Clint Eastwood reveals why he cast non-actors in the Georgia-filmed ’15:17 to Paris’.
The director says in preparation for the movie he questioned Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler for details about their amazing takedown of a heavily armed ISIS recruit on a crowded train heading from Amsterdam to Paris. At the time, Eastwood also was considering various 20-something actors to play the real-life trio whose story formed the plot of his new movie The 15:17 to Paris when he decided that he wanted to cast the real men who saved the day for the movie.
“I was going over and over it with them because I wanted to get as much accuracy as I could into the film, and one day it just crossed my mind as I was looking at him. I don’t want to sound Norma Desmond-ish, but the faces just fit,” Eastwood tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And I just thought, ‘I wonder if they could do it?’ I think there are some wonderful actors around that could’ve played this, but there’s something about this particular project and the heroism that was involved and the way they handled the thing that is just kind of unique, so I thought I’d try that here. And I just said, ‘I think I’ll take a shot at it.'”
This is not the first time this has happened. Steven Soderbergh with the movie The Girlfriend Experience, which starred the real-world porn star, Sasha Grey. That said, as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, marks the first time in decades that a major film studio has taken a risk on real-life protagonists leading a moderately budgeted film ($30 million budget).
“Just total shock,” Stone says of his reaction when Eastwood suggested the three untrained actors might be best suited for the material. “It was something that I never thought about even in my head, even as family and friends were like, ‘Who’s going to play you in the movie. Are you going to play yourself?’ And I was like, ‘C’mon. Of course, we’re not. That’s stupid.’ When Clint asked us, we were just so taken aback.”
Eastwood has an eye for casting nonprofessionals. In the movie Gran Torino, he cast real-life people for the supporting roles and that movie would later earn $270 million worldwide on a $33 million budget.
Eastwood was asked if the studio had any objections. “There might’ve been a little discussion as to whether they thought it was a good idea, but nobody expressed it to me,” says Eastwood. “I guess they felt I’d been doing this for 60-something-odd years, and I could maybe make a decision.”
Clint Eastwood said he compensated for the lack of acting classes by doing “a massive amount of improvisation.” He adds, “A lot of times I start the camera when nobody knows it, and keep it running when nobody knows it. You have little tricks that you favor over the years.”
But, there was one shot that no acting class could have prepared a seasoned actor, according to Clint Eastwood. It was the scene where Stone crawls over to Moogalian and presses his hand to his neck to stop the bleeding.
“I had a true flashback,” he says. “We’re wearing the same exact clothes. We’re on the same exact train moving toward Paris. Same amount of blood. They re-created our injuries. His wife is right there. And we’re saying the same exact words that we said to each other on the day of. We only did the scene once. And I remember forgetting that anyone else was in the room and feeling like I was back in time. Clint said, ‘That’s enough.’ And I just was like, ‘Wow. There are people in the room.’ I saw his face, and he was looking at the monitor, and I will never forget his facial expression. It was almost as if he was looking at the real thing. That was the reality. That wasn’t fiction. That was us two years ago.”
If this movie is a big hit, then it may start a new trend in Hollywood, where acting experience no longer matters. But, for Clint Eastwood, he plans to use professional actors in his new movie. “I’m not deserting my Screen Actors Guild,” he says. “The Screen Actors Guild just has three new members.”
Following the movie, Stone has signed with UTA for all areas, with Jason Heyman representing for acting, according to THR. “I would love to make it a long career,” he says. “It’s such a cliché to say, ‘Do something you have fun with and it will never feel like work.’ But I feel like this is it. Clint blessed us with a new career. Any day after that terrorist attack is a blessing, and I feel like I’m living on borrowed time. So why not?”
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