As a new true-life thriller is set to drop, we take a look at one director’s decision to break away from Hollywood casting convention
Let’s face it: on-screen heroics is a job usually left to the well-muscled professionals.
Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and good old Arnie ‘I’ll be back’ Schwarzenegger are perhaps among the most iconic Hollywood good guys, the ones that single-handedly defeat the villains, save the world and get the girl without even breaking a sweat.
But the problem with the film industry is that in the real world and without the gleam of Hollywood star appeal and Adonis-like looks, everyday heroes don’t really look like that.
It’s something that director Clint Eastwood took to heart with upcoming film The 15:17 to Paris, set to release on 8th February and based on a story of real-life heroics.
It all started on 21st August 2015. Friends Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler were on a train – the titular 15:17 – en route from Amsterdam to Paris for the next stop in their tour of Europe alongside 500 other passengers.
One of the passengers that day was 25-year-old Ayoub El Khazzani, and he had an assault rifle with 270 rounds of ammunition.
As he began shooting indiscriminately throughout the carriages leaving bloodshed and terror in his wake, the friends, two of them off-duty armed forces officers, made a decision that would change their lives forever. When the gunman’s rifle jammed, the three friends used that split second to subdue him and save an entire train full of people in the process.
The story, with its everyday heroes, was one that inspired director Eastwood. But it was when he came to casting that he found that he had to look no further than the three men central to the story to play the lead roles.
“I looked at a lot of actors – good actors, too – but I kept looking at the guys and I kept looking at their faces, and finally one day, I just said do you think you guys can play yourselves?” he explained in an interview with The Telegraph.
“It was their experience – I mean, I knew what I wanted to shoot – but the adventure was for real and it was their story, because it was real life.”
So why did the director eschew Hollywood’s heroic tradition for a group of regular guys?
“It’s easier to hide behind a character than put the real you out there for the world to see,” he noted in a later interview. “But the more time I spent with the fellas, the more I realised that they are the backbone of the story. I felt they could do it, and make the audience understand what they’d gone through better than anyone else.”
Also starring: Mark Moogalian (as himself), Isabelle Moogalian (as herself), Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer and Lillian Solange Beaudoin
Running time: 95 mins
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WORDS Camille Hogg