Director Clint Eastwood has cast the three real-life heroes who thwarted a terrorist’s attack on a train in the upcoming drama The 15:17 To Paris. Eastwood in recent years seems to be the go-to filmmaker when it comes to making films about real-life people, including Chris Kyle biopic American Sniper starring Bradley Cooper in 2014, and 2016’s Sully, which chronicled Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s miracle landing of US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City in 2009 that saved all 155 passengers and crew members onboard.
In April, the four-time Oscar-winning director and producer signed on to direct the big-screen adaptation of The 15:17 to Paris – an adaptation of the novel The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes – which recounts the true-life events surrounding three American men who subdued an ISIS terrorist armed with an AK-47 who was on a train from Amsterdam to Paris in 2015. The gunman reportedly had enough ammunition to kill more than 500 of the 554 passengers aboard the train; but thanks to the trio’s actions, there were only a handful of injuries and no fatalities in the attack.
The novel was written by the three heroes – Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone (who had his hand slashed by the terrorist in the attack), Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, and their friend, Anthony Sadler – and Eastwood feels now that the men are best-equipped to play themselves in the film version, THR reports.
Some noted actors have been cast in the supporting roles, THR says, including Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer. Younger versions of Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler will be portrayed by such actors as Paul-Mikél Williams, Max Ivutin, Bryce Gheisar, Cole Eichenberger and William Jennings.
Casting the real-life heroes in the three lead roles in The 15:17 to Paris is no doubt an inspired move by Eastwood, who clearly saw something special in Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler than any name actor who auditioned for any of the three roles. The simple argument is, nobody knows the roles better than the real-life people who have lived it; especially a situation as intense and deadly as the train attack they stonewalled.
Casting real-life people in narrative films is a rare move in Hollywood, but it’s not without precedent. Real-life World War II hero Audie Murphy played himself in the film classic To Hell and Back in 1955 (Murphy also played several other roles in films throughout his career); and in relation to lighter subject matter, shock jock Howard Stern, as well as his sidekick, Robin Quivers, played themselves in the big-screen adaptation of Stern’s book Private Parts in 1997.
More frequently, directors have cast real-life people in supporting roles to lend authenticity to the films, including Paul Greengrass – who cast real-life air traffic control employees, among others – in the September 11, 2001-themed drama United 93. In addition, Eastwood cast real-life rescue personnel to give Sully a feeling of realism.
The 15:17 to Paris is reportedly set to go into production this fall, but no release date has been announced.
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