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Act of Valor Interviews

February 24, 2012 6:01 p.m.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando discusses what makes Act of Valor different from other Hollywood action films.

Related Story: Interview: 'Act of Valor' Stuntmen-Turned-Directors


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

"Act of Valor" is a fictional film directed by a pair of former stuntmen and using active duty Navy SEALS instead of actors. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks at what makes it different from the typical Hollywood action film.

TAG: "Act of Valor" opens today throughout San Diego. You can see Beth's video feature about the film tonight on Evening Edition.

Scott Waugh and Mike "Mouse" McCoy are former Hollywood stuntmen. They know what it's like to be part of a brotherhood where you trust colleagues with your life. But McCoy said he'd never seen anything like the brotherhood displayed by Navy SEALS.

MIKE McCOY: That was almost we thought only existed in mythology.

CLIP To us and those like us, damn few.

Putting that bond on screen was the starting point for the film "Act of Valor." But early on they realized that the only way to make it work was to use active duty Navy SEALS instead of actors says Waugh.

SCOTT WAUGH: When you would watch a Navy SEAL walk around and he's in full armor and kitted out, and you just see the comfortableness he has because that's what he wears everyday.

It's real in a way actors can't imitate. McCoy and Waugh spent the better part of a year researching the project in Coronado. McCoy says they wanted to create a narrative film based on real acts of valor by Navy SEALS.

CLIP I got her, I got her...

MIKE McCOY: Stories that actually happened to men on the battlefield that are really inspiring and truly amazing, almost unbelievable, and that really showcased the heart and the depth of the brotherhood of the community.

Then the filmmakers had to convince the higher ups to go along with the project.

MIKE McCOY: Once we figured out a battle plan that really augmented existing training evolutions so no assets were diverted to the making of this film. I think that really worked for everybody it's also why it took two-and-a-half years to make.

CLIP Let's go, let's go...

Once the SEALS were onboard, they began to take an active part in the creation of the film.

CLIP It would be nice if I could be here while Wymie's addressing that threat...

MIKE McCOY: They would write the ops plan for every mission. So they would design the operation, we would build the camera plan, integrate, become really one platoon and go hit the target.

The target, McCoy says, was to shoot the film as realistically as possible. He and Waugh served as cameramen and understood that wider shots with fewer cuts would convey the action better. Then they upped the ante.

MIKE McCOY: We set out to make the first authentic action film. So there's no CGI in this film, quite a bit of live fire.

CLIP Going hot...

SEAN McCLEAN: I was actually very surprised learning that it was live fire.

Former Marine Sean McCean trained as a combat photographer. He's now a filmmaker and appreciated the realism in "Act of Valor."

SEAN McCLEAN: Everything that they did from the room clearing to the way they stacked up to prepare to enter the room was just spot on.

CLIP Wymie, lock it down...

Scott Waugh says they wanted the audience to be immersed in the SEALS' world.

SCOTT WAUGH: Instead of sitting back and watching it we wanted to put the audience actually in the boots for a lot of the sequences so you can feel what it's like to be a Navy SEAL from their point of view.

CLIP Clear, all clear...

SEAN McCLEAN: The way they held the shot long to show you how he came in the room and he did his sweeps of the room before engaging the target...

Again Sean McClean.

SEAN McCLEAN: When you go in there time kind of slows in a way. The adrenaline's pumping and you gotta process a lot of information real quick. I think they did a lot of shots that work well to kind of put you in the SEAL's head in a way.

CLIP Rocket out...

Some are calling the film propaganda for the military. The filmmakers deny that the project was ever intended as a recruitment film for the Navy. Sean McClean says the film doesn't gloss over the gritty aspects of the job. He would call it a patriotic portrait and can see how it might inspire some people to sign up.

SEAN McCLEAN: For those people who kind of like that lifestyle I think for that type of person that would definitely excite and turn that person on it probably even help make that decision that definitely this is something I want to do.

Scott Waugh says it's just entertainment. But he and McCoy did develop a deep admiration for the men and hope the film may change preconceptions about Navy SEALS.

SCOTT WAUGH: Before you think that they're just Terminator Rambos. Some people say it's kinda like a video game. Their lives are not video games, there is no reset button.

CLIP Frag out!

The film avoids overt politics in order to focus on the men who risk their lives in service of their country.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.