timberland sweaters ‘Horse Soldiers’ opens as ’12 Strong’
TRAVERSE CITY Area audiences of the new movie “12 Strong” will be scanning the credits closely for a familiar name. Pictures release, which has been in the works for years, hits theaters Jan. 19. But already it has created advance buzz and propelled Stanton’s book back onto the New York Times Best Sellers list. Currently the book is at No. 1 in paperback nonfiction.
“Movies always have this enormous power but I didn’t know it would happen so quickly,” said Stanton, who took time off from new work last week for a Los Angeles press conference featuring movie cast and crew for domestic and international journalists.
The film follows the book’s dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. The little known action depended on the forces’ gaining the Afghans’ trust and getting them to stop fighting each other in order to fight the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies together.
“It’s a different kind of war movie,” said Stanton, an executive producer. “It’s about the relationship these guys created with the Afghans.”
In typical movie fashion the film got a different title from the bok, which was recently reprinted with a movie tie in cover.
“I liked the ‘Horse Soldiers’ title but when I discussed it with Bruckheimer/Warner Bros. films they said it was a decision of the studios,” Stanton said. “They just felt it had a wider appeal.”
The film stars Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”) as Captain Mitch Nelson and Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals,” “The Shape of Water”) as Hal Spencer. It also features Navid Negahban (“24”) as Afghan General Rashid Dostum.
“He took an enormous amount of care in creating the Afghan general,” said Stanton, who spent a few days on the movie set.
The film was shot in New Mexico and features battle scenes set against the White Sands Missile Range, an enormous expanse of desert.
“What’s always surprising was how small everything was when watching filming in person and how big it looks on screen,” Stanton said. “To see the horse charges on screen was startling because I watched them being filmed.”
He said other surprises included the accuracy of the costuming and the caliber of the actors hired to play both the Northern Alliance and Taliban soldiers.
Stanton got his first look at the completed film in late November in producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s Los Angeles office.
“It was amazing and fun,” said Stanton, who invited Anne Cooper, his friend and former theater teacher at Interlochen Arts Academy, to view it with him. “I loved the movie. It was a completely different experience because I’ve never watched something I’d written, as a movie.”
Still, he doesn’t think he’ll fully experience the movie until he sees it with an audience. That will happen Jan. 16 when he attends the New York premiere at the Lincoln Center with wife Anne, daughter Katherine, 22, and sons Will, 13, and John, 24.
Stanton said he feels less pressure for audiences to like the movie than he did for readers to like his book. But he said viewers can’t help but be gripped by the action.
“It’s very intense. It is an enormous action movie but I was thrilled because they stayed so close to the book. Nothing was invented that wasn’t in the realm of what happened,” he said.
Cooper, a Los Angeles area actress and acting coach who teaches in summer at Interlochen Arts Camp, predicts that Stanton will be a “superstar” when the movie opens.
“I think 12 Strong will be a huge success,” she said, adding that the movie helps demystify the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. “‘Horse Soldiers,’ and now ’12 Strong,’ really give one a lot information about our war with the Taliban: The history. The people. The brutality. The culture. The complexity. The landscape. Finally the bravery of our soldiers.
“The movie was a nail biter, but there were moments when I laughed out loud both to release my tension and because human behavior can be funny even in the middle of a war. This juxtaposition is an example of Doug’s genius for good storytelling,” she said.
See it first
But a Jan 19 advance screening at AMC Cherry Blossom 14 to benefit Project Cherry Tree still has seats. The nonprofit works to improve health care, housing, education, burial and job services for northern Michigan veterans.