By Michael Thompson
An “authentic action film.”
This is how “Act of Valor” director Scott Waugh, (who co-directed the film with Mike McCoy), described his movie about the Navy SEALs, in an exclusive interview with WND.
“Act of Valor,” shot on a budget of $12 million, stars real active-duty Navy SEALs, and has made nearly $50 million at the box office in less than three weeks since its release date.
All this despite being lambasted by critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates movie reviews of films, those who make a living rating movies gave it a fresh rating of 28 (out of 100). However, the audience has given it a rating of 84 percent.
“As a filmmaker I make my films for the audience. I don’t read reviews whether positive or negative (I would probably destroy myself if I did),” said Waugh.
“I think it is really fascinating that there is that big of a disconnect from our critics to our audiences right now. I think it should be explored, why is there … if the film gets an A rating in the cinema score and the critics give it an F, that is so large it is fascinating. How can they be that removed from our American audience?”
Waugh expressed nothing but admiration for the men eventually cast as the Navy SEALs in the film, stating that no actor in Hollywood could accurately portray a SEAL on camera.
“They truly are the most professional men we ever met. They really are the epitome of what it is to be a man. They’re not only physically far superior like an Olympic athlete, but they are also the most intelligent and emotionally stable men we have ever met. That is why their depiction has always been the Terminator-Rambo guy. …When we met them and became immersed in their culture – they are so far beyond that misrepresentation of them – it’s almost criminal – these guys are so much better that what they have been depicted as,” said Waugh.
“We get to watch them as husbands and fathers on top of being the elite warriors, that complexity of character is the reason I wanted to use the real guys.”
Having an actor replicate a Navy SEAL on camera would have been impossible, according to Waugh.
The success of “Act of Valor” shows that the American public is clamoring for positive movies about the military, but Hollywood almost didn’t bite on the film.
“After some of our early work – ‘Step into Liquid’ and ‘Dust to Glory’ – the Navy Special Warfare Department came [to] our studio and approached us about making a movie on the SEALs. They invited us into their community,” Waugh said.
Waugh said that they tried to pitch Hollywood about coming on board to help make this movie four years ago, but they were against the idea of using real SEALS as opposed to actors, thinking it was then a documentary.
“We called it the ‘authentic action film.’ We believed that from the get-go. We’d say, ‘no this is a new genre of film, it is a narrative feature – you’re not watching an actor playing a character, you’re just watching the character.’ They [Hollywood executives] were like, ‘so it’s a documentary.’ Think about Top Gun. Imagine if you replaced Tom Cruise with the real Maverick. That’s the experience,” he said.
“They didn’t really get it until they saw it. When they saw the movie last summer, they were all freaked out and they were like, ‘Oh wow, this is a real movie!’ We were saying, ‘We’ve been trying to tell you that for four years!’” said Waugh.
Lost on many of the reviewers of “Act of Valor” is the politically explosive script, which sees the Navy SEALS thwart Muslim terrorists from Chechnya trying to sneak across the United States border via underground tunnels from Mexico to launch open jihad on numerous American cities.
Waugh said that one of the prerequisites for making the film was full creative-control of the script, which the Navy agreed if a full TPP Scrub – tactics, techniques, and procedures scrub – on the entire movie could be completed so that no classified information was revealed.
After hearing of a number of real-life stories and acts of valor SEAL teams had been a part of, Waugh and his team set out to create a narrative around these heroic episodes.
“We really wanted the movie to be apolitical because the movie is not about politics – it is about our men and women serving their country. We didn’t want it to take place in any current foreign conflict. This is how we felt: our military has done such a phenomenal job in the last 11 years, 10-1/2 years, and we have not had another 9-11,” said Waugh.
“So I feel like the citizens of America have forgotten there really still is that threat out there against our country (because we haven’t been attacked). We wanted to explore other possibilities of other threats that are out there, that are not in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we did a lot of our own digging, we asked Navy Intel officers, our screenwriter did a lot of research and he came up with a Caucasian threat, [from] Chechnya. The next issue is, how does someone get back into America?
“Everyone thinks they are going to fly in again. You know there are other ways into the U.S. We did a lot of research on drug trafficking. … Christo’s job is about sneaking people in rather than about selling drugs. It’s about getting through the borders. If you can get drugs through you can get anything through. That’s why we paid attention to the narco-route from Central America, through Costa Rico, up through Mexico and using the drug cartels to get in here. Then do the math, you’re thinking what are the other ways the jihadist can get into the country and you start to analyze those things and you can see how dangerous it is.”
If ever there was a movie highlighting the dangers of having a wide-open, undefended border with an unstable nation like Mexico, “Act of Valor” is it.
In 2010, WND’s Chelsea Schilling was the first to report on illegal aliens from Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen crossing the virtually unguarded U.S. border with Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol agents call them, once apprehended, Other Than Mexicans.
A 2006 congressional report on border threats, titled “A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border” and prepared by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations, indicated that 1.2 million illegal aliens were apprehended in 2005 alone, and 165,000 of those were from countries other than Mexico. Approximately 650 were from “special interest countries,” or nations the Border Patrol defines as “designated by the intelligence community as countries that could export individuals that could bring harm to our country in the way of terrorism.”
“Act of Valor” is one of the first films to take seriously this report.
Not lost on reviewers of the film is the charge that “Act of Valor” is nothing more than a propaganda piece for the U.S. military. Waugh takes umbrage with that charge, saying, “Some people are saying, ‘This is a propaganda movie.’ I guess if you think an inspirational story that honestly depicts our men and women who serve our country and showing the sacrifice that they and their families face – that that is propaganda, then I don’t know what your definition of propaganda is.”
Act of Valor is playing at theaters across America. It was produced by Bandito Brothers studio and distributed by Relativity Media.
The trailer for “Act of Valor” can be seen below: