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Lone Survivor Experience: Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell, SEAL training & more!

06.02.2014
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Check out a video montage of the event and interviews with Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell and SEAL Don Shipley at the end of this piece. Oorah!

When I saw LONE SURVIVOR (based on SEAL survivor Marcus Luttrell's Best Seller of the same name) last year, I loved the picture and was taken aback that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture or that director Peter Berg didn't get a shot at the Best Director prize. I didn't think I could appreciate the movie even more than I already did; but covering this LONE SURVIVOR Blu-Ray release event (coming out on June 3rd 2014) set up by the fine folks at Universal, during Memorial Day no less, has given me further perspective in terms of the movie, real life Vets, what they go through for their country's freedom, how they survive emotionally via their rock solid community and how the system doesn't do enough for them once they are home.

Somebody made a joke at some point that every Vet, should just show their card at a bar and get a free beer. And you know what? I think they should. It would be the least we could do...THE LEAST! Now, granted I am not an American and I don't live in the US of A, but to me this wasn't about nationality, this was about humanity. Before I begin, I must applaud Universal and the fine ladies that set up this event for A- thinking outside the box and going beyond slapping us in a room with the stars, a recorder and a glass of water. And B- For pulling it off! No small feat. So kudos!


I got along famously with the M240! 

My journey began with a bang, literally when we were taken to Extreme Seal Experience, which basically offers SEAL training for civilians. There we got a tiny taste of what the men in the military go through. The camp was operated by retired Senior Chief Navy SEAL Don Shipley, a man who has 24-years of service under his belt and a man I immediatley liked upon meeting. So after a gun safety briefing, we got to fire some rounds. I was very comfortable shooting the M240 (It was almost as good as sex), my aim was genius on the  PPSh-41, a Russian submachine gun and I did great with the M249. Alas my aim was ass with the MP5 for some reason. We also got to rappel off a tower, something I had never done before. Heights are not an issue for me, hence I picked it up fairly quickly. I felt like a kid at a playground to be honest. I couldn't get enough and wound up doing it 3 times.


Rappelling = good times!

Finally we were taken on a helicopter ride, which was pretty cool. I had done it before, but this choppa had no doors, therefore upping the rush a tad. Big thanks to our fine pilot for spotting those hot chicks wake-boarding on the river below and flying down low enough for us to get a look-see – yes – even in the air – boys will be boys. So that was the end of that day and after talking at length with Senior Seal Don Shipley (whom is interviewed below) and seeing how he operated his SEAL camp – I decided to go back later this year and take the whole SEAL course. I esteemed the vibe there and their M.O. I'm really excited to push myself beyond my limits. But first I must get back into decent shape – I've been pushing too many pencils lately.

With Don Shipley (center) and the boys! Thanks for everything and see you later this year!

Next up on our list was a casual dinner with director Peter Berg, the lone survivor himself Marcus Luttrell and his lovely wife Melanie Luttrell. The first thing that struck me when I met Marcus was that he was built like a tank! He was a much bigger dude than Mark Walhberg that played him in the film. He also had an affable Texas twang. As for Berg, he came off as very grounded, genuine and he was open in terms of talking about anything. I've been following Berg's career since SHOCKER in 1998 and it was groovy to be able to talk shop with him. Here are a couple of the more interesting nuggets I got from our one hour and a half sit down:

Why Marcus chose Peter Berg to tell his story?
Marcus: "
He didn't try to sell me on anything, he didn't need to. He didn't show me anything, wine and dine me and take me out. Just sat there with a t-shirt and a baseball cap and said I'm gonna show you a movie that I made called THE KINGDOM, I want you to watch it. So I watched it, not for entertainment but for attention to detail. His attention for details was spot on. I walked out of the theatre and said come here and talk to me: all right bro it's yours. I am happy with the finished product."

What made this different than anything Peter Berg ever did? 
Peter: "Ninetenn guys were killed and Marcus was there. The emotions were very real. I met with the particular families of the soldiers and quickly realized that this wasn't something that could faked by me or a film crew. There had to be a level of authenticity and effort made not just on my part but the actors, the editors, camera men, prop guys, stuntmen, anybody that wanted to be involved with this. Having Marcus and the family members involved made research and prep very demanding. I went to Iraq and Marcus helped me get permission to go as a journalist with a SEAL platoon which was unheard of but Marcus made sure that I was willing to do the research and made sure that the military, the guys that would allow me to do it, would let me. The fact that these men existed and really died and that their brothers, sisters and widows were around made us work a lot harder."

Our dinner came with a great view!

What was the most positive thing that came out from the movie being released? 
Marcus: "The audience that it reached. People don't read these days, not the amount of people who watch TV or movies. I thought I was doing a good job by immortalizing my teammates by telling their story on paper, film there is just no end to it, it will be around forever. That is the most important and best thing about it."

Was it a positive thing to have Marcus on set?
Peter
: "At first I didn't think it would be a good idea for Marcus to be on the set at all. Then I thought it was okay for him to be on the set as it focused them all. But it was critical that he be there during scenes that I thought, in my own naivete, he could handle. Quickly I realized that I didn't know shit as to what Marcus can handle. I would ask him: Can you handle this? He would say I see this every day, I close my eyes and I see it so this is nothing. And once he said it, I understood that it was a different mindset, that their relationship with death was different than ours. So when I realized it was okay, and how important it was for Marcus for us to get it right, I wanted him in there as much as we could." 

Did it stress Peter Berg to have Marcus around?
Peter: He always stresses me out for many different reasons (laughs). These are pretty intense people. The stress was a daily reminder that if we didn't hit a certain sweet spot, we would hear iy loudly from the community and that was something I didn't want to experience. Everyday, there was the concern that somebody was gonna get upset.

Taylor Kitsch as Lieutenant Michael P. "Murph" Murphy - Mark Wahlberg as Marcus Luttrell - Ben Foster as Matthew "Axe" Axelson and Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz.

Melanie Luttrell on Peter Berg as the ideal director for the film! 
Melanie: "One of the things I loved about Pete was that he got involved with families. We had a family dinner, where the family members met the actors who played their sons/husbands and then right after that, he showed them the movie. They were the first people to see it. And after that the next person to see it was the top tier admiral of the SEAL team. Knowing that Peter genuinely cared about what the community felt meant a lot."

You went with your heart on this film, do you do this with all of your films or was this one special?
Peter: "I try to fall in love with every film that I make. That being said, I never had an experience like this. When I did FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, I spent a lot of time with the players and that community. The high school football community in Texas is as close to religion as church. And we were portraying real guys but they didn't die. I couldn't help but fall in love on a deeper level.

It really messed me up because I looks at films differently now. Yes I've made films like Battleship and Hancock, escapism, which were challenging technically, but when you make a film like Lone Survivor, it challenges you on a deeper level and now I don't know what to do. Marcus should re-enlist so I can have another story to tell. But joking aside, a film like LONE SURVIVOR, when you have family members crying, hugging you and thanking you for making the film; it is a powerful testament to what a film can do when its done for the right reasons."


Peter Berg and Marcus Luttrell posing with some cadets!

Lastly; we attended the GI Film Festival’s closing night awards ceremony. I didn't even know there was a GI Film Festival! Filmmakers, Vets, their families, cadets of all ages and Hollywood players (like the cute Michelle Monaghan who was there to support her film Fort Bliss and former Marine turned actor Adam Driver who was given the Veterans in Entertainment Award) all in one place to celebrate, honor and remember our soldiers. When Marcus and Peter arrived, it made me smile to see all of these young cadets, excited to nab Marcus autograph and having their picture taken with him.

Although I got a sense of how strong the millitary community was via talking to Berg and Marcus the day before; I saw it first hand at this Fest and it impressed me. Once inside the theatre, I got to see one fine documentary; FORGOTTEN FLAG RAISERS by Dustin Spence about his quest in getting the first round of troops who raised the first flag in Iwo Jima recognized by the U.S. Marine Corps (if you get a chance, see it, very well done) and then got to witness Marcus receive his Honorary Award, presented by Peter Berg no less.


Peter Berg and Marcus Luttrell with their GI Film Fest Award.

A small aside. Earlier in the evening, I saw a Vet who was missing two arms and two legs, which were replaced by prosthetics limbs. The man was in great shape and had a huge smile on his face. My everyday problems, the ones that get me down, are jack shit compared to the hell this guy went through for our freedom, and yet, there he is, happy, standing tall and proud. You simply have to respect that. And yes, his display of strength and pride was inspiring. It is one thing to read about it, it's another thing to see it and interact with these men to get a bigger picture. 

On my day off, which fell on Memorial Day, I visited the varied and impressive War Memorials that Washington DC has to offer. Vietnam, WW2 etc. I then caught my flight and went back home wiser and a bit smarter. I said a bit! A huge gracias to everybody that made this weekend happen! In 14 years of working on JoBlo.com, I think this is the first time that a press event moves me, thrills me and educates me all at the same time. And if you haven't seen LONE SURVIVOR yet, SEE IT. I know that I will watch it again now with different eyes.


GET THE LONE SURVIVOR BLU-RAY HERE!

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:44AM on 06/02/2014
Sounds like a meaningful junket. An event like this could come off as exploitative but from your write-up, it seems it was done tastefully enough and offers the slightest hint of grueling SEAL training to the average schmoe.
Sounds like a meaningful junket. An event like this could come off as exploitative but from your write-up, it seems it was done tastefully enough and offers the slightest hint of grueling SEAL training to the average schmoe.
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11:01AM on 06/02/2014
It was for me. And much like the film itself, which was a memorial on celluloid, as opposed to a Navy Seal recruitment piece, there was nothing exploitative about this event. Very genuine and as I said in my write-up, an eye opener, for me that is.
It was for me. And much like the film itself, which was a memorial on celluloid, as opposed to a Navy Seal recruitment piece, there was nothing exploitative about this event. Very genuine and as I said in my write-up, an eye opener, for me that is.
11:08AM on 06/02/2014
Thanks for replying Arrow. I think the film really conveyed what it was like to be in the thick of the battle. Not glamorous or glorious, but dangerous and harrowing. Much respect to real-life vets like Luttrell.
Thanks for replying Arrow. I think the film really conveyed what it was like to be in the thick of the battle. Not glamorous or glorious, but dangerous and harrowing. Much respect to real-life vets like Luttrell.
6:06PM on 06/02/2014
Amen brother.
Amen brother.
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