Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


About The Production
From Page to Screen: Operation Red Wings Lives On

When retired Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson's book "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10" was published in 2007, it quickly rose to the top of The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.

This true story of duty and honor in the face of extreme adversity and the heroic deeds of fallen comrades caught filmmaker Peter Berg's attention when his production partner, Film 44's Sarah Aubrey, gave him a copy of the book and insisted that he read it. Although in production on his then-upcoming blockbuster Hancock, Berg began to flip through it during a lunch break. After a few minutes, he was transfixed, locking the door to his trailer and reading the book cover to cover. Determined to win the rights and adapt "Lone Survivor" into a film, Berg became a man obsessed.

Aubrey recalls how it all began: "We originally were sent 'Lone Survivor' by a friend of the Film 44 family, Barry Spikings, who got it from Marcus' attorney. When I read the book, I knew instantly that this would be a perfect movie for Pete. His strengths as a director are in taking an audience into a closed world. It was very detailed about how SEALs operate together with this component of tremendous emotion, and that's Pete's sweet spot. He loves to take an audience into a world and show them the details but then hit them with this emotional wallop. The book has this incredibly emotional story of brotherhood and sacrifice, and then ultimately, in the story with Gulab, this grace and humanity even in the midst of war."

Berg admits that his choices in subject matter come from an attraction to themes that are common among people in sports and the military. He says that he's long been interested in the reasons why these men and women would put themselves in harm's way. Berg offers: "When I first read Marcus' book, what got me the most was the dilemma that these men faced: being compromised by three goat farmers and knowing that if they let them go, there was a very good chance they were going to get into a dangerous gunfight with a lot of guys."

Inevitably, the SEALs' journey struck the themes that Berg has returned to over and over again in his projects. Says the writer/director: "This story is about working together for something bigger than our ego, bigger than our individuality. It's about coming together as a group-protecting each other, loving each other, looking out for each other-and finding a greater strength as a team than you could ever find as an individual. Marcus wrote a book that, as much as it's about 19 people being killed on a tragic day in Afghanistan, is about brotherhood, sacrifice and team commitment."

Berg and Aubrey reached out to Luttrell to discuss the possibility of adapting the SEALs' story into a film. "Early on in the process, Pete and I met Marcus in Austin," Aubrey explains. "He walked in the room and he is a mountain of a man, imposing under any circumstances, but knowing that he is also a Navy SEAL and has survived an incredible trial makes you give him a lot of weight when he speaks. He was very clear about wanting to honor the memory of the men that died alongside of him. We instantly knew that we had to get it just right, or there would be trouble. He was not going to let us do a half-baked version."

For their part, Berg and Luttrell struck up a fast rapport. Over the course of one of their follow-up meetings, Berg showed Luttrell a rough cut of his then-upcoming 2007 film, The Kingdom, and Luttrell decided that this should be the director who could take the powerful tale of his fallen brethren and do it justice on the screen.

Luttrell appreciated the filmmaker's military-like attention to detail and guerilla-style of filmmaking and insisted to Berg that he would only grant him rights to the story if Berg truly respected and honored his brothers' sacrifice. Indeed, Luttrell hoped that audiences around the world would begin to understand the decisions made on that mountain. After a bonding experience over many beers, and a not-so-thinly-veiled threat that Berg would have to answer to more than 1,000 SEALs if the director messed up the interpretation, Luttrell was on board.

Their ongoing talks led to a deeper friendship and gradually to discussions with many of the men and women in uniform who had been involved in Operation Red Wings and the rescue. "I spent quite a bit of time not just with Marcus, but I interviewed so many men and women," recalls Berg about his efforts to get the story right. "I feel like I've done my due diligence."

The former SEAL discusses why he chose Berg: "There were so many directors and studios that came in and wanted to make the movie, and I interviewed with all of them. But when I saw Pete and talked to him, he's the one that I got that certain feeling about. He was the one I thought could get it done." Luttrell was impressed by the filmmaker's dedication. "Pete went above and beyond. He's done all his homework, studied it for years to get this right, and it paid off. You can tell somebody who puts the work in and you can tell somebody who didn't. He did, and I love him for it. He's a good man, and it's a privilege to have him in my life."

While Luttrell's book is a chronicle of many events, including his 1999 enlistment and training prior to his mission in 2005, Berg realized that the screen adaptation would need to concentrate on the more dramatic tale that unfolded once Luttrell was deployed to Afghanistan. His focus for the screenplay became the unbreakable camaraderie of the team members, their valor under fire and the tragic turn that forever changed the life of sniper, hospital corpsman and SEAL Luttrell.

While Berg knew that there would be significant pressure to get their story just right, he couldn't anticipate the depths to which he would become emotionally involved in the lives of these elite warriors and their relatives. He pauses: "There was pressure from the families, the SEAL community, and then Marcus-whether I liked it or not-announced that he was moving into my house for a month. He was going to make sure I understood what happened on that mountain."

As he delved further into the project, Berg knew it would prove invaluable to sit with those most affected by the loss of their loved ones. He offers: "My research started with meeting the families of the SEALs who were killed. I went to New York and met the Murphys. I went to Colorado and met the Dietzes, and I went to Northern California and met the Axelsons. After spending time with them, you realize that these kids were the best and the brightest; they were the stars of the families. The grief and the wounds are still very raw. You would have to be inhuman to not feel the responsibility when that kind of grief gets shared with you."

The writer/director is the first to admit that there were times during preproduction when he realized that this film would be his most difficult endeavor to date. He gives: "One of these moments was when I visited the Dietz home and Mr. Dietz took me to Danny's bedroom, which he's kept. It was the room of a teenage boy, but he had built this glass case and inside was Danny's uniform with the bullet holes in it and blood on it, as well as his gun, helmet and boots.

Mr. Dietz took a piece of paper and started reading it; it was the autopsy report from the military. As he was reading, tears started hitting the piece of paper. When he finished, he put the paper down on my lap and said, 'That's who my son was. That's how tough my son was. You make sure you get that right.'" Berg reflects: "You can only imagine how much it means to these families to have their sons' story continue and legacy preserved. It is something that I am very proud of."

Because of his longstanding ties with members of the armed services, Berg, in early 2010, was on his way to the Middle East and embedded with a SEAL platoon in Iraq near the Syrian border. He spent a month at a small desert base with a team of 15 as he began the arduous task of crafting the script. There, he was offered a window into their world as he accompanied them on night patrols and observed how the men operated. "I don't know if a SEAL platoon embed would be possible today," says Berg. "This was several years ago, and everyone was very accommodating. They asked me to not reveal certain tactics, to respect the reasons why classified information stayed that way. We do that in the film."

Being given the type of access that one would only imagine a seasoned journalist would have was a privilege and honor that Berg did not take lightly. He patently dismisses a familiar misconception: "One of the things that I've come to appreciate about Navy SEALs is that they're not superhuman guys. They're not necessarily the biggest or the fastest or the strongest. But the common thread that they all share is character. They all have indomitable will and a very real sense of honor."

The filmmaker extends his respect to the Pashtun villagers who saved Luttrell. Discussing Luttrell's savior, Berg says: "All the things Marcus was talking about-discipline, a code of honor, dedication and commitment to a belief system-Gulab had all of these things. You talk about the will of the warrior? That guy is a warrior."

Just as they were about to cast the film and begin production, Berg was given more pressure than he had expected. Luttrell recalls: "I felt so sorry for Pete because he got it so bad from every team guy, from every widow. We just kept saying, 'Don't mess this up.' But I think that's also something that fueled him. That's why the movie is great and why people are responding to it so strongly, because he put 110 percent into it…probably because he knew his life was on the line."

Wahlberg Joins the Team: Casting Begins

Early during the development of the action-drama, Berg mentioned to Mark Wahlberg that Lone Survivor was a film he wanted to tackle, but at the time, they each had other projects in various stages of production. When Emmett/Furla principals Randall Emmett and George Furla expressed interest in securing financing to make the film, the project gained momentum and moved to the top of Berg and Wahlberg's wish list.

Reflects Emmett: "Of course, whenever we consider structuring the deal to finance a project, we have to believe in the story wholeheartedly. When I read 'Lone Survivor,' I was struck not only by the bravery of the SEALs and soldiers who sacrificed everything for their brothers, I was moved at how cinematic Marcus and Patrick's book read. They took us to a foreign land and served as our guides into what was one of the most powerful and moving tales in our military's history. We knew that in order to do their story justice, we would have to partner with fellow filmmakers we trusted. As we've worked with Mark on Broken City and 2 Guns, and Pete is such an accomplished writer/director in this genre, we were certain that they would be ideal partners."

Once Berg had the script at a place where he felt comfortable, he sent it to Wahlberg, who had purposely chosen not to read Luttrell's book in advance. "The problem when adapting a piece of material like that," says the performer, "is that you always feel like something is missing. I wanted to come at it from this perspective."

As both a producer and an actor, Wahlberg's reaction to the script was enthusiastic, and he agreed to portray Luttrell, the team's medic and one of its snipers. "I was moved by the screenplay, so I felt like we were on the right track. I loved the balance of the drama, action, humor and emotion," he says. "In the first act, you're meeting these guys, seeing how much they love each other and what they're doing out there. Then when Red Wings is a go, you see the shift from playful to all business."

Wahlberg admits that the selflessness of both the SEALs and the Afghan villagers shook him deeply: "What makes this story so special is the bond and the camaraderie between the guys, but also the state of where we are in the world today. The act of heroism by Gulab and his fellow villagers moved me the most. I found it so inspiring, and it gave me so much hope for the world."

Although the performer has played characters based on real people before, in such films as The Fighter and Invincible, he admits that it's never easy to do this kind of story justice: "I always feel some weight when portraying somebody in real life, whether they're alive or not. I want to make sure that I make them and their family members proud." Knowing that Luttrell would be available to offer guidance proved to be a welcome bonus. Says Wahlberg: "I loved speaking with Marcus about his relationship with those guys, because it always made him feel good to talk about how much he loved them, how much they loved him and how tight they were."

When Wahlberg considers his time spent with the cast and crew, he reflects that working on Lone Survivor ranks at the top of his professional achievements as an actor and producer. He says: "This is the best working experience I've ever had, under the toughest conditions. I remember early on as an actor, you worked a long, hard day, but you did something you felt was special, and that car ride home you couldn't stop thinking about it. I had that feeling every day on this movie."

Berg offers that the set was very back to basics, and that Wahlberg had to rough it with the rest of them. He says: "Most of the guys liked having a hardier approach to the production. We'd take a chairlift up to the set, and you'd see Mark carrying a bunch of grip equipment because there was no room. Lunch was: 'Here's a sandwich; have that under a tree.'"

When discussing what it was like to watch someone else play him, Luttrell admits that it was initially odd. He says: "Wahlberg is a consummate professional, and he's a great actor. It was a little strange watching somebody trying to play me, but we talked about it and I knew it would turn out great. I was more worried about the other guys because they're not around to speak for themselves."

Assembling the Brotherhood: SEAL Team 10 Is Selected

As he did with Wahlberg, Berg had discussed the project with Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster several years earlier. To a person, the actors advised that they wanted to be a part of the film when it happened. "He'd been raving about the book and the story for three-plus years," recalls Kitsch, with whom Berg has partnered on multiple movie and television projects. "So I started reading the book. Part of the way in, I said to myself, 'This role is once in a lifetime.' I called Pete up and said, 'When you're ready, I'm ready.'"

The on-ground leader of Operation Red Wings, Lieutenant Michael Murphy (aka "Murph") was a respected Navy SEAL who walked into a clearing and drew enemy gunfire for his men. Kitsch, like the rest of his performers, felt the heavy weight on his shoulders to honor Murph and his fellow fallen servicemen. He reflects: "It's a beautiful, true story that needs to be told right. It's gutting, intense and encompasses why they do what they do, which is for each other-first and foremost."

Kitsch knew that getting the nod to play the lieutenant would be a responsibility he wouldn't take for granted. He reflects: "Murph's actions speak louder than anything he's ever said, and they should. I think he was that type of leader who just loved his guys, and getting the nod to play this guy was something special."

The fact that he was portraying a real-life warrior who distinguished himself in the line of duty was not lost on Kitsch. Murphy posthumously received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, becoming the first person to do so for actions during the war in Afghanistan. Subsequently, a Navy destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy, was also named in his honor. The accountability to the memory of this man weighed heavily on Kitsch. "It doesn't go away," he explains about the sense of responsibility that comes with the project, "and I'm sure the rest of the guys will say that, too. You just try and do everything possible to do it justice."

As was the case with Wahlberg, Kitsch knew that having Luttrell on set would be an asset throughout production. He says: "It was remarkable to have him there. When you take on something like this, you think, 'How will Luttrell and Murph's family react?' You're playing his best mate and their son, so those are the people that you want to come up to you and say, 'Thank you,' more than anyone else."

When Hirsch ran into Berg almost four years ago at a local gym in Southern California, Berg mentioned a story about Danny Dietz. Hirsch wasn't sure of the reference to the gunner's mate, but intrigued by the story, he found out that the SEAL was one of the men featured in the book that the director wanted to adapt. Several years later, Hirsch got the call to meet with Berg about a role for this film. The results of the meeting were inconclusive, and Hirsch sensed that he needed to fight for the part.

The performer discusses his interest in the role of the communications officer and spotter for the team: "I wanted this role so bad. It was a mix of awe for Danny and a profound level of respect for the commitment that he gave to his brothers, his country and his family-that level of fearlessness." Hirsch knew that being chosen for these roles was never a given for any of the performers. "I wanted a challenge, so I started to train and work out on my own. I genuinely didn't know what was going to happen. Months went by and it was to the point where I was passing on other movies, but I didn't have this job. I was willing to do anything. I ended up training six days a week, four to five hours a day."

Although he's played real-life characters before, the chance to honor a fallen SEAL offered challenges much more powerful than simply physical exhaustion. Hirsch adds: "I know how important it is to all the families how their loved ones are portrayed in the film. I felt more responsibility playing Danny than I've ever felt playing any character. You know it's a movie, but it's also a monument to these guys. We knew it was up to us to portray the SEALs in the right way, which is representative, respectful and truthful. Their warrior spirit goes back to the SEAL creed. They are the common man with an uncommon desire to succeed."

Foster, who has appeared in small films and large productions alike, responded immediately to his director's enthusiasm for the tale. "It's impossible not to be affected by it," says Foster. "It's a very difficult story about very brave men." He reflects on what it was like to portray Matthew "Axe" Axelson, sonar technician second class: "It's a privilege to participate and collaborate in telling a story like this. They don't come around very often. These men were serving our country and sacrificed their lives."

As did his fellow performers, Foster met with Axe's family and friends to get to know the team point man and sniper whom he'd be portraying. "It was such a rich opportunity to listen to the Axelsons talk about their son," he says. "Their generosity and inclusiveness with me was so touching and open. They love to talk about their boy because they love him; so we, in turn, love him. We can't bring him back, but what we can do is aim, every day, to do the best that we can to honor him."

Much like Wahlberg, Foster respects that what he does as an actor is to bring his interpretation of Axe to the screen, and he had no desire to engage in mimicry. "These men all have different personalities, but the spine is the same," reflects Foster. "In this film, we're honoring that spine, which is: You don't quit, you're selfless and you can do whatever you put your mind to."

The work was often exhausting, but the director was able to hold everyone together with his passion for the story and his collaborative work style. Foster quickly related to Berg's method, noting: "He's total energy. You felt like you had another team member in the scene with you, and he liked being surprised. Pete's able to look at an environment, listen to people talking, drop something, add something else. It's a fluid experience, and you feel like you're contributing."

Luttrell weighs in about what it was like to see these three men portray his brothers. "Ben, Taylor and Emile all had more pressure than Mark did. Those guys had to nail it, because from now on, any time you hear the name Matt Axelson, you're going to think of Ben Foster. The same goes for Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz and Taylor Kitsch as Mike Murphy."

As this story opens, SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Team 1 members Luttrell, Murphy and Axelson and SDV Team 2 member Dietz are stationed at SEAL Team 10 Camp Ouellette at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. It's also where their commander, Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kristensen, briefs the men, sends them out on the mission and monitors their communications. As the events unfold in the mountains, the crew back at base has no intel, except for a brief radio report of an attack. A rescue team is assembled, and the U.S. military is on the move. Eric Bana, who made his American film debut in Ridley Scott's brilliant war film Black Hawk Down, responded well to the material when he read the script and signed on to portray Kristensen. The performer flew in from Australia toward the end of the shoot to lens his scenes and quickly caught up to speed.

On joining the team, Bana says: "There are two factors that make this story special, and they are the reasons why I jumped on board. One is the story itself, and two is who chooses to direct a project like this. I knew how involved Peter would be and that he would know how to portray SEALs. That was what I wanted to be a part of. The greatest way to honor these guys is to make a great film and have it stand the test of time."

The more he researched the life of Kristensen, the more he was drawn to the story. Shares Bana: "He becomes the backdrop for the audience as we progress through the story. We're back at the command center and watching the tension of the mission unfold, slowly go awry and then become very tense. For an actor, this is an exciting character, because you're on the same path as the audience in terms of the flow of information."

With his core team assembled, Berg was ready to begin what was unquestionably the most difficult production of his life. He notes that his entire team gave it their all and kept complaints to a minimum: "I've never worked on a film that had this kind of camaraderie. So many crew members had read the book and wanted Marcus to sign it and talk about what it meant to them. That was just a rare treat I had never experienced on a set. I've never been involved in a film where the actors felt such a strong sense of responsibility to honor the characters that they were playing. The actors knew quickly that they had a responsibility to capture the character and warrior spirit that those men had. They were not playing around with it. They were all in."

Stand as One: Training and Operations

To put the actors through their paces, the production assembled an elite team of SEALs and former SEALs, including associates of Luttrell who understood what it would take for the performances to look genuine. The word "intense" was used over and over by the actors to describe the training regimen. Not only were there physical workouts for the players, they were also trained in weapons, communications and learning to operate as a tactical team.

Luttrell proved to be the men's greatest asset as they pulled together and trained. "The details and the specifics from the event that Marcus was able to provide were great," commends Berg. "But, more than that, just having him on the set...I have never seen a film crew quite so motivated. This was definitely more than a job. People were working as hard as they could. Everyone felt that Marcus had shown them what it means to work hard, have character and never quit. These actors and our crew all wanted to show Marcus that they had something to give." Luttrell discusses what this abbreviated SEAL training looked like for the actors: "We put them through the ringer. We beat them hard, and they came together as a team. You could see it while we were putting them through this training that they just started to come together. It was tactically sound the way they were moving and shooting and communicating. They just did a good job."

Wahlberg reflects that this was the most training he's ever had to do to prepare for a film. "I've done a lot of military stuff in the past. I've played soldiers, but this was completely different," he says. "The SEALs that we had training us made damn sure that we were going to look real. They didn't let anybody cut corners, and by the time you finished the training you felt like you'd shot a big portion of the movie. But we hadn't even started."

Kitsch, who was in Newfoundland for two months prior to the beginning of principal photography, began high-intensity workouts with body armor and long runs with a 40-lb. weighted vest. "I thought I was trained," laughs the performer, "then we got here the first day with these SEALs, and it was just another level." Discussing the sink-or-swim attitude that pervaded the training camp, Kitsch remembers: "Live fire the first three days; that was no joke. It was so full on, and we were trying to assimilate as much as we could, as fast as we could. The learning curve was intense."

The performer appreciated seeing the SEAL ethos in action. "These guys are never out of the fight, giving themselves for each other," says Kitsch. "Every one of these guys personifies that never-quit attitude, and Murph embodies that. He literally gives himself up for these three guys to keep fighting. As we trained with these men that knew him, I learned those nuances that Murph had. The pieces of my character are very similar to who he was."

The physical training ensured that the actors would come across as SEALs on film. By putting them in situations to give them the feel for what it's like in a gunfight and by making their responses in simulated battle automatic, they were freed to focus on the other aspects of their characters. Just being surrounded by SEALs on a daily basis brought home realizations about the men they were to portray…and the attitude required when you must fight for your life.

Explains Foster of the training regimen: "We were out in the gun range doing live fire, learning how to operate tactically as a unit. I didn't even know the names of the weapons when we started. By the end, we were doing blind mag changes and engaging in live fire." Harder yet for the performer was understanding how to become Zen in the face of danger. "The culture of the sniper is unique," observes Foster. "They're very calm, patient. It's not my natural disposition."

Foster reflects on what he witnessed of the SEALs' training and character: "It has very little to do with being an elite warrior. It's about a gut check: How far can you dig, and are you going to come out on the other end? Every possible moment they're telling you that you can't. And the whole game is don't quit. Very few make it. At the end of the day these guys are pushed through a very brutal sieve, and it's a unique personality of can-do."

Hirsch sums his fellow actors' agreement that although this training program was the physically toughest thing they have ever done, it pales in comparison to the SEALs' training. "We trained mostly with M4 rifles," he says. "We learned how to fire at the SWAT range and at targets, moving in unison with real bullets. It was dangerous, but it was also fun. It was hard on the knees because they had us doing a lot of rolling and firing, but I had a great time with the guys. You certainly learn to trust your fellow actors really quick." Hirsch pauses: "Even if I trained seven days a week, 24 hours a day, it wouldn't be one one-hundredth of what the students go through at BUD/S. The SEALs in training kept pushing us all to move out of our comfort zones."

Not only did the performers of Lone Survivor need to act the part of SEALs, they had to look it. The challenge for Amy Stofsky's costume department was to make sure the military wardrobe reflected 2005, because what the troops wore then no longer exists. This meant making all the uniforms for the key cast members and getting or manufacturing the correct patches and insignia for the time period.

A stickler for detail, Berg worked with Luttrell and Stofsky's team to make sure that the clothing replicated the men's injuries as faithfully as possible. Indeed, he had asked to see the autopsy reports of those who had been killed in the line of duty in order to do their stories justice. With four-time Emmy winner GREGORY NICOTERO and Oscar winner HOWARD BERGER running special makeup effects, Berg knew that there would be as much reality as possible on set and that audiences would get a realistic glimpse into the sacrifices these SEALs made.

Filming in New Mexico: Design and Locations

Berg stayed mindful of the burden of responsibility that went with the telling of Luttrell's story and kept it in the forefront of the minds of cast and crew throughout the production. Working with a team that included cinematographer Tobias Schliessler, production designer Tom Duffield, costume designer Amy Stofsky and editor Colby Parker, Jr., Berg began the painstaking process of re-creating the story of SEAL Team 10.

Producer Emmett marvels at the level of detail that Berg's team was able to reconstruct: "You couldn't step a foot on set without feeling as if you were being transported into another land. My hat is off to the crewmembers who pulled off such an accomplishment. To a person, the level of detail that they were able to incorporate into this film was an achievement in each of their fields. I hope what they have done on Lone Survivor will be seen as a loving memorial to the families of these brave men." Sangre de Cristo Mountains

After years of preparation and months of training, production began in October 2012 in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest at the ski basin north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Duffield sums: "This film was mostly locations, mountains, cliffs and rocks. That was almost half of the schedule."

Eight days alone were spent 11,000 to 12,000 feet up in the mountains at locations such as Antenna Ridge, Raven's Ridge, Benny's Jump and Loggers Cliff. There, the temperatures hovered in the high 30s and low 40s. In all, to approximate the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan, the production shot at 10 separate locations in the national forest. Reachable by chairlift to a staging area, then by foot to the shooting location, some of the remote spots were silent except the sounds of wind rustling through the pines and aspens, and the occasional bird of prey's wings soaring overhead.

Often, communication was by bullhorn, with the assistant director at the bottom of the cliff and the actors at the top. Terrain too rocky and inclines too steep for more conventional camera equipment-such as cranes and dollies-meant that some of the shots were accomplished by DP Schliessler's camera operators, who were rigged to the ski lift just above the action.

Needless to say this was a challenge for actors and crew alike, but because of the nature of the project there wasn't a lot of grumbling on the set. "There were a couple days I wanted to give up," admits Wahlberg. "But you remind yourself what they went through-Marcus, Axe, Murphy and Dietz-and everybody else who was in that helicopter, as well as the guys before them and after them. We knew we had to suck it up, go out there and make them proud."

Says Kitsch about the overall mood: "This is something that's bigger than all of us, and that was the tone on set." He laughs: "Our crew's insane, really. These guys were trekking that gear up in negative weather-through rocks, up inclines, scaling boulders-and you didn't hear one guy complain the entire time."

Village Sets in Chilili

The production moved from the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the less treacherous terrain of Chilili, New Mexico, a Mexican land grant approximately 45 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Here, the cast and crew made use of the wooded areas for portions of the battle scenes, and the art department built the sets for the Shah village, as well as the Pashtun village where Gulab hides Luttrell and the SEAL's helicopter rescue takes place. For the RPG explosions and bullet hits shown in the battle sequences that occur in the roads around Gulab's home, BRUNO VAN ZEEBROECK's special effects team rigged the villages.

The Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, are organized into tribes of primarily Sunni and Shi'a Muslims and speak Pashtu and Dari. Many are now in Pakistan, refugees from past fighting in their homeland. Other Afghan ethnic groups, most of which opposed the Taliban, include Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Nuristanis.

In keeping with the production's commitment to authenticity, Afghan brothers MUHAMMAD NAWROZ RAHIMI and NAWAZ RAHIMI were asked to come aboard as cultural technical advisors to the filmmaking team. They worked with the casting and wardrobe departments-as well as with extras brought on to play both villagers and Taliban fighters-to help them understand language, customs and fighting methods. Their father, ZARIN MOHAMMAD RAHIMI, a refugee from the region who brought his family to the U.S. to escape the Taliban, not only joined his sons in advisory duties, he played the role of the eldest shepherd in the crucial scene in which the SEALs are discovered.

Remarks Stofsky on her search for authenticity in duplicating their dress: "There are so many different tribes in Afghanistan, and we had to do a good deal of studying. Our advisors were paramount in helping sort it all out."

Albuquerque's Kirtland Air Force Base and Soundstages

We begin Lone Survivor with our four-man team living in the compound with their fellow SEALs-including Fontan, Healy, Kristensen, Lucas, McGreevy, Jr., Patton, Suh and Taylor. They were part of the 16-man Special Operations Forces aboard the MH-47 Chinook helicopter-including 8 Army Night Stalkers-dispatched to aid the four SEALs in trouble on the ground. The helicopter was shot down during the rescue attempt, and all 16 men perished.

Rather than in the tents for the enlisted men on the rest of Bagram Airfield, the SEALs were housed in nearby plywood buildings that included sleeping quarters, a weight room, TV room and Tactical Operations Command (TOC). It's here that the men review their mission, prepare their gear and pass the time in friendly competitions and one-upmanship, waiting in anticipation for word that their mission is a go.

Much like the real base in Afghanistan, the set for Camp Ouellette was a compound built from sea containers and HESCO barriers on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. With its desert vistas, runways and space for helicopter and military transport vehicles, this location added to the film's authenticity.

Shooting on a functioning Air Force base and receiving permission to use aircraft and personnel took coordination with a multitude of military and government agencies. Senior military advisor and security consultant HARRY HUMPHRIES, a former SEAL who had worked with Berg on Hancock and The Kingdom, came on board as an associate producer to handle the details. As one might expect, the logistics required major coordination of assets from multiple branches of the Armed Forces. Some days on set, the actual military personnel outnumbered the cast and crew.

As the SEALs are at the core of this film, the Navy was the lead service over the course of the production. For its part, the Air Force (Kirtland 58th Special Operations Wing) provided two HH60G Pave Hawks for the combat search and rescue (CSAR) mission scene at Gulab's Pashtun village set. Luttrell is loaded aboard as one of the Hawks lands, while the other one provides close air support (CAS). Manned by military personnel, these helicopters flew from Kirtland to the village set in Chilili on the day the rescue scenes were shot.

The Army provided two MH-47 Chinooks and two AH-64 Apaches from the 1st Cavalry Division that were flown in from Fort Hood, Texas. These were used for scenes at the Camp Ouellette set built at Kirtland. For its part, the Marines provided vehicles and 30 Marine reserves for the Bagram Airfield and Jalabad scenes lensed at Kirtland.

After two weeks at Chilili and five days on the Air Force base, the production moved to soundstages for interior scenes and blue-screen work. Most of the time, a crew finds stage work a bit boring, but with this production everyone was more than ready for a little R & R. Says Wahlberg: "I looked forward to getting off those hills every day, to getting out of Chilili and to getting to the stage-even though when you get on stage it slows down."

At I-25 Studios in Albuquerque, the art department built Gulab's house and the interiors for Camp Ouellette's bunk rooms, television room, TAC and command center. The blue-screen work involved a portion of an MH-47 Chinook fuselage on a gimbal and a mountain cliff built by the art department in the stage facility parking lot.


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

2018 8,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!