Peter Berg has been attached to direct an adaptation of Lone Survivor, the autobiography of Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, since 2007. Berg bonded with Luttrell during the making of The Kingdom, and penned the adaptation after spending a month with a Navy Seal unit. The idea was to make Lone Survivor his next film, but desert war films (including The Kingdom) were tough sells to moviegoers, and thus to studios. Universal made a deal with Berg: “You direct Battleship, we’ll fund Lone Survivor.” Flash forward a few years — Berg is in post-production on Battleship, and the Navy elite are en vogue following the triumphant and cinematic assassination of Osama Bin Laden by “Seal Team 6.” Disney and Kathryn Bigelow appear to have first dibs on that particular story, but Luttrell’s tale covers the same subject matter with comparable heroism. Luttrell was one of four Seals on a Bin Laden-related reconnaissance mission to a Taliban stronghold — only Luttrell made it back alive.
Lone Survivor is up and running again at Universal; with a script ready, Berg and the studio are targeting a January start date for production. Berg reached out to Battleship star Taylor Kitsch to play one of the Seals; he will continue to meet with other actors to fill out the foursome in the coming weeks.
Hit the jump for quotes from Berg on his approach to Luttrell’s story and a tongue-in-cheek response to the Battleship backlash.
Berg was upfront with Deadline about the importance of Bin Laden’s death to the greenlight for Lone Survivor:
“They leaned right into it with me. Bin Laden’s death has cleared the way for this, a movie that will be an unapologetically patriotic film that honors and pays homage to an incredible group of badass guys who do this. The film will be a bit like Black Hawk Down, but it will focus on the quartet, which is fewer guys than that film.”
With this news, we learn Berg is in the middle of an unofficial war movie trilogy. The Kingdom was a conflicted political thriller. From what we know so far, Battleship is sci-fi popcorn fare. And based on these comments, Lone Survivor sounds like something different altogether: a straight-up action film, mostly free of political commentary. Berg isn’t the first filmmaker to tackle the military in multiple films, but has any other director approached it from so many angles? (I understand that “before two of the three films are finished” is too early to ask this question.)
I’m looking forward to Battleship and its aliens, but there is a natural aversion to movies based on board games. Notably, veteran industry opiner James Cameron publicly denounced Battleship as the purest example of Hollywood’s story crisis. Berg is a smart guy though — he knew what he signed up for:
“I am very happy with the film, and of course I enjoyed the comments from people like [James] Cameron or Stephen Colbert, who wondered who would play the red pegs and who’d play the white pegs. I really appreciated their support. I understand the skepticism, but I think people will be surprised when Universal releases a trailer this summer. That should calm some of the fretting over the casting of the pegs. Universal has been really supportive through the whole process.”
Battleship opens on May 18, 2012, and boy am I looking forward to that trailer this summer.
Here’s the official synopsis for Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10:
Four US Navy SEALS departed one clear night in early July 2005 for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their task was to document the activity of an al Qaeda leader rumored to be very close to Bin Laden with a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, only one of those Navy SEALS made it out alive.
This is the story of the only survivor of Operation Redwing, SEAL fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, and the extraordinary firefight that led to the largest loss of life in American Navy SEAL history. His squadmates fought valiantly beside him until he was the only one left alive, blasted by an RPG into a place where his pursuers could not find him. Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors.
A born and raised Texan, Marcus Luttrell takes us from the rigors of SEAL training, where he and his fellow SEALs discovered what it took to join the most elite of the American special forces, to a fight in the desolate hills of Afghanistan for which they never could have been prepared. His account of his squadmates’ heroism and mutual support renders an experience that is both heartrending and life-affirming. In this rich chronicle of courage and sacrifice, honor and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers a powerful narrative of modern war. [Amazon]