Formerly known as Arms and the Dudes, Todd Phillips’ upcoming picture War Dogs stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as two driven young men who end up signing a $300 million defense contract with the U.S. Government. This true-life tale centers on Efraim Diveroli (Hill) and David Packouz (Teller) who became weapons traders for the U.S. and supplied arms to their allies in Afghanistan. Their exploits were chronicled in a 2011 “Rolling Stone” article that grabbed Phillips’ attention; he adapted it as a co-writer on War Dogs along with Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin.
Thanks to a sneak peek from USA Today, Phillips has shared a solid amount insight into the film’s plot and production. He talks about what it was about Diveroli and Packouz’s story that made him want to adapt it, and just what strengths his cast brings to the screen. Additionally, we have a new image of Hill and Teller in character.
As for what caught Phillips’ attention, he said:
“I like making movies about bad decisions. This is the ultimate story about these two guys making some key bad decisions in their lives — seeing an angle and exploiting that angle but going too far.”
It sounds similar to the true-life story that formed the premise of Pain & Gain, only with international arms deals and hundreds of millions of dollars on the line. Phillips asserts that real life is often funnier than anything scripted out of whole cloth:
“I’ve always strived to draw from the real world, even though The Hangover is ridiculous. Comedy plays better when it’s put up against reality.”
In addition to Teller and Hill, Ana de Armas stars as Packouz’s pregnant girlfriend. Since Packouz is looking for financial opportunities to help support their growing family, his school pal Diveroli gets him involved in weapon trading:
“It’s as if your best friend from junior high has made all these crazy ‘advancements’ and he sucks you into this whirlwind life.”
The pair soon meet their idol in the international arms world, as played by Bradley Cooper, who’s also a producer on the picture. It’s also worth noting that the movie is told through Packouz’s more grounded perspective, though Hill’s uncommon confidence plays a nice counterpoint:
“He’s almost like a Tony Soprano — he’s not that but he sees himself as that, this swagger that doesn’t match who the character is. It’s a weird confidence with this guy that I just love.”
While clearly the deal doesn’t go completely smoothly for the duo and they ultimately get into some dangerous territory, what Phillips was most interested in exploring was how well they managed to dupe the government:
“That comes with a youthful ignorance. They really thought they could compete with these big defense companies, whether it’s Halliburton or Raytheon, and step into this arena as these two kids working out of an office in Miami Beach. They were in over their head from day one, and the ballsy part of the story is really interesting, the fact that they thought they could compete and did successfully for a few years. It’s more of an indictment on the government than it is on these two kids who saw an angle.”
Now that sounds more like it. Look for War Dogs on August 19th.