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The Civilians
When it came to casting the roles of the civilians trapped behind alien lines, Liebesman started with the role of Michele, a veterinarian, spending a peaceful afternoon with her two nieces when the city is attacked. For the role, he wanted someone vulnerable, but tough – it was imperative that the audience believe the character. Bridget Moynahan fit the bill. "What's great about Bridget is that she's a beautiful girl, but in a girl-next-door way, and not in a way that undermines the intensity of the role,” says Moritz. "There's a real depth that Bridget brings to a role that makes you feel for her and the children in her care.”

Moynahan says the key to her character is understanding her motivation: the children she has been entrusted to protect are not her own. "She's in a unique situation, because these aren't her kids – she's the aunt who doesn't often see them,” says Moynahan. "Have you ever driven someone else's children around? You think, ‘I have to be a lot more careful and pay attention – this is precious cargo.' I thought about that – my character has to make sure she gets these kids out of there.”

Moynahan notes that Liebesman's clear vision for the film helped her see the film he was making. "I knew it was about aliens attacking our world, but I had a lot of questions. How was it going to be presented? And at the read-through, he showed us a presentation that took my breath away. He had shot Aaron in a short presentation for the studio that plunked you right down in this battle – it wasn't glossed over or clean, it was realistic and raw and authentic. I knew he was going to be capturing something we hadn't seen yet.”

Michael Peña plays Rincon, a loving father who is trapped behind enemy lines with his son, Hector, and does everything in his power to preserve the life of his child. "Michael Peña is fantastic,” says Liebesman. "He plays this role with such passion and heart that it becomes more powerful than we could have imagined. We really believe that both he and Bridget would die for these kids.”

Peña was attracted to the film by the chance to work with Aaron Eckhart. "I'd seen him in Thank You for Smoking and Erin Brockovich, and I think he did a really good job in both,” says Peña. "The dude is committed from the moment he gets on set. I guess he's different in the make-up trailer, but as soon as he steps out, he is concentrating, always moving, always wanting to make the scenes better, make them work. It's refreshing.”

At the heart of the civilian cast are the three children. "We've been really lucky to cast three young actors who play the children with amazing emotion and heart: Joey King, Jadin Gould, and Bryce Cass,” says Marmur. "These three kids have done a tremendous job – I believe everything about their performances.”

Though the safety of all the actors – and especially the children – was always paramount, executive producer Jeffrey Chernov says the filmmakers did find ways to integrate the children with the rest of the cast. "During pre-production, we included them in the boot camp along with the rest of the 2/5,” he says. "They didn't spend the night on the base, but I felt it was really important that the kids get around the Marines and the Marines get around the kids.”

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