You might think you know what went down at the Battle of Benghazi on September 11, 2012. But amid all the headlines, politics, and finger pointing, the truth of that harrowing night has been lost. That’s why three of the military men who lived it contributed to the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, and its Michael Bay-directed movie adaptation 13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi.
Screen Rant flew to Miami to meet with former Army Ranger Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto, and former Marines John ‘Tig’ Tiegen and Mark ‘Oz’ Geist to discuss the film that strives to tell the world what really went down in that titular and tense time span.
Beyond consulting on the details of the Libyan militant’s assault on America’s temporary diplomatic outpost, these brothers in arms of the Annex Security Team were on set to be sure the film’s stars (John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, Pablo Schreiber and David Denman) were true to the ball-busting, brotherly bond between the secret soldiers who risked everything for their fellow countrymen. That meant not only opening up about their experiences in Benghazi, but also razzing the actors as they would each other. Bonus: Tanto shared why Tropic Thunder held a special significance in Benghazi’s secret CIA base.
Watching 13 Hours, it was an intense experience for me and I didn’t live it. So, I was curious. What was it like for you guys to watch this time in your lives put on the big screen?
Tanto: [to Oz] Go first.
Oz: I mean it was interesting. I was being very critical of…looking at it more from a technical aspect the first time I saw it because I wanted to see if they got it right. I wanted to see all the intricacies of it and didn’t ever really kind of compartmentalize myself from the emotional side of it. But, again, it’s still emotional, especially with the group of people that we watched it with.
Who was that?
Tanto: The team and the family members…
Oz: Us and the family. But, you know, they got it right. It’s a testament to the actors and the dedication to their craft, to Michael Bay and the dedication and effort that he’s put in and what he drew out of the crew and the cast and everybody.
Tanto: It was emotional for me. Because, Tanto, I am a sensitive person. I am such a sensitive person…
I got that from the movie. Yeah, real teddy bear.
Tanto: But it was emotional for me. It was hard for me to watch, but it also felt like I was back there in Benghazi. I’m watching the actors on the screen and I’m seeing the guys. That’s how accurate it was. That’s how real it felt. So, no, it did have an emotional effect on me.
Tig: I didn’t watch it yet.
Oh, really? Why is that? Have you just not got the chance…?
Tig: No, I’ve had the chance. I was there when they got it. When I first came back, I just had a lot of anger issues I guess you could say. Just waiting to see what they thought about it, what my wife thought about it, because, for one, I know my wife doesn’t want me to be angry again. My twins are a little bit older and I definitely don’t want them to see the way I was.
That’s interesting. You mentioned getting it right. For you, what did getting it right mean?
Tanto: The personalities of the team.
Oz: My wife sitting there saying, “That’s Tanto. That’s Tig. That’s…” I mean, me. That’s getting it right. Not just what happened, the events, the personality that goes along with that person. And they got it.
Tanto: The events are easy to get right because it’s in our book. So that’s not what’s going to make the movie what it is and make it completely accurate and very real. It’s getting our mannerisms down and seeing how we interact with each other and seeing how we interact with the staff, with the CIA staff, which that was critical to make it real, because it’s exactly how it was when we were there.
Yeah, it’s a very kind of overwhelming…we get to know you guys and not just the situation. It’s really interesting.
Tanto: Yeah. That was important.
I’m kinda curious. Tropic Thunder gets a cameo in this?
Tanto: Um, yeah… [laughs]
Tig: Oh yeah.
Is that a thing?
Tanto: Yeah. This is me. I used to make fun of the case officers if they ever did anything, because to me they were very pretentious, at least at that base. I had a sergeant, Silas O’Malley. I had a poster that was laminated and it said, “Never go full retard” and he’s like this. So whenever they did something wrong, I’d go put it on their computer. And that’s why I was loved so much by the CIA people at the base. They just loved me.
Tanto: But to me it was…First of all, it was to knock them down a peg. Second of all, I thought it was funny.
Tig: It was funny…
Tanto: So it was awesome to see the cameo in there…
Oz: It was. I mean and that’s…you know, anybody that sees it gets to know us. I mean if you ain’t got some thick skin, you better, I mean, step off because we are going to give you crap or give each other a hard time. If you are in the field of fire, you are in the field of fire.
Tig: If you cry it’s going to be even more…
Tanto: I’m just going to keep needling…
When you visited set, was it like that at all? Were you needling the actors playing you?
All: Oh yeah.
Tig: We still do.
Tanto: We still do.
Oz: And they’d do each other, because they each gave each other call signs on the life.
Oh, really? I didn’t realize that. What’s an example of one of you guys needling the actor who played your character?
Tanto: Needling him…Needling Squirt. I really haven’t needled Squirt yet…
I’m sorry, is Pablo Squirt?
Tanto: No. That’s what…Martini is Squirt. Yeah, because Max, he had the squirts one day on set.
Tanto: That’s his call sign. There you go, Max! Throwing you under the bus!
Tig: That’s one of the things that we do!
Tanto: …and it’s for everybody to see now!
I get it. I get the brotherhood…
Tanto: …just the normal: “Hey, there is no way you are better looking. I’m way better looking than you.” “Well, I’m taller than you. Why don’t you grow a little?” Just minor things like that. But not on the Squirt level of Martini.
He’s so lucky I’ve already interviewed him. Thank you so much guys! This was an absolute joy.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is now playing in theaters. Read our official review.