BEHIND ENEMY LINES
About The Production
BEHIND ENEMY LINES producer John Davis challenged himself and his team at Davis Entertainment to come up with a film that was more than just action and pyrotechnics. His goal was to make a new kind of war movie that would mix action, state of the art effects, politics and, most importantly, heart. "There is as much action in this film as any I've ever seen," notes Davis, "but I think there's a lot more to it than that. We wanted to bring this genre into the twenty-first century by dealing with the
complexities of current warfare and how that affects the men and women who are serving their
In the film, Burnett is caught up in these very complexities. Frustrated by a lack of combat assignments, resulting from a tense political situation in Bosnia (the film is set not during a specific time period, but what the filmmakers call "the day after tomorrow"), Burnett is ready to quit. "He is a man who has lost faith in his ability to make a difference, who has lost his sense of mission," says executive producer Wyck Godfrey.
Burnett's attitude brings him into conflict with an old-line officer, Admiral
Reigart, who thinks Burnett has no idea what it means to serve your country. "Reigart is a tough, old-fashioned guy who believes in what he's doing," says director John Moore. "He thinks Burnett is not the real deal, and Burnett considers Reigart as a representation of antiquated thinking." Adds Wyck Godfrey: "The military has been Reigart's life, and now he's faced with somebody who no longer sees a reason to give his life to it."
Interestingly, this dynamic did not exist in early drafts of the screenplay, which focused on two pilots' struggle to survive after being shot down behind enemy lines. Co screenwriter Zak Penn came up with the idea of splitting the film into parallel storylines, making it as much about the men planning the rescue as it was a survival tale. In addition, Penn made it, in his words, more "Tom
Clancy-ish," by adding a political relevancy about the region's different agendas.
Those agendas lead NATO authorities (represented by Admiral Piquet, played by Joaquim de Almeida) in preventing Reigart from mounting a rescue attempt, which NATO fears will disrupt a fragile peace.
Penn also reconfigured the Chris Burnett character as an "Everyman" navigator, instead of a "top gun" pilot. "That moves the character out of the realm of the traditional Hollywood hero," Penn explains. "BEHIND ENEMY LINES is not really about flying jet heroics; Burnett is a regular guy caught up in incredible circumstances.
In casting Burnett, Davis wanted to, as he says, "take the action hero and turn it on its head." Owen Wilson, who is best known for offbeat comedic roles in films such as "Meet the Parents," "Bottle Rocket" and "The Royal
Tenenbaums" (co-writing the latter two), was an unexpected choice to play an action hero. This, according to Davis, made Wilson the perfect choice to play Burnett.
"We needed someone who could give us something different, and that's exactly what Owen did," Davis explains. "He's charismatic and funny, and we also learned that he does the action stuff very well. He brings a natural quality that is easy to relate to, much like Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper and Steve McQueen did in their day. But Owen also brings the kind of strong edge required for the role."
Wilson's improvisational skills and sideways sense of humor left a strong impression on director John Moore. "Owen is the single best improviser I've ever seen, Moore insists. "He has a rare ability to take an idea and turn it on its head, and seconds later it seems like he's been rehearsing it for months."
Wilson enjoyed tackling the role of an unconventional hero. "The role was kind of like hitting the trifecta for me," he say
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