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Boot Camp
To help them prepare for their roles as Marines, the filmmakers dropped the cast members into an intensive, three-week boot camp with active and retired Marines. They would have no mobile phones, no television, no internet and no contact with the outside world. The film's senior military technical advisor Jim Dever explains the benefits of such an arrangement. "We started a boot camp for the actors in three phases. The first week was Physical Training, PT. Doing this allows us to test each actor's physical abilities. We also taught them drill. Drill instills discipline so that I could get them to understand commands, which is of course a big part of the Marine Corps – listening to commands and executing them. That first week also included lessons on the history of the Marine Corps.”

Phases two and three got even rougher. Dever continues, "The second week, we headed to Camp Mindon, a National Guard base. Once there, we lived out in the field for five days. We had them pitch their own tents and cots; we issued their equipment, and we started our training. Early every morning – 5:30 am – we did physical training, took showers, ate breakfast, and we started learning how to be a Marine, from putting on your equipment to how to use your weapon. In the afternoons, Jonathan would rehearse with the actors the scenes that they would be playing in the movie. The third phase was rehearsing on the highway: how to move and how to contact each other. We also continued weapons training.” After the third week, the production began photography.

"Boot camp was interesting,” says Aaron Eckhart. "I'm glad we did it, because it was essentially a three-week rehearsal period. We had three Marines put us through boot camp and we all slept in the same big tent and ate together. We were regimented. We ate rations and had all our courses during the day. We acted like a squad of Marines – I was the staff sergeant, so I bossed them around and they hated my guts. It was invaluable, particularly when it came to weaponry – to know how to hold it, what you're looking at, how to walk with it and how to be a cohesive unit going down the street. It really helped us, because when it came time to shoot, Sergeant Major Dever would just say, ‘OK, you guys are patrolling this area,' and we'd know how to act.”

"Boot camp was just that,” says Ramon Rodriguez. "I have a whole new respect for the military in general and Marines in particular. For example, our vests weigh about 40 pounds, and ours were not even the real deal. Ours didn't have the metal plates inside them. With the metal plates, real grenades and the real magazines with the real rounds, theirs weigh something close to 80 pounds or more. On top of that, we have the weapon, depending which one but it can be 25-30 pounds, easy. Then you have two backpacks that weigh about 20 pounds apiece. Then you have the boots and you have the helmet… it's not easy.”

But as tough as it was, Rodriguez continues by saying that the boot camp helped him forge relationships with his fellow actors and get into character. "Honestly, boot camp was probably the best part of it all, just because it allowed everybody to bond together and become a team...a platoon,” he says. "We spent several weeks out in the woods under a tent with these 25 plus year Marine veterans guiding us, helping us, showing us and teaching us how to become Marines. We trained all day and also rehearsed various scenes throughout the training process. It was great bonding time for us and I feel everyone slowly found their characters and roles in the platoon during boot camp. At the end of the day this movie to me is an homage to the Marines and hopefully we make them proud and look good.”

"Boot camp definitely helped me get into character,” says Ne-Yo. "Whether you like it or not, you are your character for three weeks. You had no choice. You were in it. Of course, it's nothing compared to what the real guys do… but after three days, we were like, ‘Okay, we get it. Let's start shooting now. Take us back to the hotel. It's raining out here.' But, it really helped us understand who the Marines are and why we need to do them proud.”

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