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GREEN ZONE

Veterans Join The Production
For those involved with making Green Zone, the opportunity to work with the Iraq War veterans who portrayed MET D soldiers and other military personnel was one of the highlights of the shoot. The former soldiers took to the work like natural performers. For the fastidious Greengrass, nothing less would suffice. "Having the real soldiers was fantastic,” he says. "It created a bedrock of believability and gave our central actors—Matt, Brendan, Greg, Amy, Khalid and Jason—the confidence to believe they're in a very real situation.”

As he was a military novice portraying the leader of a number of hard-ass soldiers, Damon appreciated the unconventional casting. "These guys made it very easy for me,” the actor offers, "because they know exactly what to do and they make it look like I'm delegating responsibility appropriately. In an ideal world you don't want to have to explain things to people, you want them to be able to do it naturally. The whole point of these guys being here is that they show up and are who they really are. That's not something that a group of actors, even with a long time to work, could pull off as well as a group of veterans.”

Damon passed muster with his troops as well. "Matt's just like us,” commends first-time performer PAUL KARSKO, who went to Iraq in 2004 with the Air Force Reserves. Stationed in Tikrit, Karsko worked convoy security in Iraq. As Simms in Green Zone, he's assigned to explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).

Explains fellow soldier EUGENE CHERRY of this detail: "In a civilian world, EODs would be the equivalent of the bomb squad.” Cherry, who served as an Army medic with an EOD unit in Iraq in 2005, portrays medic Sandales in the film.

As the production recruited its soldiers, Michael Bronner reached out to American veterans groups to secure the appropriate people for the MET D team and other military roles. Bronner traveled to California, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C. and interviewed vets about their service in Iraq, as well as their interactions with Iraqi civilians.

Marine MICHAEL DWYER, who fought in Fallujah in 2006 and was redeployed to Iraq in 2008, got into the mix by accident. "I just happened to be in the building when one of the casting sessions was going on in New York, and I thought I was signing up for membership in a veterans organization,” he laughs. "I filled out a form, and the next thing you know, they say, ‘Mr. Bronner will see you now.' It was a pretty confused conversation.” Needless, Dwyer impressed the co-producer enough to be cast as Potts, the gunner who rides atop Miller's Humvee.

Fortunately, the vets got on with Greengrass as well as they did their new chief, Damon. "They have no tolerance for BS,” says the director. "They wanted to make a movie that accurately depicted what they went through. A lot of them wouldn't unpack their bags until they were satisfied that that's what we were doing.”

PAUL RIECKHOFF, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), portrays General Gonzales in scenes at Saddam International Airport. Producer Levin concurs with the director that casting men such as Rieckhoff was mandatory to the production's sense of authenticity. "Green Zone is not a documentary, but we're trying to get to a sense of what it was like to be there,” Levin says. "Having these guys who know it inside out was incredibly helpful.”

NATHAN LEWIS makes his acting debut as Henne, MET D's interpreter. Deployed with the Army a few years ago, he was stationed south of Baghdad as part of a field artillery brigade. "They've picked guys you'd find in an Army unit,” Lewis observes. "All the different personalities and chara

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