Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’  Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’ Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See The 10 Best Films Of 2007 The 10 Best Films Of 2007 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

'Lone Survivor' Director Peter Berg Talks Beards, 'Battleship' And What's Going On With The 'Friday Night Lights' Movie

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist December 17, 2013 at 3:02PM

Peter Berg is a manly director. After shepherding such testosterone-soaked films as "Very Bad Things," "The Rundown," "Friday Night Lights," and "Battleship," the director has set his sights on bringing his passion project to the big screen, in spectacularly violent fashion. "Lone Survivor" is based on Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's nonfiction account of how his elite unit was ambushed and fell in the rocky mountains of Afghanistan. As told by Berg, it is a film full of fire and fury and men doing incredibly manly things. We got a chance to speak to the director, who told us about pulling together his cast, what his thoughts on "Battleship" are more than a year later, the movie's patriotic tone, and more.
1
Lone Survivor

Peter Berg is a manly director. After shepherding such testosterone-soaked films as "Very Bad Things," "The Rundown," "Friday Night Lights," and "Battleship," the director has set his sights on bringing his passion project to the big screen, in spectacularly violent fashion. "Lone Survivor" is based on Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's non-fiction account of how his elite unit was ambushed and fell in the rocky mountains of Afghanistan. As told by Berg, it is a film full of fire and fury and men doing incredibly manly things. We got a chance to speak to the director, who told us about pulling together his cast, what his thoughts on "Battleship" are more than a year later, the movie's patriotic tone, and more.

"Lone Survivor" stars Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, with Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Alexander Ludwig and Ben Foster serving as his band of brothers. (Eric Bana turns in a fine supporting performance as one of their superiors, and Berg himself even shows up for a brief sequence.) It would be easy to diminish the amount of skill required to play these men, since they're mostly required to react to the crazy action that's enveloping them, but that's got to be tricky to because through those sequences of violence you've got to etch out a believable character.

Berg seems particularly drawn to characters under extreme physical duress, whether it's high school football players or Navy SEALS, and as a person he comes across as sharp and to the point, a smart man who can't be bothered to elaborate for unnecessary reasons.

"I am proud of the 'Battleship.' I wish it had performed better at the domestic box office. It didn't. And I've moved on.

What about this story spoke to you?
I thought that when I read Luttrell's book, he did a great job of forcing me to turn off my phone and my computer and not be a victim of the fast news cycle and just spend time with these men, divorced of politics, who are willing go out there and put themselves into these sites. I feel that that's important and I as an American support soldiers and I'm often at a loss at how to do that. And I think that Luttrell gave me the chance to pay respects to these men and hopefully the film will have the same impact on a larger audience.

Why do you think it was so difficult to get it off the ground?
It actually wasn't that difficult to get the film made, financially. It took me a while creatively to get to a point where I felt comfortable making that film. I had to do research on that culture and what happened on the hill before I could be comfortable telling that story. We were able to put the money relatively easily.

You also put an amazing cast together.
We had plenty of actors who were excited to play these guys.

Can you talk about shooting these action sequences?
It was a huge part of this story—it was a very intense and complicated fight they got into. Because we had a limited budget we knew we had to be pretty organized and our approach to filming that action—we knew we would be up a mountain and the altitude would pose problems [and] the terrain was rough. And we broke the gunfight into about 25 different experiences and treated each moment like it was its own mini-movie and we had pre-production meetings on each sequence. The goal was to treat it like a symphony, where there are moments that are calm and quiet and other moments that are violent and intense. We all spent a lot of time in prep figuring out how we were going to do that.

You always have a clear geographic sense of where these guys are. Did you have any films that you looked back on to inform this?
Not really. I used Marcus' description of the gunfight, which was so thorough and since I had Marcus there, I was able to build a model of the mountain and talk out where each person was. We had autopsy reports of all the dead SEALs so we were able to see where they were shot, what bones were broken, and identify where we wanted all of these events to return. If the first guy to die got his fingers shot off, we knew exactly where that would happen. And in doing that we made something that wasn't geographically vague, but was very specific.

Did you ever feel too wed to the original story?
No. Because it's real. We weren't suffering from lack of drama or lack of action or intensity. It was a gift for us as filmmakers. 

The work ILM did is amazing…
The helicopter crash is an amazing moment.

It totally was. Was it fun after doing "Battleship," which was so huge and over the top, to do these subtle visual effects with them?
Even with "Battleship" we aimed for photorealism too but it's just hard when you have so much CG. It was just nice having elements that you could focus on but really try to blend in with everything else.

Lone Survivor

You talked about not wanting to be too political with this. But it definitely has a kind of rah-rah American spirit. Did you worry about that?
Not really. I hear things like rah rah or propaganda or gung ho America and these are always treated as pejorative terms. I don't quite get that. I'm so not a fan of the politicians in D.C. on either side who casually go fight. But to not understand that there is evil in the world and we are lucky to have men and women who are willing enough to put themselves between us and that evil, to not want to acknowledge and respect that seems wrong to me. I personally don't look at patriotism as being a negative. I actually believe in it. So I was concerned with presenting these men and the way these men died as honestly as we could. And it's important we pay attention to that.

You pop up in the movie for a minute. Do you ever think more seriously about acting?
I'm ready. Tell Martin Scorsese I'm ready.

This article is related to: Peter Berg, Lone Survivor, Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Battleship, Friday Night Lights


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates