If anything, it’s toned down, say directors Scott Waugh and Mike “Mouse” McCoy.
They included in the story line five real acts of valor that have happened in combat in the last ten years.
“When you watch it, when you see those certain things that seem implausible. Those things have happened,” said McCoy.
Filmed over two years, the directors worked their shooting schedules around the deployment and training of the SEALs, who were then, and remain today, active duty.
“Operational planning was done by them,” explained Waugh, “We would have a story point that we would have to address and they would work the operation around it and then we would integrate a camera plan. An interesting approach. One that yielded something authentic as things went down.”
It was a complex project for the filmmakers.
“Their schedule is really laid out. They’d say, ‘We’ll be there for 7 days, if you want to come in with cameras for the last two days… Once we had a four hour window. [Normally] it would take a 7 day shoot and we did in in 4 hours, because that was the only time we had access to that platform.”
The SEALs are not identified in the credits, but their faces are shown. “The guys were comfortable with it,” explained Waugh, “There are certain missions in the world where you need to be totally covert. All these guys had multiple, multiple combat deployments, so they might not be going off in that direction.”
“Navy had a scrub on the film for TGP – technique, tactic and procedure – so they weren’t going to give away any secrets with the making of the film. But they did not have a content scrub. So they respected us and said ‘we want you to take an honest look at who we are,'” explained McCoy.
The most complex – and dangerous – part? Live ammunition.
“A lot of these scenes were live fire and we were in the middle of those gunfights,” said McCoy.
It all came down to trust, added Waugh, “You’re in a live fire situation with these guys and you know they’re not going to sweep around and take you out and they know you’re not going to do anything dumb and be out of position.”
The filmmakers also toned down the brutality of the terrorists and drug lords the SEALs fight. In one scene, a thug tortures a CIA agent by drilling through her hand.
“We’re very tamed to what really goes on. [the SEALs told them] ‘We came in this room and there’s six people and what they’ve been through, you could never get that out of your mind.’ These guys, they’ve seen the worst of the worst. We’ve heard stories that make that scene seem like kindergarten. When they had raided camps with hostages, all their toes and fingers had been drilled through. Amongst all the other things.”
“There’s some bad people in the world,” said McCoy.
“It was 11 years ago – 9/11,” said Waugh, “We all think there’s no more threats out there. Americans need to realize – no – that threat’s still there. Thank god we just have a fantastic military that’s prevented it from happening again.”
As the directors came to know the SEALs well, they caught a glimpse of who the men are inside and out.
“That’s their real wives and families in the movie,” explained Waugh, “Which I think is very special. It gives you that feel of getting to peek into their real lives, which is unprecedented in that world.”
“It was an honor.”
“They’re very strong women too,” added McCoy, “The women really pay the tax here. The guys go off to do what they do and the women are left to take care of the kids and hold it together. I have as much respect for their wives as for the men. One wife, she’s mother of five. [Her husband] just got back from an 11 month deployment last week.”
As they came to respect the men more and more, McCoy and Waugh felt a burden to do their story justice.
“One man told us, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to be in the film because I trust you two.’”
“We felt a responsibility to tell their story authentically. If you don’t do it justice and be honorable with who they are, well, these eight men came to us and told us ‘we trust you to tell our stories.’”
“Act of Valor” opens Friday.