You might remember Max Martini from such big budget war epics as Saving Private Ryan and Pacific Rim. So who better to compare their World War II heroics and out-of-this-world battles to the gritty and terrifying conflict revealed in Michael Bay’s action-packed docudrama 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi?
In 13 Hours, Martini and Dominic Fumusa portray former Marines turned Annex Security Team members Mark ‘Oz’ Geist and John ‘Tig’ Tiegen, who we later met for a revealing interview of their own. But when Screen Rant sat down with Martini and Fumusa in Miami, we dug into what makes Bay’s take on battle distinctive, as well as the actors’ responsibility of playing real men who’ve been vocal about what really went down that day.
Max, you’ve done several really big war movies, including Saving Private Ryan’s and, uh…
Max Martini: Those are “Shaving Ryan’s Privates”. It was a different one.
Were you in that one? I’ve heard about that one!
Max Martini: [laughs]
And Pacific Rim. What I wanted to ask is what is the difference between making that kind of big blockbuster movie and making a Michael Bay blockbuster movie?
Max Martini: Hm. You know, that’s a good question. Oddly, there were similarities. Private Ryan, I remember when I went to the premiere of that, Spielberg had invited all these war veterans. You know, they are all 90 now. They were all hitting on my wife. But they left the theater in tears. When Steven stood up and spoke, it was about them. And I think that Michael Bay had the same intention here. I think that, really, this movie is about the guys that fought, the guys that lost their lives. And everyone was committed to telling the story that honored their experience. And so, on that level it was kind of the same.
And playing some of the guys who have been talking a lot about what actually happened, was there any additional pressure for you?
Dominic Fumusa: Yeah, without a doubt. I mean we got to know the real Tig, the real Oz. Yeah, you have to get it right. This is their story. And they’ve trusted us to tell it. Michael was so good about making sure that the humanity of this story comes out. It’s not just action and all of the things we know Michael for being a master of. There is a passion and a vulnerability and a believability and a humanity to this story and to these characters that was so important that we got that, and I think we did.
Absolutely. I was actually very surprised by how touching the film is, because it kind of lacks the manic energy of a typical Bay production. But it does have that level of spectacle and, in this way, channeled toward grounding how intense that situation was. What was it like for you guys to actually watch that on screen?
While we were shooting, Michael was editing. And he would show little pieces of edited footage to us. So I think it was probably like week 2 or 3 that we got to see something. There was so much heart in it. I think everybody was just able to relax and go, “Oh, wait. We’re not doing Transformers.” You know what I mean…
Yeah, totally. When you hear Michael Bay…
…you’re like, “What does that mean?”
Max Martini: Look. I think even for these guys that fought and their families to turn their story over to somebody that is notoriously known for his summer blockbusters is a little daring. But he was so committed to getting it right and so committed to doing them right that I think everybody was pretty safe there.
What was the toughest day on the shoot?
Dominic Fumusa: Oh, I don’t know…
Max Martini: Working with me?
Dominic Fumusa: Yeah, the first time I met Max. [laughs] I ran.
A lot of hazing…?
Max Martini: I’m very difficult to work with.
Dominic Fumusa: I don’t want to sound Pollyanna. They were all freaking thrilling days. I didn’t have a bad day. I really didn’t. There were tough days, long days. We went to nights. Nights are not fun. Michael hates nights. When you show up at work at 10 o’clock and you know you are going to be there till 10 the next morning or whatever, or a little earlier than that, but it can get brutal.
But, I don’t know. It was a demanding shoot. We needed to be in great shape. We trained with real Navy Seals to make sure we were doing the military stuff as accurately as possible. But we knew we were part of something special. This is an important, wonderful, harrowing story. And we knew. I think we all knew that we needed to get it right. Yeah, we were motivated.
13 Hours opens in theaters January 15, 2016.