By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity
Every year, there are a few blockbuster movies based on true stories of U.S. service members, and the upcoming “15:17 to Paris,” directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, is no exception.
What makes this one unique, though, is that all three men who were the real-life heroes play themselves in the movie.
“15:17 to Paris” is about Spencer Stone, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler – three childhood friends who stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train in August 2015, preventing the loss of innocent lives. The trio was internationally praised for their heroics.
Since Stone was an Air Force airman and Skarlatos was an Oregon Army National Guard specialist at the time, their military training helped guide them in their actions. That gets depicted in the movie, too, so naturally, the Defense Department helped provide as much accuracy as possible.
The bulk of the scenes involving Stone in his Air Force uniform were filmed at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, even though the movie depicts his time at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The filming at Robins only lasted one day, but it took nearly two weeks to build the sets and dress the base up to look like Fort Sam Houston.
The DoD also contributed Humvees and work trucks to depict life on the military base.
Other military-specific scenes were shot at various locations in Georgia with on-set consultation by a DoD project officer, who was either on set or was verbally consulted for all scenes depicting Stone in uniform.
Some current airmen also got to join Stone in the film as extras. They were mostly used to do marching drills around base.
While the Air Force took the lead on most of the production, the Oregon Army National Guard also contributed. Capt. Leslie Reed, who was stationed in Afghanistan with Skarlatos prior to the August 2015 incident, helped fact-check and provided photos and other guidance for producers so they could accurately recreate scenes.
As for the finished product? DoD officials said Eastwood did a good job with it.
“This film entertains and highlights a moment in time when ordinary people did an extraordinary action, potentially saving hundreds of lives. That’s the message of the film, and the film accomplishes this very well,” said Develyn Watson, the deputy director of the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office.
She said the movie helps further the DoD mission, which is to educate and inform civilians about all of the incredible people in the U.S. military.
“An Air Force airman took control of a situation with no regard for his personal safety. This epitomizes service before self, one of our core values,” Watson said. “This film does a very good job of showing the selflessness of who we are as a military and what we represent.”
Stone received a Purple Heart and the Airman’s Medal, while Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal. Both are considered their respective branch’s highest noncombat awards. All three men were bestowed with France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor.
Stone continued on in the Air Force to the rank of staff sergeant until 2016, when he left to pursue a career in international relations. Skarlatos re-enlisted for two more years with the guard a month before the train attack. He has since left the guard to pursue other things, including a stint on “Dancing with the Stars.”
First saving a train full of people, and now acting … what will these versatile men do next?
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