanticize war. Or, at the least, they tell a story that makes you, as a viewer, enjoy spending time in that world. So for you, as someone who’s actually done this stuff—who’s been in combat and likely had friends and brothers die in the line of fire—is that weird for you? That people want to pay money to experience this thing?

Jon Iles: You know what? I see it as entertainment. And entertainment is entertainment. People like to see a good guy, bad guy and whatever else. [long pause] I spent two years in a bomb disposal unit. And I trained up five guys that didn’t make it. So there’s five guys coming through my training routine who didn’t make it…we know that going in. We sign on the line, and that’s one of the things that we accept. So it can be strange to go into a movie like Hurt Locker and to know that it’s totally false.

Blake J. Harris: Okay…

Jon Iles: A lot of the technical expertise wasn’t portrayed very well. That’s bullshit! You wouldn’t do that in a million years! Now whether that was the director’s call or the military advisor’s call…who knows? But lots of people thought that movie was awesome. I mean, it’s just turned EOD technicians—bomb technicians—into heroes. So in that regard, it’s done a world of service for bomb technicians. Every single person who’s seen the movie has a newfound respect for what bomb technicians do. And you know what?

At the end of the day: it’s entertainment. At the end of the day, movies are entertainment.

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