Hey folks, Harry here with the latest from the Man Who Does Not Babble on BLACK HAWK DOWN. Many of you are familiar with the real life story that this movie is based on, so what is said below will not be a spoiler, but for those of you that are not familiar with the tale... perhaps you should leave with the knowledge that the actors have been working their asses off to be as RANGER-like as possible. The article is WAY COOL and incredibly informative, but there are spoilers... so beware, enjoy....
Below you will find a copy of an ArmyLINK News Story discussing the training of the actors for the upcoming Black Hawk Down film. The readership may find some useful bits of information within (I certainly did), as well as a few spoilers. I'm not one to babble... so here it is:
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, March 7, 2001) - Actors for the movie "Black Hawk Down" trained at three Army installations in February before traveling to Morocco to film the battle scenes.
Actors Ron Eldard and Jeremy Piven, who portray helicopter pilots in the film, trained on simulations at Fort Campbell, Ky. Twenty-one actors who portray Army Rangers received instruction at Fort Benning, Ga., to add realism to their roles. And a group of actors were trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., on an urban combat course that simulated conditions in Mogadishu, Somalia.
On Oct. 3-4, 1993, while deployed to Somalia, U. S. Army Special Operations Command soldiers fought their bloodiest battle in decades. Two Black Hawk helicopters crashed, and 18 USASOC soldiers were killed before it was all over. The events of those two days -- the actions of Task Force Ranger and the Battle of Mogadishu -- are now being made into a movie.
Actors who trained at Fort Bragg included Bill Fichtner, who will take the part of Master Sgt. Paul Howe; Eric Bana who will play Master Sgt. John "Mace" Macejunas; and Nikolaj Waldau, who will portray Sgt. 1st Class Gary Gordon.
First the actors received detailed instruction on the proper handling and operation of weapons used by the soldiers in Somalia. They were trained by Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat course instructors.
Sgt. 1st Class Chris Young, a marksmanship instructor, focused more on technique than hitting targets. He instructed the actors to shoot with both eyes open.
"It's a combat proven technique," Young said. "The guy that taught me how to shoot was John Macejunas."
After a morning of dry-fire, they moved from the classroom to the range where the actors fired both the rifles and pistols.
Next, Sgt. 1st Class Sander Kinsall led breaching training, or entering locked or obstructed doorways or windows using explosives. Kinsall showed the actors the proper and safe way to construct charges and firing systems that blow doors or destroy door locks while causing minimal damage to room interiors.
On the third day of training, the actors moved on to close quarter's battles -- entering and clearing a building of possible threats. Hour upon hour the actors lined up -- or stacked -- outside a room, entered a door and moved to a specified corner of the room engaging targets within their sector of responsibility. The instructors constantly reinforced learning by shooting questions at the actors.
"Where should the brass fall," asked Kinsall?
"Outside the door," the actors responded.
"What are the principles of CQB?" asked Kinsall.
"Speed, surprise and violence of action," said Bano.
The final day of the actor's training culminated at Fort Bragg's Military Operations in Urban Terrain site, a cinderblock mock village. There, the Special Forces soldiers demonstrated movement through a city that poses threats at every turn.
Fichtner, Bana and Waldau fought their way against an opposing force using simunitions through the mock city to a fictional helicopter crash site.
At Fort Benning, 1st Sgt. James Hardy, Ranger Training Detachment commandant, has a personal interest in the project. His goal was to ensure the 21 actors playing the Rangers had a good understanding of the Ranger mentality and way of life and how events played out in Mogadishu those two days. Hardy was a team leader there and had been on several missions before being called home on an emergency. Although he didn't fight in the Oct. 3-4 battle, his soldiers did, and several died there.
When designing the training, they selected topics, "we felt were the most significant in making an impression on these actors on what a Ranger actually is and what a Ranger does," explained Hardy and Sgt. 1st Class Martin Barreras, RTD assistant commandant.
Ranger instructors taught classes from general military knowledge -- how to wear the uniform and customs and courtesies -- up to advanced marksmanship skills and flowing through and clearing buildings. The actors discussed the Ranger Creed and the Ranger history. They learned hand-to-hand combative techniques, how to tie knots and how to use radios. Actors playing medics worked with Ranger medics in combat scenarios. Task Force Ranger veterans talked about their experiences with the actors. On the fourth day of training, they fired M16-A2 rifles and squad automatic weapons.
While at Benning, the actors wore desert-camouflaged uniforms and nametags with their Ranger characters. They displayed the proper courtesies to each other. They moved like a military unit, with the character's rank establishing who was the squad leader and so on.
Barreras said there were two reasons for the intense Ranger orientation. The first was so the actors would get an understanding of how it feels to be in a Ranger unit and secondly, he hoped it would carry over to the movie.
"I want them to remember the sense of teamwork that is inherent to a Ranger organization and the amount of attention to detail that's required from every individual that is part of that team. I hope that once the filming begins and ... the movies does come out, there's a positive impression or impact on the moviegoers on who a Ranger actually is and what a Ranger does," explained Hardy.
"The more information and techniques we can provide these guys the better they can portray what happened over there. You can see a difference in their conduct each day. It's progressive. They don't know anything about being a soldier. We're giving them everything -- how to be a soldier, a Ranger and a leader -- all in five days."
Ewen McGregor, who plays a Ranger clerk in the movie, said, "Being here and training with the Rangers has been fantastic, invaluable."
McGregor said there is no way the group could have bonded so well and learned to work as a team if they met on the set for the first time.
At Fort Campbell, actors Eldard and Piven trained with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). They met with Somalia veterans, "flew" Somalia missions in the unit's flight simulator and participated in the opening hours of the training company's infamous "Black Thursday."
Eldard, who appeared in the 1998 Sci-fi thriller "Deep Impact" and last year's TV remake of "Death of a Salesman," will portray CWO Mike Durant. Durant was a Black Hawk pilot during Task Force Ranger and was captured by Somali clans after his helicopter crashed during the two-day battle.
One of the other 160th Pilots whose helicopter was downed during the fight belonged to CWO Cliff Wolcott. Wolcott and his crew died instantly when their helicopter crashed in Mogadishu towards the beginning of the operation. Jeremy Piven plays Wolcott in the movie. Piven starred in last year's feature film, "The Crew."
The pilot orientation began with briefings on the 160th and an in-depth brief on the Somalia operation by now-retired Warrant Officer Mike Durant. Both actors then took the controls of the MH-60 Black Hawk simulators and were faced with simulations of the same conditions faced by both Durant and Wolcott on that fateful October day, seven years ago.
While the simulators provided a challenge for both actors, Eldard wanted a full taste of what it meant to be a "Night Stalker." So on the final day of the orientation, the star rose at 4 a.m. to participate in "Black Thursday" activities for new personnel. During the four-hour ordeal, Eldard participated in a rucksack march, HUMMV pull, log PT and other events designed to test the commitment of potential Night Stalkers.
The formal orientation ended with both actors sitting behind the controls of a MH-60L Black Hawk that actually was flown during the 1993 battle. Current pilots and crew of the unit explained the various components of the aircraft. Following the tour, friends of Cliff Wolcott sat down with Piven and Eldard to reminisce about the pilot who died in Somalia.
The movie is projected to be released in November 2001.
(Editor's note: Walter Sokalski and other USASOC public affairs members compiled this article.)
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