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BATTLE: LOS ANGELES

About The Marines
The human race's last line of defense falls to the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines – aka the 2/5 – based at Camp Pendleton. As they cast the Marines, Moritz says, the goal "was that years from now, people could look back at this movie and say, ‘All those guys were in that movie together?' But it's more than that – we wanted actors who felt real and everybody could believe could be in a military battle. They had to be able to portray the emotions of the scenes – the trauma and horror of a modern war as well as the sense that this is a battle outside of all their training and preparation.”

The first piece to the puzzle was casting Staff Sergeant Nantz, portrayed by Aaron Eckhart, who Liebesman calls, "one of the most incredible actors working today.”

"It was such a coup to get Aaron in this movie,” says Liebesman. "Aaron immediately gives you incredible depth with your central character. You believe these guys would follow him anywhere.”

"Aaron is a phenomenal actor and a very generous collaborator – he submits himself to the role fully and never gives up,” says Liebesman. "His character, Nantz, is fierce and impenetrable. I couldn't imagine anyone else taking this role and making it so rich and complex.”

Before production began, Eckhart and Liebesman collaborated on a one-day shoot that would set the tone for the entire production: the result was a short reel that brought Liebesman's vision into focus and put it on a screen for everyone to see. "He asked me to come down for the day – I had no idea what it would be like. I'm telling you, I freaked out. We had full uniforms, we had weapons, we had a helicopter, we had Humvees, the whole place was covered in dirt. It was amazing – Jonathan had a relentless vision for the movie.”

Eckhart thrived in his first war movie. He took to the training immediately and worked his body into the best shape of his life. He became well versed in firearms, thanks to the coaching he received from the military technical advisors. He even developed what he calls a "love/hate” relationship with his helmet, and by the end of filming, began to refer to his protective military gloves as "his best friends.”

Nantz is outranked by the much younger Second Lieutenant William Martinez, played by Ramon Rodriguez. Martinez is "a rising star in the Marine Corps,” explains Liebesman. Under Martinez, his platoon is ordered to go behind the break line – that is, Lincoln Boulevard, which bisects Santa Monica – to rescue civilians trapped in a police station.

Martinez has received all of the best education and training an officer could ask for – and is excited to get out into the field. However, his first assignment, with the 2/5, is much more than he could have ever expected. "Martinez is a very newly minted leader who is eager to get out into the field and gets his wish when his platoon is sent into combat and he soon realizes how serious the situation is,” says Rodriguez. "He's a young, hungry Marine who's out there trying to do his best, but this is his first experience in combat and he feels the pressure of being Lieutenant plus he's fighting an unknown enemy and everyone is looking to him for leadership. He has to figure out how to get a handle on the situation...fast!”

"Ramon looks the role,” says producer Ori Marmur. "He's polished without being soft and carries himself with a quiet confidence at all times.”

"I got excited as I as reading the screenplay,” says Rodriguez. "I've always had respect for our soldiers – and with the script I liked the way the Marines talked and behaved, it seemed very authentic on the page – plus they were taking on aliens. On our turf. I'm a sci-fi fan and I like movies about war. I thought it was a good combination of both worlds and that this could really be a kick-ass film.”

Grammy-winning R&B artist and hit songwriter Ne-Yo plays Corporal Kevin Harris, aka "Specs.” Though he has appeared in a handful of film roles, Ne-Yo still considers himself a "novice” actor, and did what any young actor would do: he watched Eckhart and the rest of the veterans and absorbed as much as possible from them. As he "sat back and soaked it all in,” he says, it was, in a way, a master class in acting. "The way Aaron can speak without speaking – with just a look, you know what he's saying – it's incredible. He shows up as Nantz, and he's Nantz until he goes home,” says Ne-Yo. In contrast, "Michelle Rodriguez can laugh and joke with you, and then, when the director calls ‘action,' she turns it on, just like that. She has 100% control of her emotions.”

Of his character, Ne-Yo says, "He's not afraid of anything. Even in this situation, no one has ever dealt with anything like this, but to him, this is just one more thing, just something else that they've gotta get in there and get done because there is no other option,” says Ne-Yo. "His attitude is, ‘We're either gonna get it done, or we're gonna die – and I've got stuff to live for.' He's engaged, has a very full life ahead of him and doesn't plan on letting this situation prevent that.”

Joining the Marines of the 2/5 is Air Force Tech Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez), who was among the very first to see evidence of the strange new enemy. Being Air Force, Rodriguez's character takes some ribbing from her Marine counterparts. "Marines consider themselves the elite group of all the forces,” she says. And maybe rightfully so: "They feel train the hardest and they do a lot with the little they have. My character, a tech sergeant, they call her ‘pogue'” – that is, non-infantry, as opposed to themselves, the guys on the front lines, the grunts. But as they continue their way through LA, she will earn the Marines' respect.

When it came to real life, the shoe was on the other foot, as Rodriguez took naturally to the military training, according to the film's senior military technical advisor, Jim Dever. "Michelle Rodriguez is incredible. She's a fine actress and knows herself around weapons. She was always safe with her M4, and she wants to get everything right. It got to the point where I didn't even have to suggest the way someone might do something in real life – she'd be watching the rear of the formation walk a couple steps, turn around, check, walk – doing it just right without me telling her.”

"The rest of the platoon from 2/5 is rounded out by an amazing group of young actors all rising stars in their own right,” says Moritz. "We've been able to find some really fresh faces and talented guys Jim Parrack as Kerns – he's amazing on ‘True Blood' – and a young actor named Will Rothhaar, who delivers a very intense turn as Imlay and carries a bulk of the load as Nantz's right-hand-man.”

Cory Hardrict plays Lockett, a Marine whose brother was killed in action due to a poor decision on Staff Sergeant Nantz's part – only to later serve underneath Nantz's command. Hardrict, says Liebesman, "brought a really unexpected depth to his character which was not in the script.”

Rounding out the Marines are rising young actors Lucas Till as Grayston, Adetokumboh M'Cormack as Adukwu, the gentle medic, Neil Brown, Jr. as Guerrero, Noel Fisher as PFC. Shaun Lenihan, Taylor Handley as Simmons, James Hiroyuki Liao as LCpl. Steven Mottola, and Gino Anthony Pesi as Stavrou.

Of course, the 2/5 is a real battalion – the most highly decorated in the history of the Marine Corps. Their motto is "Retreat, Hell!” – during World War I, when ordered to retreat, the 2/5 responded, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!”

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