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The Cast Goes To "A" School
Joining Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher in THE GUARDIAN is the diverse cast that makes up the 22 young recruits at "A” School—a group made up not only of exciting young actors but also several Olympic-level swimmers, competitive triathletes and a couple of real-life Rescue Swimmers. "I really went out of my way to make sure we cast real swimmers,” says Andrew Davis, "and at the same time, to create a great mix of different sizes, genders and personalities in the class. Having so many accomplished athletes and members of the Coast Guard in the cast really elevated the actors, because everybody was trying to keep up with each other.”

To further prepare the cast for the exceptional rigors and dangers of even simulating water rescues, those playing Rescue Swimmers and trainees were shipped off to attend an abbreviated, but definitely no-holds-barred, "A” School led by the Coast Guard's Robert Watson, John Hall and Butch Flythe. Andrew Davis notes that just being in the presence of the real Rescue Swimmers was a constant inspiration. "There's a certain way they carry themselves, a certain sense of discipline and a general view of life they have that is just terrific,” he says. "We felt very blessed to have people who have actually saved the lives of others right there on set with us, giving us feedback.”

The cast was also excited—but felt the considerable weight of trying to live up to the heroism of the men and women they were portraying. Says Brian Geraghty, the young star who plays the underdog trainee Hodge: "We knew these guys we were working with had saved a lot of lives, so that puts a lot of pressure on you to get it right.” Geraghty continues: "But man, this training was ridiculous! I've been surfing my whole life and I love the water, but this was so tough physically and mentally it was like nothing else.”

Notes Butch Flythe: "We put the actors through what we would call Rescue Swimmer Lite, but it was still very intense. They worked incredibly hard—and if you looked on the pool deck at any moment, you wouldn't be able to tell this wasn't a real ‘A' School class, which was very impressive to us.”

Although many of the actors in THE GUARDIAN had been through various film "boot camps” before, nothing seemed to compare. "It was a great experience because it bonded us all together,” says Tripp Vinson.

"We had a very athletic cast but everyone was dead tired by the end of it, and we were really proud of that.”

Coast Guard technical advisor Jeffrey D. Loftus believes that the hard-core training helped both cast and filmmakers to take more creative risks. "Between the real swimmers being around all the time and the training and the exposure, the cast got the rescue techniques at boot camp, they were able to take things much further,” he says. "They got great opportunities to see the things that a swimmer goes through that normal people can't really imagine. I think that helped them to really represent the professionalism, dignity and honor that distinguish Rescue Swimmers.”

For Rescue Swimmer Robert Watson, the experience of working on a Hollywood film production was equally eye-opening. "As Rescue Swimmers, we came in with our perceptions of Hollywood, but we found Kevin, Ashton and the rest of the cast to be truly honorable,” he says. "They had a job to do and they wanted to do it right. We train very hard to do our jobs, and it was cool to be around other professionals who also put their heart and soul into what they do.”

Meanwhile, in exploring the world of Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, THE GUARDIAN also delves into the job's resonant effect on the swimmers' outside lives and relationships. This emerges through two of the film's female characters: Ben Randall's frustrated wife Helen, played by popular TV and film star Sela Ward, and Jake Fischer's bloss


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