This sponsored blog post is part of a paid conversation between NextGen MilSpouse and Warner Bros. Pictures. Warner Bros. Pictures paid for my travel and accommodations for a press junket for “12 Strong” held in Hollywood on January 5 and 6. All text and opinions are my own.
The new war movie, “12 Strong” (in theaters January 19) tells the now declassified true story of 12 Green Berets who were selected to be the first American soldiers to provide an offensive response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Their classified mission was dangerous and borderline impossible. Their mission required them to do 2 things that many of these Special Forces men had never done before.
- Join forces with Afghan military leaders to fight the Taliban
- Ride horses on mountainous terrain
These soldiers were trained in state-of-the-art warfare at the Army’s Special Forces Training at Fort Bragg. Spoiler alert for anyone thinking about attending Special Forces school – you don’t learn to ride horses there.
For the first time in 60 years American soldiers were heading into battle on horseback. This fact alone would be enough to write a book (“12 Strong” is based on the 2009 bestseller “Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan”) and make a movie about it.
But it’s only the beginning of this complex story that kept me on the edge of my seat.
I attended a “12 Strong” press junket in California earlier this month. At this 2-day press junket, I attended a special screening of the film starring Chris Hemsworth and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon, attended a press conference where the film’s actors and producers answered questions about the movie and was lucky enough to attend a roundtable with 9 other military spouse bloggers where we chatted with Hemsworth (you probably know him as Thor) about the movie from the perspective of military family members.
When Hemsworth, who plays Captain Mitch Nelson in the movie, first read the script he said to himself “holy shit, this is a true story.”
“And (I) started reading the book and started talking to (producer) Jerry (Bruckheimer) and (director) Nicolai (Fugsig) and became fascinated by it, and also had the idea that they (the 12 soldiers) didn’t come home to any sort of fanfare. They just had to go back to the lodge and no one said anything, no one wanted to talk about it, and it was like, you know, there’s the one statue in New York dedicated to these guys,” Hemsworth said.
“Until recently, no one really knew what that was about or why. And so I felt it was a story that people needed to hear about and needed to know,” Hemsworth said.
That reaction of “holy shit, this is true story” was whispering in my ear throughout the film.
This is a true story?
This is a true story.
This is a true story!
“12 Strong” is the true story of a Special Forces team that was outnumbered and outgunned by the Taliban. It was suicide mission. These soldiers knew there was a strong possibility that they wouldn’t come home to their loved ones.
“… (I’m) talking to Mark about his experiences and, you know, when he’s retelling his stories about this mission, there is a no sort of bravado or sort of ego in the presentation about what he’s achieved. It’s just, ‘It’s my job.’ He could be talking about doing the grocery shopping, like it’s that sort of matter-of-fact and honest and truthful.
“And that sort of humility and that integrity, that was something that I – that thread or that personality I’ve noticed in all of the military guys we were interacting with, it’s just this complete, selfless sort of attitude, and sort of that was, I think, the think we were all trying to embody and grab a hold of and imbue into the characters.”
“But yes, it’s inspirational and an honor to sort of be able to play those guys,” Hemsworth said.
What’s it like portraying a soldier who you’ve met during your research for a movie?
“My goal wasn’t to mimic Mark…For Mark, I just wanted to embody the sort of heart and soul and the integrity and the aspects of his personality than his physicality and so on. But I remembered him being on set a couple of times, and just being really nervous, especially the first time, because thinking he was going to step in and say, ‘This is not how we said it.’ Thank god he gave us a nod and said, ‘It’s a great scene,'” Hemsworth said.
“There’s definitely weight and responsibility to it because of the subject matter of the story, but also just for that guy, you know? And doing it justice and making him proud,” Hemsworth said.
Why did Hemsworth, best known for his role as Thor, want a role where he plays a soldier instead of a super hero?
“I’ve done a lot of stuff sort of in the comic book world and fantasy-based sort of heroes and so on. It was a lot of fun, but (I) desperately wanted to do something with some real heart and something more grounded and this script came along a few years ago. My first instinct was I couldn’t believe it was a true story. I knew about this conflict and this war, like a lot of people, but not about this mission. And I was sort of engrossed and shocked and fascinated by the details.
“Then, speaking with the real guys through the process, and there’s such an honesty and openness and a lack of sort of dramatization or ego as they retell or recount these events. And such a humility, you know?,” Hemsworth said.
They’re the real heroes, and to put themselves in these positions and in harm’s way, with their safety in jeopardy, but for the rest of our safety, is something beyond admirable.
–Chris Hemsworth talking about his role in the new movie “12 Strong“
“…I felt an honor to be asked to play this character and be part of the story,” Hemsworth said.
The filmmakers said they see these soldiers as heroes and they wanted the movie goers to know this heroic story.
“I think that these men don’t see themselves as heroes. They’re just doing their jobs. That’s what they’re trained to do. They do it because they love their country, they love their families, and their professionals, and they’re highly trained, they’re highly intelligent and they’re deadly,” said producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Bruckheimer thanked “Horse Soldiers” author Doug Stanton who found this story and worked to get this mission unclassified so this story could be told.
“This is just one mission. There are so many others that we know nothing about that they’ve done,” Bruckheimer said.
That’s what I was thinking at the end of the movie. This is one story of triumph in Afghanistan. I can’t wait to read and watch more of them.