VME and American Sniper
By BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN
American Sniper is an upcoming film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper. It is based on Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's autobiography of the same name. The film premiered at AFI Fest on November 11, 2014 and will receive a limited release on December 25, before opening wide on January 16, 2015
In March 2014, casting from the film contacted VME to say they had been browsing VME profiles and were contacting some members through their agents to bring them in for auditions. Eventually, five VME members were cast in the film. Here are some comments they shared about being cast and the overall experience.
Ricky Ryba, Navy vet, Role – Cobra Pilot
The Casting Director for American Sniper found my profile on the VME website, liked what they saw, and sent me a direct email. I did really well in the audition and eventually got the call that I booked the Supporting Role!
Working with Clint Eastwood was unbelievable! His ENTIRE cast and crew were extremely professional and nice and accommodating the entire time I was on set, from start to finish. Clint is a man of few words and his presence is felt whenever he is around. He listens and observes a lot, but doesn't say much. But when he does speak, it has valuable meaning and results.
There were so many veterans from VME that I ran into while on set and it helped me feel better that I was amongst friends and professionals. My trailer was directly next to one of VME's stand out actors, Joel Lambert, and he treated me like an equal and was really happy for me that I booked a role on this film.
Because there were so many VME members on set, I felt comfortable that the cast & crew had plenty of military advisers to offer help or guidance in regards to regulations if needed, which is extremely important on a military film like this.
I think it's important to offer a glimpse to regular civilians what all of these military members have been going through and what they're still experiencing since 9/11. It allows civilians to see both the hardship while on deployment and the difficult transition while returning home after being gone for so long and experiencing such traumatic events. I'm sure a lot of moviegoers will have a newfound appreciation for the sacrifices soldiers make to keep our country free.
Joel Lambert, Navy vet (SEAL), Role – Delta Sniper
I was cast in this project like any other project ... I was called in to audition through my agency, Gersh, and received sides, prepared, and went in and read. Acting is acting.
Clint Eastwood is ... well, he's Clint. He just IS. He's extremely cool, very chill and down to earth. He was also in the gym every night after a 12 or 14 hour day on set. At 83 years old. His crew LOVES him. That says a lot to me, the way a man's employees or subordinates see him.
It was, and is, an honor to contribute to a film about my Brotherhood, the SEAL Teams, and one of our own, Chris Kyle. Long Live the Brotherhood.
Tony Nevada, Marine Corps vet, Role – Recon Sniper
I was thrilled to run into fellow VME members playing roles throughout the shoot. It’s wonderful when productions value the real world experience only veterans can bring.
Paul Meixner, Army vet, Role – CPL Taggart
It was kind of serendipitous. I had just been in motorcycle accident, leaving me with a broken arm and pretty tore up knee. Two days later the CD contacted me, explaining they found my profile on the VME website and would like me to come in and audition. I went in to my first ever audition with my arm in a cast, thinking they probably wouldn’t even consider me. So I just went for it … and I got the part.
You often don’t want to meet your heroes; the reality of who they are is rarely as romantic what we build them up to be. Mr. Eastwood is an exception to that, and working with him was everything in a good way you’d imagine it to be. He has this calmly chaotic way of doing things, which takes a minute to get used to, but then it just flows.
I think their choice to work with Veterans came as a practical one. They were looking for players that could best tell their story as authentically as possible. They weren’t just looking for actors that knew how to hold a gun, they were looking for actors that could recall what it felt like use that gun, and could show the audience how it felt.
I’m always hesitant when it comes to military roles, but I felt safe with where they were taking this. I have yet to see the film, but having read the script and book, I think it’s going to be a wonderfully realistic fable, the story of the Legend of Chris Kyle, instead of the actual man. I’d be honored to be a part of either.
Leon Charles Farmer, Marine Corps vet, Role – LCPL Roach
I received a call from my agency, MKS. Went to casting overly prepared. Had fun. Booked. That’s how it went down.
Working with Clint Eastwood was fast. He knows what he wants and as long as you give it to him in the first couple takes, your job is done.
Using actual veterans as actors was smart. I don’t think Clint Eastwood picks bad actors and the list of veterans that are in American Sniper, they seem to know what they are doing in front of the camera. So, creatively smart.
I didn’t and still don’t think of it as being part of an “Iraq War” film, I think more about the story of Chris Kyle. To be part of his story is a true honor, that’s what this is about.
Because my VME profile looks so bad-ass & it’s up-to-date, it helped casting make a decision to give this Marine Corps veteran an opportunity. I encourage all of the veterans who are part of VME to have their profiles current, you’ll never know who’s looking for you.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest and raised in a small logging town on the Columbia River, Joel Lambert grew up performing on stage and in commercials before selling all he had and running off to join the armed forces, where he served as a Navy SEAL for ten years, earning distinction and experiencing combat in places like Kosovo and Afghanistan. Returning home decorated and serving as a lead Instructor at BUD/S, the screening and selection school for men aspiring to join the elite Navy SEALs, he was drawn back into the world of film and television. Now starring in his own international TV show on Discovery Channel, LONE TARGET, he continues to appear in scripted television and films as his schedule permits.
Tony Nevada is a television and film actor. He began his career after serving honorably in the United States Marine Corps. Mr. Nevada is a Lifetime Member of the Actors Studio. Some of his television credits include CSI, The Bridge, The Storm, and The Young and the Restless. Tony just finished working with Clint Eastwood on “American Sniper” and has several films in production including an upcoming feature from the Billy Jack franchise entitled “Charlie East.”
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, after 8 years in the Army Infantry and two combat tours in Iraq, Paul moved out to Los Angeles to become a filmmaker. Paul is currently in post production for two ambitious shorts: the neo-noir Revenir and comic-book epic Guardian. Paul’s unique life experiences have lent an authenticity and intense passion to his work, which has led to bold films that are entertaining while still providing an impactful commentary on society.
American actor, entrepreneur, Marine Corp veteran, and founder of the non-profit organization, “Breathe For Peace,” Leon Charles Farmer wants to make it known that he lives to the fullest, eager to take and handle every opportunity both professionally and to the best of his ability. The youngest of three children, raised on the East Side of Hamilton, Ohio, Leon opted to enlist in the United States Marine Corp as a Communication Liaison directly upon graduating from high school.