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DEAR JOHN

Military Authenticity...
John is member of the US Army's Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, which describes itself on its website as "a unique, unconventional combat organization of highly trained and seasoned professionals.” The most versatile Special Operations soldiers in the world, they are an elite, multi-purpose force for high priority operational targets of strategic importance. Dear John military advisor Gavin McCulley served as a captain during two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, May 2001 - May 2008; he also plays Sparks, John's fellow soldier.

"Starting in pre-production,” he says, "I gave advice on scenarios and how this particular Special Forces team would be able to get to each intended location within the constructs of the story. From there I worked with the production design team, props, and wardrobe to ensure that everything was accurately portrayed. We were able to show how a Special Forces team operates independently and sometimes very differently from the regular Army. Nuances, such as the relationships between soldiers of different ranks and how team members interact, were given special consideration.”

McCulley and a group of Special Forces soldiers also worked with Channing Tatum and the other actors who played soldiers in his unit "on how to move with a weapon, how to indicate with each other, how to move shoulder to shoulder through a building.” McCulley particularly praises Tatum's dedication to authenticity. "Channing was out there with us and got right in there,” he says. "He's a hard-charger and brings a great level of intensity.”

McCulley recruited active duty Special Forces soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, to train the cast and play background roles in the film. "I called my friends from 7th Special Forces Group, where I was assigned, and asked if they wanted to be in the movie,” he says. "It was through them that we were able to get all the Special Forces specific gear, like the proper body armor, helmets, etc.”

Lt. Colonel Gregory W. Bishop, the film's liaison with the US Army, helped with script notes, coordinated Army equipment and troops, and provided technical support on the set as well. "Lasse and Channing were very dedicated to capturing the nuances of soldiering in this film,” says Bishop. "It was my job to help them get it right.”

Costume designer Dana Campbell says, "Everything's very accurate, from the patches and insignias to the tucking of pants into the boots. Because we start back in 2001, with the Special Forces we went through three different uniforms: BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform/green camouflage), DCUs (Desert Combat Uniform/desert cammo), ACUs (Advanced Combat Uniform/digital cammo).” She notes that the production was lucky to be able to "borrow uniforms from Army Wives, which shoots in Charleston.”

Though the film's soldiers are present day, the filmmakers were careful to keep the film specifically out of Iraq or Afghanistan – the film is not making a statement on current U.S. conflicts. "One of the things that appealed to all of us,” says Linden, "was that you could lift the characters and story line and put them into another generation. It could be a World War I or WWII movie. This isn't a political movie. It has nothing to do with the larger political environment that we're living in – that's why we wanted to keep John out of Iraq. By putting him in the Special Forces we could literally send him anywhere in the world, since the Special Forces go everywhere.”

Hallstrom was grateful for his experience in depicting the military aspects of the film. "I certainly learned so much about the military and have a much deeper respect for what they're doing,” he says. "Having spent a half year in their world as a visitor, I learned a lot and really respect the work they do and the guts it takes to do it.”

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