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JARHEAD

Enlisting The Platoon
"I'd read the book on a plane and came away really moved by it—it was purely emotional and without any of the clichés of other war stories,” says Jake Gyllenhaal. "When I got the script, I was told by Sam [Mendes] that Bill [the screenwriter] had served in Vietnam and, to be honest, I had some concerns about that. "To me, Vietnam was a different generation, a war that everyone of that generation was involved with in one way or another. I was 11 when the Gulf War started. There is a kind of weird distance from it. We don't have the same experience of it that the Vietnam generation had of that war.”

Gyllenhaal's concerns were alleviated once he read Broyles' adaptation of Swofford's memoir. He was instantly eager to take on the challenge of portraying the author—but found he would have to wait a bit. After his first reading for Mendes, Gyllenhaal got the ominous feeling that he didn't nail the audition. After a few months had passed and the actor heard that the director was meeting with other actors, Jake left an impassioned message on Mendes' voicemail ("I'll do whatever you want me to do, but I'm the guy to be in this movie!”). A month later, the director informed him he had the part.

In addition to downplaying his chances of securing the role, Gyllenhaal underestimated the physical—and mental—transformation the role would bring about.

"When the other guys and I first got our jarhead haircuts, I was really into it—and then, as soon as it happened, it was odd to me,” Gyllenhaal recalls. "But I think that feeling was appropriate. I think that Swoff likes to stay apart from the group. He's an observer as well as a team player, and Sam created an atmosphere in which I could observe and be a part of a group simultaneously. I always felt an interesting juxtaposition of feeling like I was an integral part of the platoon while simultaneously feeling apart from it. I think that was Sam's intention.”

Peter Sarsgaard—who plays Troy, Swoff's friend and spotter/partner in the STA—offers, "The main reason I wanted to do this film was because I felt like it acknowledged the hardships of what it means to be in a war. We just got a little touch of it through being in this movie. I mean, in the end, we're just actors.

"What was the most difficult for us were the elements, mostly. We were either freezing our asses off—being soaked in the rain for 12 hours or out at night in the desert—or we were frying—working in the sun in full combat gear or making our way through a sandstorm. But it's a little obnoxious to complain about things like that when there were guys over there who did just that for months and had to face live ammo.”

Another aspect of military life for the first Gulf War soldiers—and all soldiers who served prior to the gender integration of the armed forces—that presented a period of adjustment for new actor/enlistees was the absence of women in their midst.

"I've gone through real bonding experiences working with groups of actors, but there's something about being around a large group that's almost exclusively male that's totally unique,” Sarsgaard explains. "I mean, there's the script supervisor and a camera loader, and maybe only one or two other women on the crew. Even the hair and makeup people were nearly all men.

"Frankly, I think we all got sick of it,” he laughs. "Male banter gets really raunchy, and you get a little tired of it. There's something about the banter that's tied in with the violence, and it's usually always centered around sex. Sex and violence—there you have it. Factions form, too. I think of all the movie sets I've been on, this one has had more bickering—and more love—than any other.”

Staying appropriately out of the grunt grappling was platoon leader Jamie Foxx.

"I think it's very appropriate that Jamie Foxx plays our staff sergeant,” says Gyllenhaal. "Everyone respects him as an actor. He k

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