Making The Film
"TIGERLAND is very much based on reality -- on the things I saw in
training," screenwriter Ross Klavan explains. Klavan, who enlisted in
the Army Reserves (stateside) and did his Advanced Infantry Training (A.I.T.)
at Tigerland in 1971, translated his experience into a screenplay.
A reservist, Klavan watched the military machine "shovel guys off to
war." "If you went to A.I.T. at Tigerland and you were drafted,
you were going to Vietnam," he maintains. And, after six years of
American involvement in Southeast Asia, few of the men held any illusions
about their prospects. According to Klavan, "there was a lot of
fatalism about [the war]. There wasn't a lot of patriotism. Guys went
because they had no other choice."
Central to TIGERLAND, however, is a character who refuses to accept this
fate. "I based [Roland] Bozz on one particular guy," says Klavan.
Someone who tried to "find his way out of the machine." While
Klavan incorporated elements of many people into Bozz, the man he met at
Fort Polk left a lasting impression. "He was a genuinely rebellious
person, who was faced with the overwhelming authority of the military."
And a man whose disobedience exacted a brutal toll. "They basically
ground this guy into the dirt." But his spirit never waned. "Even
if they were going to execute him," Klavan imagines, "he'd make
jokes all along the way - just to make himself feel alive."
Similarly, the character Bozz finds himself in an Army that beats him up
physically, emotionally and spiritually, exerting the harshest possible
discipline outside of prison. Whatever his personal aims, Bozz begins to
embody the terrible moral burden shouldered by the young men who faced death
prematurely in support of an ethically questionable war.
The strength of TIGERLAND's central character, combined with the script's
gritty realism appealed to director Joel Schumacher. "I felt a strong
affinity to Bozz whose rebelliousness makes him a relatively sane person in
an insane situation," says Schumacher. And the uniqueness of this
situation was a draw in itself. "There have been a lot of movies set
during Vietnam, but I thought TIGERLAND was quite different,"
Schumacher observes. "It is a small, very personal and internalized
story that takes place before the men leave for the war."
TIGERLAND came to Schumacher as he was making an effort to move away from
big-budget "event" films. "I really wanted to withdraw from
the summer blockbuster market for a while," he points out. "It had
been very good to me, but I was at a point where I felt the box office had
become more important than the movie."
Schumacher had already begun moving to smaller, more personal films with
"Eight Millimeter" and "Flawless." But TIGERLAND, shot
in twenty-eight days on a military base in Starke, Florida, was a complete
reversal - a film conceived in the spirit of Danish director Lars von
Trier's Dogma 95 movement. The Dogma philosophy, which Schumacher
encountered during a visit to Scandinavia to promote "Eight
Millimeter," rejects Hollywood artifice, abandoning the use of
elaborate lighting, special effects and music.
Partnered with cinematographer Matthew Libatique ("Pi," and
"Requiem for a Dream"), Schumacher established a
"documentary" look for TIGERLAND in keeping with the "grunt's
point of view" of the script. Inspired in part by Frederick Wiseman's
"Titicut Follies," the filmmakers chose to shoot in sixteen
millimeter and largely abandoned tripod and dolly in favor of hand-held
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