ACT OF VALOR is the intensely relevant, heart-pumping, and poignant action film from the former stuntmen-turned-directing team of Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh. The film offers a realistic look into the incredibly fascinating work of Navy SEALs. This film is so realistic that it stars eight genuine SEALs, with a few actors thrown into the mix.
I was given the extreme privilege of speaking with the in demand directing duo about their film that made an impressive box office debut its opening weekend.
VeryAware: First off, congratulations on the success of the film!
Scott Waugh: We’re very humbled by the fact everyone’s receiving it this well.
VeryAware: You’ve managed to – in a sense – displace trained actors like Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd! Do you think this might become the new trend?
Mike “Mouse” McCoy: This film is a true, live-action movie. It’s all in camera, all the stunts. There’s no CGI. So the authentic action film is what we set out to make and people are responding to it. We definitely think this would happen again.
SW: We think that’s the trend. The trend will become real action movies again.
VeryAware: Let’s start with my most burning question – Was there any trepidation, either from you or from the SEALs, in showing their faces and those of their families in fear of terrorist retaliation?
MM: No. The guys were totally cool with showing their faces overall. It’s important to note, you have so many high profile people in the military that are public that aren’t just the SEALs, so they didn’t worry about that at all. And operationally, it’s not going to affect these guys.
VeryAware: Did they have to get permission from the government to participate?
MM: The film was made with the full support of the Navy Special Warfare Command so they were on – they’re active duty SEALs. And we were shooting real training operations in the movie, so it was all part of their daily routine.
SW: The Navy really left it up to the operators if they wanted their faces to be shown or not. So each individual, when Mouse and I approached them to be in the movie, had to give us their permission to be in the movie. Unfortunately, at first they all turned us down. They all said they weren’t actors. They’re not Hollywood guys. They are Navy SEALs and want to continue doing. We became really good friends with them. I think after about 3-4 months of telling them this film could be about brotherhood, sacrifice and that we wanted them to be a part of it. They would have a good hand at keeping it authentic and accurate. I think that really allowed them to trust Mouse and I and we could collaborate together.
SW: They were never “given” to the film. The reason it took so long is we had to work around their existing training evolution and deployment. They were always there for their training. We were just augmenting their training and putting our cameras there.
VeryAware: I’ve heard some people who fear the film may give away too many trade secrets of the SEALs. Are you worried about that? What are your thoughts on this?
MM: All the operational planning in the film was done by the SEALs, so they architected those big combat scenes themselves. They are definitely NOT going to give away the playbook to the bad guys. They don’t feel like this gave away anything secret and we respected classified information (they did as well). We just were showcasing capabilities. And those capabilities are already published.
VeryAware: You used live fire during the combat sequences. What was that like for you as a filmmaker? I’m sure that heighten the tension for the SEALs but what was it like for you behind the camera?
SW: Mouse and I are retired stuntmen so it’s just another way to get our blood pressure up a little bit.
VeryAware: Because the comparisons are inevitable, Do you play first person shooter video games? Is that something you or the SEALs are into? There are a lot of soldiers who bring their Xboxes to Iraq.
MM: Nope. We really wanted to create an immersive experience to put you in the boots of the SEALs, as Scott was saying, and be in the middle of the action. Gaming platforms are doing a fantastic job from an entertainment perspective in putting you in the middle of the action. So we felt to make a relevant action movie, you had to think about those gaming platforms as your competition. We were also striving for any young man who sees this movie, knows it’s not a videogame. That’s why we really showcase how much risk was involved in that job and how much sacrifice comes with it.
VeryAware: What was the toughest or most challenging sequence to shoot?
MM: I think the toughest thing to overcome on this film was the combat deployment that the SEALs went on during the making of this movie. While we were shooting it, almost everyone went on a full deployment and that becomes pretty heavy. These guys had now become our good friends and they’re handed off into some really gnarly combat situations. You just want you’re friends to come home.
VeryAware: Exactly. Were you fearful that something might happen to your leads when they were gone?
SW: Absolutely. Those guys are definitely at the tip of the spear, so the possibility is definitely out there. First and foremost though, we were so close to them, we didn’t care so much about the movie as much as we cared about them. If something were to happen to them, we would have obviously figured out a way to adjust the subject matter.
VeryAware: What do you want audiences to take away from ACT OF VALOR?
SW: We think it’s really important that the audience recognize these men and women that have been sacrificing for our country for the last 10 years in uniform, whether they are in the military or they’re first responders in the homeland – the police department, the fire department. These people are doing these incredible acts of valor for no recognition. We just hope the audience takes the film in, and when they leave they recognize there are a lot of people doing incredible acts for them that they’ll never know about.
VeryAware: So what’s up next for you both. I had read a couple days ago, Deadline mentioned that HIGH SPEED is a project of yours? Are you going to direct that together? Are you going to keep directing as a team?
SW: We have multiple projects we are working on together now. The one we are looking to spearhead next is going to be BLACK SANDS with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
VeryAware: You two – along with the SEALs - did an amazing job on the film.
SW: What we found fascinating has been the way this film is being received by women. I think the movie is playing almost better to women right now. It’s been really rewarding that the family side of the movie has been resonating.
VeryAware: For me, I really dug all the combat sequences because that’s really gets me engaged. When they had to extract Roslyn Sanchez, I was literally on the edge of my seat thinking, ‘How are they doing this?! They have to parachute in the middle of the night in the jungle, showing no fear, quietly sneak in, and try to get out as quietly as they can.’
SW: Wasn’t it great to watch when – like you said – they skydive in at night in that field and they quietly just walk across the field?!
VeryAware: Yes! I can’t even be quiet in my own house!
SW: (laughs) It’s funny because if you didn’t know that community, you’d think they’d run across this field and get to the cover. That’s why it was so wonderful using those guys because the action is so authentic. They were like, “We don’t run anywhere.”
VeryAware: And some of the shots you were able to get. The aerial shot of the firing boat that’s shooting on the villain’s shack? I mean, that shot is just breathtaking. Every time I see it, it just blows my mind.
SW: It definitely wrecked everyone that does CG. Now you see it for real and it’s a whole other ball game.
VeryAware: I know you’ve emphasized it, but your eye for detail is showcased to a remarkable extent in the film.
SW: I’m so glad you keyed in on that because it’s important to Mouse and I at Bandito. We really think physics should apply to all films.
ACT OF VALOR is now playing.