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Could Navy SEALs Film Featuring Actual Active Duty Members Be The Sleeper Action Hit of The Year?

Written by on June 12, 2011 

Update: Since posting, Relativity has officially acquired the film and they plan a 2012 release. After the write-up, check out the press release, which includes the first plot synopsis, at the bottom.

A few weeks ago I got an invite to see a NYC test screening with just the information of AOV and it involving someone who worked on 300. Due to not normally attending these types of screenings and having absolutely zero interest upon further examination, I turned it down. A new report on Deadline and a wealth of new details are making me rethink that decision.

The film, a “mission movie involving Navy SEALS,” is titled Act of Valour (or Act of Valor on IMDb) and stars actual, active duty members of United States Navy’s sea, air and land teams, while also being backed by the military. Written by 300‘s Kurt Johnstad (300) and directed by Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh (who worked on stunts for Bad Boys II, Speed, Spider-Man and many more), also referred to as the Bandito Brothers, the duo have previously shot a few high-quality recruitment videos you may have seen for the SEALs.

Ryan Kavanaugh‘s Relativity Media has nearly closed a deal where it will pay “a $13 million minimum guarantee and a $30 million P&A commitment.” This is huge for a film with zero stars and nearly less prominent creative talent, except for executive producer Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures, who greenlit the under-the-radar film. It will mark the largest deal ever for such a film, and the company plans a November Veterans Day weekend release or hold off until next year for a Presidents Day release in February.

When I first heard the details, this sounded like nothing more than a recruitment video but after buzzed about screenings, a high pick-up, and many new details to follow, I have to imagine there is something special about this project. Then again, it could be enticing for the studio to release the first Navy SEALs film after that group killed Osama Bin Laden. While it is impossible for this film to actually have that event in it (considering the 2009 shoot), we do know that The Hurt Locker‘s Kathryn Bigelow is prepping a drama of that event with Joel Edgerton to star.

Even though Dark Castle, Alcon, Lionsgate, Film District were all in the bidding group, they were impressed at Relativity’s “aggressiveness,” with their entire marketing campaign laid out. The film is being described as “very patriotic and heavy on action.” Whenever they decide on a date, it will be on a wide 3,000 screen roll-out. I also managed to dig up some more info on the film, previously titled I Am That Man and you can find the details below.

Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut (who you may remember from the infamous Terminator Salvation/Christian Bale shoot fiasco) shot the entire film on a Canon 5D Mark II. On his site, he gave some details on the process, as well as set photos. Check some out below, where he shares what kind of influences he had and what he wanted to capture, including some ground-breaking helmet cam technology.

I remember one of my favorite shots that I ever did on the film was to follow our lead Navy SEAL down a hallway that was soon to erupt with gun fire. The 25mm Zeiss ZF looked so good; it was engaging, intimate and stunning. It captured all the natural light that was coming through the windows as well as the subtle morning sunlight I had blowing through the window at the end of the hallway.

We set the helmet cam up with all the bells and whistles. When that rig moved into rooms, it was something that I had never seen before. It was intimate, visceral and smooth. I wanted this film to have a GAMER feel to it. That first person shooter perspective that has been so powerful in all the video games like Call of Duty. This felt like that but with real Navy SEAL’s on the gun. Zeiss helped me take this movie up 4 notches with this unique perspective. The 18mm did not bend too much and delivered sharp, realistic footage. We used this lens for all of our gun fights. When the SEALS would shoot people at night, you would see the laser coming from the barrel with shells flying out of the chamber; the gunsight and the bad guy that the SEAL was shooting in the heart. It was now done with cinematic quality. Not helmet cams where everything is in focus. This 5D helmet cam had a beautiful focus fall off. We could rack from the gunsight to the bad guy, or to the shells flying out to the bad guy. The possibilities were endless with the 5D’s shallow focus and the Zeiss ZF primes.

NavySeals.com has provided even more info, stating this is “a hybrid feature film based on the SEAL ethos that highlights both naval special warfare capability and fleet interaction.” Co-director McCoy said “I found the SEALs fascinating. People never know exactly how far you can push yourself, and the SEALs are a direct representation of that.” The site also mentions an IMAX release is in the works and The Tension provides us with even more set photos below.

Lastly, we have found an NVIDIA promo featuring the Bandito Brothers and an interview with Jacob Rosenberg, CTO and Director. They mention the film briefly, and we can see some of the set. Check it out below.

Relativity Salutes Act Of Valor

Studio Scores Highly Sought Action Film for 2012

(Beverly Hills, CA) June 12, 2011 – Relativity Media announced today that it has acquired worldwide rights to market and distribute Bandito Brothers’ Act of Valor. The groundbreaking film is an intense action-thriller which showcases an elite group of active duty Navy Seals and co-stars Roselyn Sanchez (Rush Hour 2) and Emilio Rivera (Traffic). The studio is targeting a 2012 release date.

The film is directed by ex-stuntmen and documentary filmmakers/commercial directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy (Dust to Glory) and Scott Waugh (Step Into Liquid) and written by Kurt Johnstad (300).

Act of Valorfollows a Navy Seal squad on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent, and in the process takes down a complex web of terrorist cells determined to strike America at all costs.  The filmmakers had unprecedented Naval access resulting in high-octane combat sequences and never-before-seen military operation scenes which are composited from actual events in the lives of the men appearing in the film and their comrades.

McCoy and Waugh are producing for Bandito Brothers and the company’s COO Max Leitman is executive producer. Legendary Pictures Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, who is personally an investor in Bandito, executive produced along with Jason Clark (Monster House).

Tucker Tooley, Relativity’s President of Worldwide Production said, “Act of Valor is truly one-of-a-kind—ripped from today’s headline-making heroic missions, an incredibly crafted film featuring active duty Navy Seals, in a remarkable and fast-paced story that will give audiences an authentic inside glimpse and make them proud of America’s finest. We’re honored to add this unbelievably entertaining and gripping film to Relativity’s 2012 slate.”

“The world has always had deep admiration for these men who continually risk their lives to protect our freedom,” says Waugh.

“To witness their incredible brotherhood and to tell their actual stories was inspirational and such a privilege,” adds McCoy.

The deal with Relativity was negotiated by WME Global’s Graham Taylor and Liesl Copland.

Bandito Brothers is repped by ICM.

Do you think this could be a viable action hit? When would you like to see a release?

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