‘Act of Valor’ Directors Talk Authentic Story & Casting Real Navy SEALs

Published 2 years ago by , Updated September 18th, 2012 at 8:22 am,

act of valor header Act of Valor Directors Talk Authentic Story & Casting Real Navy SEALs

Using active-duty Navy SEALs combined with live gunfire, the new film Act of Valor tells the story of a group of soldiers trying to protect America from a series of terrorist attacks. In a recent interview, I talked to directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh about casting the SEALs, their mission in the film, and how they made it feel so authentic.

A-list stars are hard to come by in films today. Oftentimes, big stars wait for the right project to hit their desk before committing to a film. They want to work with the right director and the right script at the right time in their careers. Filmmakers have to be extremely lucky to get their preferred actors to perform in their films.

If that seems tough, it’s probably nothing compared to casting a group of active-duty Navy SEALs to be in a movie about military operations. These men are used to covert missions and secretive operations. They are not accustomed to having their images projected across movie screens nationwide.

Act of Valor directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh were tasked with the difficult assignment of getting individual SEALs to say yes to starring in their film.  Although the Navy was cooperative in providing some equipment for the shoot, getting the SEALs to say yes was a different matter.

“All eight turned us down…we originally talked to them and they all turned us down,” Waugh said about the Navy SEALs he approached to be in the film. “I’m a Navy SEAL right now,” some of them said, rejecting the idea of telling their stories onscreen .

Filming on the 'set' of 'Act of Valor'

But the filmmakers persisted for months as they became friends with the SEALs they were trying to recruit. Waugh eventually told the reluctant actors that, “this is an opportunity for you to paint… an accurate portrayal of who you guys are. If you’re in it, you’re gonna have a big hand in it.”

One by one, they SEALs started saying yes as they realized that the filmmakers’ planned to honor– not exploit– the work they were trying to do.

The filmmakers wanted the movie to be authentic about showing who these men are, on and off the battleground. They noted that many movies project soldiers as Rambo-types, but that these real heroes are far more complicated than that.

“Hollywood’s misrepresented their community for so long it would be great to get their story authentically told,” Waugh said. He added that each SEAL is “a warrior on one side yet they’re literally one of us. They have the same problems we have as humans.”

McCoy added that when they connected with the families of the servicemen, they realized that “the only way to really do service to this, is with the real guys and the real scenerios. It has to be an authentic look.”

Act of Valor Navy SEALS Act of Valor Directors Talk Authentic Story & Casting Real Navy SEALs

Active-duty Navy SEALs in Act of Valor

Although the story isn’t based on true events, much of what the characters do is based on anecdotes from real life.

As Waugh noted, the movie includes “five real acts of valor.” Although the directors wouldn’t go into detail about what those acts were, Waugh noted that “when you watch it and you see those certain things that seem implausible, we’re just saying, those have happened.”

One of the interesting aspects of this film– as opposed to many of the war films that Hollywood releases today– is that Act of Valor doesn’t have a political tone to it.

“There’s no policy in this movie,” McCoy said. “It’s simple. It’s about a threat to the homeland.”

Waugh added that eleven years after 9/11, some people say that threats to this country are gone. “That threat’s still there,” he said. “Thank God we have a fantastic military, that threat has been prevented from happening again.”

Act of Valor is now in theaters. Be sure to check out our official Screen Rant Act of Valor review.

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  1. This movie was a lot of fun to watch!

    • I agree, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire first action sequence, and it couldn’t have concluded any better. There’s nothing like watching a truck get turned into swiss chees by a couple of miniguns and M240′s…

      • is it better then black hawk down in terms of action/realism and how frequent is the action, b/c i don’t want to see trashy acting for large periods of time only to be concluded with half a**ed action.

        • way better than crap poop down. way more realistic as it included real Navy SEALs, whereas black hawk down had hollywood actors in it.

          • Hey dick my dad was part of that mission 85% of all what happen is true there are very few things that were fake so stfu before you say something you dont know

  2. I just saw this film yesterday and yes, I was on the edge of my seat. Through my husband and friends I have met several of these courageous men. They deserve a CMH for everyday of their lives. And, we need to convince our government and those within it to close our borders!

    • “And, we need to convince our government and those within it to close our borders!”

      Wat? How does that follow from the movie?

      • The term “homeland” is inherently anti-immigration. They’ve been using that rhetoric for years.

    • “America, the land of freedom, unless you don’t already live here, then stay the f*** out.”

  3. Just got back from the film. It’s a must see. This is how military movies should be made

  4. “Using active-duty Navy SEALs combined with live gunfire, the new film Act of Valor tells the story of a group of soldiers trying to protect America from a series of terrorist attacks.”

    They are Sailors not Soldiers.

    • Technically their ssailors, but in my imho, they’re tactically soldiers

    • and why does this matter? Soldiers is a blanket term used to describe anyone in the military and them being special operations makes them soldiers just as much as the ground pounders

      • @mtolson

        “them being special operations makes them soldiers just as much as the ground pounders”

        Don’t really understand that statement…

  5. I Watched the movie yesterday and once again today, i cannot describe my deepest gratitude for those navy seals to do an act of valor by putting themselves on the big screen, and mostly including all the acts they do on duty to protect the united states. I’m so grateful to GOD that since we as a nation include him, for example “IN GOD WE TRUST” I feel GOD has Blessed our nation with wisdom for defense weapons, and intelligence, and superhuman people to take the stand and lay down their lives for us just as jesus did on the cross… in conclusion “God Bless America”

    • Wow, that’s the most chauvinistic, nationalistic, ignorant thing I’ve heard in a good long while. High five.

  6. While they all tip their hats at the SEALs, I haven’t seen a single review anywhere that says how good the story or acting is.

    • apparently both suck and the script is cliché, only good thing about this movie it seems is the action.

      • Suck??? It portrays the life and realism of what US NAVY SEALs go through. These men are NOT actors and do a pretty good job on the big screen showing the sacrifice they make. Awesome movie

    • I agree 150% with that.

  7. Iwouldnt say the acting sucked. Its not gonna win any accadamy awards but the acting was better then Skyline. And I hope you stayed for those few seconds before the credits ran to see the list of real personnel that have lost thier kives since 911.

    • Skyline was on par with this movie in my opinion (acting wise that is) I mite be the only one who didn’t enjoy this movie. Maybe I just enjoy the unrealistic but that’s just my opinion of course.

  8. Watched this last night…
    What a great movie, acting was good, story was A++ great job

  9. I watched the movie and it was pretty surreal. I did not know for sure if they were real SEALS or not,but I could tell the serious poor acting and the monotone story telling!

    But watching the movie, I now have empathy and respect for what these guys do to protect one group of people from another.I encourage enlisting in the military. Oh and the guys are HOTT! The split decision choices they make took this movie to a whole new level.

    I also think, that these guys should have been played by no name actors and not they themselves. Americans are so quick to underestimate the capabilities of the enemies. If CSI show can show a computer generation of possibly ID of a suspect then, think about what kind of technology is out there that can easily give up the real ID of these guys!

    They should not have exposed themselves this way, and they shouldn’t have shown some of their tactics because all movies are just an instructional and educational portal for committing and or mimicking the real thing! The enemies of state do have eyes and are intelligent as well as the Americans…never forget 9/11.

    • @aaleyah

      CSI is about the most fake BS you can ever watch. According to that show, who needs detectives? We just have computers and technology to solve all of the crimes for us… Don’t believe the crap you see on that show, please…

  10. The directors for this movie should make a movie about clowns using real clowns to make it authentic! LOL who gives a flying fck if they used real navy seals. Great action flick but it would’ve still been believable if they used actors. Everyone know how the military is we don’t need REAL navy seals to make us believe.

    • @LOL

      Still believable for ignorant people… Sorry, but not everyone knows how the real military is. Most people’s ideas of how the military is, is completely wrong… If you watch movies like The Hurt Locker, Three Kings, Jarhead, and think those actors are doing good jobs giving realistic portrayals of real troops, then you have absolutely no clue how the real military is…

  11. If you want authentic, go with Restrepo.

  12. Juat want to say this movie was awesome! Thank you to all our service men and women for all u do to keep us safe!

  13. My husband and I thought the movie was excellent! I thought the acting was excellent because it wasn’t the overboard Hollywood junk we’re so used to seeing. For all the people who are worried about our enemies getiint ideas about our secret activities, trust me, the Navy Seals are smart enough to know what should and shouldn’t be exposed. I read a review that gave the movie a low rating because “you got to know actions and not people”. Well, that’s all we need to know…

  14. Great movie. We should be so thankful for men like this,

  15. although the movie was really good but I want more action and live fire. Still I want the active duty navy seal will do this. I’m waiting for the part 2 of act of valor if it has.

  16. I think it is better that all war movies will be acted by a real soldiers just like “act of valor”.

  17. Wow so much debate. Take it for what it’s worth. If you read the pre-movie trailer reviews etc they set you up for a real life-like peek into the life, trials, and tribulations of an active member of the military. Go in with the mindset that it’s more documentary-like rather than your traditional Hollywood theme and you’ll most likely walk out feeling good about it.

    I for one really liked it. Although I am not a NAVY SEAL I do appreciate the conflict that you could clearly see within the characters. The cliche of devil vs angel on their shoulders. What I took from it was essentially, these guys, although true to their career, struggle with home life as well. And not only them but what their families have to tolerate when they suit up and head “down-range.” Seeing that whether on or off screen is a humbling sight.

    Not to take anything away from any big time Hollywood name but, the realism of the acting and seeing it done by someone who didn’t shoot full auto canons on the screen since they were 12yrs old or yelled out “GET TO DA CHOPPER!” seemed to make it that much more genuine.

    Great work by both Director’s Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh…message received.

  18. Phew! It was a good movie and the action scenes were great and intense. I don’t know why people are whining so much about the acting, it wasn’t bad at all. You can’t compare this kind of movie with your typical Hollywood high budget movie, they weren’t aiming for an Oscar or a box office record. Hell you don’t watch this movie for the story either. They wanted to show us the job of our shadow warriors while we’re enjoying our time at the mall. They also threw out of the windows all the recurrent stereotypes made by Hollywood and co. No one man army soaking 50 bullets and killing 100 bad guy with a knife.

  19. well,, i really salute to all the soldiers and the SEAL member :)