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THREE KINGS

Enlisting The Cast
After reading the "Three Kings" script, George Clooney was deeply impressed by the role of Archie Gates, a cynical career soldier getting ready to retire.

"I called up David O. Russell and expressed an interest in being involved with the project," says Clooney. "I followed David to New York and back, lobbying for the role. I thought it was so different and so smart. It was a dark comedy; a strange action film and an off-kilter drama all rolled into one. And in a weird way, it had elements of several great films like ‘Lawrence of Arabia' and ‘Schindler's List,' because in all three films you start out doing something for mercenary reasons and personal gain, and eventually you do what's right," says Clooney.

Director David Russell says, "George has this kind of grizzled quality that I wanted for the character and he's kind of a jock, so you would believe him as a military guy. Also, George is an independent guy who does things his own way. You have to be like that to be in Special Forces."

Clooney's commitment to "Three Kings" required physical as well as mental dedication, since he was simultaneously starring in his final episodes on the hit TV series "ER" in Burbank, California, and starring on location in "Three Kings." He worked double duty for most of the three-and-a-half-month shoot -- three days in Los Angeles on "ER," then four days in Arizona without a break.

Russell wanted Mark Wahlberg to play the part of Troy, the family man of the troop, because "Troy is a working-class guy from Detroit who has a wife and daughter waiting for him back home. He also turns out to be a very tough soldier. And Mark seems like this all-American guy, yet you also know he could punch your lights out if he wanted to. There's something dark and unpredictable about him that I thought would be great for this character."

Says Wahlberg, "What attracted me to this script is the fact that it was about these ordinary guys,  not Rambo types,  who are just trying to get ahead, and they find themselves in a situation where they realize they haven't really known what's been going on around them. And then they have to make choices about what's really right and what's really wrong; they have to rise to the occasion in an imperfect world."

Russell selected actor and renowned rap artist Ice Cube to play the spiritual character of Chief because "Cube is a very intense guy, but he's also got a good heart, and I thought it would be great to show this side of him," says Russell.

Ice Cube wanted to be involved with "Three Kings" for several reasons. "I grew up on ‘Apocalypse Now' and ‘Platoon.' But ‘Three Kings' was a war movie that took place during my lifetime. Yet I didn't really understand what went down in Iraq until I read the script," he says.

Ice Cube also liked the fact that Chief was such a departure from his previous film roles and his performance persona. He explains, "Chief is very religious. He believes that the Lord Jesus Christ will get him through the war, so he's kind of dependent on a higher power rather than just his military training. And since most of the roles I've played have been the street hood type, it was cool to step up to a military and spiritual type."

Music-video director and rising feature-film director Spike Jonze was cast as Private Conrad Vig because Russell saw him as the sweet-yet-mischievous loose cannon that Vig is. "I thought Spike could really pull off a weird combination of traits where he seems really affable sometimes and then turns into someone like Timothy McVeigh," says Russell.

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