Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) with an Indiewire interview with Lone Survivor writer-director Peter Berg:
How did you come to make “Battleship” if “Lone Survivor” was what you really wanted to do?
I was getting ready to make “Lone Survivor” in 2008 when I was asked by the studio if we could do “Battleship” first. “Lone Survivor” was in a rough state. I was excited by the challenge and Universal committed to do “Lone Survivor.” They didn’t renege. They asked if we used Randall Emmet’s money would we be willing to put some money up. They guaranteed a domestic and UK release. From our standpoint as long as the money was there in some ways it was easier this way. We were left with tremendous independence. That’s not to say it would have been worse if Universal financed it. But the way it worked for me, it was a great deal. Randall Emmet came through with the money, and Universal came through big time with distribution.
This was a gratifying experience. The lesson to be learned for me from films like ‘Battleship’ is if you’re trying to create something from scratch and build the DNA of a story trying to do, and your blood is not in that game, invested deeply, it’s going to be challenging. The films I’ve made with a deep connection to the material are a more satisfying experience, when you have real blood in the game. Nobody puts a gun to your head and makes you do something. It’s just better when you care.
That action sequence between the SEALs and the Taliban on the mountain cliffs was well-staged and intense. Did “Restrepo” have an influence on your approach?
I saw “Restrepo” for the first time as I developed the script. I’ve known Sebastian for quite a while. I admire him greatly as an adventurer, he’s a special talent, and an incredible journalist. I remember the day after 9/11 day that Sebastian was on Larry King and seemed to know more about that part of world, Osama bin Laden and Al Queda than anyone. He had a unique perspective on that region, spent time with soldiers, the Taliban and Hindu Kush in the Korangal Valley. I worked with him quite a while doing initial research, he gave me insight into the operation from a different perspective. I thought “Restrepo” was an extraordinary film. I was sad to hear that Tim Hetherington was killed, we lost a great filmmaker.
It was a challenge. In the book the gunfight went on for 3 1/2 hours. I interviewed Marcus, reviewed the military reports on the terrain, the pitch of the hills and cliffs, the autopsy reports of the guys, and the footage the Taliban released on the internet of the Dietz and Murphy bodies, what they did to those bodies. Once we got the facts, we built in LA a model of the mountain that was four feet high and five feet wide. We broke down the fight into 30 segments or sequences. We treated each one as a mini film experience. I worked with Kevin Scott and the stuntmen and my editor Colby Parker and the sound designer to see what experience each stage would present, so that it was not just one wild exchange, but a piece of movement.
For the rest of the interview, go here.