By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 16, 2013 at 3:46PM
Peter Berg directed "Battleship" for Universal Pictures so that he could direct the movie he cared about, "Lone Survivor," which he has been working on for five years. Universal is giving "Lone Survivor" an Oscar qualifying run on December 27 in advance of a January 14 wide release. Like Oscar-winners "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty," it is based on a true story.
The story of how Berg, whose 2004 "Friday Night Lights" inspired the landmark TV series, wound up directing "Battleship" at Universal has to do with a studio that is loyal to a director they believe in--even when a badly-conceived Hasbro tie-in movie winds up losing more than $100 million. Universal also believed in Berg's $72.5 million Iraq war movie "The Kingdom" (2007) which while well-directed, at an $86 million worldwide gross was a costly disappointment. Luckily their $150-million 2008 "Hancock," starring Will Smith, delivered $624 million worldwide.
Former actor Berg, 51, who probably wishes he could have directed "Lone Survivor" first instead of the misbegotten "Battleship," is considered to be a writer-director with filmmaking chops, and what better way to redeem himself than to adapt a true Navy SEAL story and work for scale (the DGA minimum of $17,000 a week) directing a modest-budget movie. He also welcomed a New York Times reporter to the New Mexico set to write up a lovely profile in the Magazine.
$40 million "Lone Survivor" was shot in 42 days with Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Ben Foster and Taylor Kitsch starring for cut-rate pay. He adapted a true story, the failed June 28, 2005 mission "Operation Redwing," when four members of SEAL Team 10 were sent on a dangerous mission in rugged Afghanistan mountain terrain to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. Only one member of the team, Marcus Luttrell, survived to write a memoir of his fallen comrades.