By Anne Brodie
There are few filmmakers in Hollywood with Rod Lurie’s experience. A graduate of West Point and a soldier, he segued into film criticism in Los Angeles before finding his calling as a filmmaker. So it’s no wonder Lurie’s projects carry knowledge-based military and political themes; The Contender, a drama about a female U.S. Vice President, Deterrence in which a male President faces an impossible crisis, The Last Castle about an imprisoned General, TV’s Commander-in-Chief, featuring a female President, and the fact-based Nothing But the Truth in which a female journalist outs a CIA agent. Lurie’s new film, The Outpost, also fact-based, recounts in chilling detail, a battle between young US soldiers and the Taliban in Afghanistan in a geological position that made it highly unlikely they would survive. It’s chilling and effective with a talented ensemble cast of Orlando Bloom and second gens Scott Eastwood, Milo Gibson, James Jagger, Will Attenborough and, in a phenomenal performance, Caleb Landry Jones. I spoke with Lurie from his home in Los Angeles about this important film.
The Outpost is based on true events, and it is heartbreaking. Soldiers do what they are trained to do, with full knowledge that they might not make it home. This darkness permeates the film. How hard was it psychologically for you and the actors?
We were more inspired than we were in any sort of darkness. We had a sense of duty to get these guys right – and so much of this meant capturing the friendships. In addition to that, we had many of the real-life guys on set – Ty Carter, Daniel Rodriquez, and Commander Stoney Portis. It was, I must say, interestingly convivial.
This battle with the Taliban in Afghanistan is especially devastating. You’ve realized its brutal legacy clearly and in great detail. Is this your anti-war film?
I think it was Francois Truffaut who said, “There’s no such thing as an anti-war film.” He was suggesting that movies will by their nature glorify combat and thus make it something more than palatable. But I must disagree with the master. From my point of view, any (good) war film is anti-war. Because if the film succeeds then it means it has immersed you into the full hell of combat. I don’t see how you look at the D-Day invasion in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and say it is in any way endorsing the violence and mayhem and sheer hell of it all. I think THE OUTPOST tried to achieve the same thing. We seek to engage the audience for sure – it’s an involving and engaging thing, but no young person will leave the theater and want to “sign up” like they did, say, after watching TOP GUN.
Is this a reason why you became a filmmaker, not a soldier?
I was a soldier. I went to West Point (United States Military Academy) and then served as an air defense artillery officer in Germany. It was the peacetime Army and so I never saw combat. Maybe that more than anything else was what inspired me to make a war film – one in which I could honor my brothers.
It’s great to see Caleb Landry Jones finally in a role big enough for his talent.
Caleb is easily one of the best actors in the country. Damn he’s good. I was nervous when I first met him because he was nowhere near physically right. Ty Carter, whom he plays, is a buff tough dude. Caleb is a pure poet and lover-type. He was skinny and had hair down to his ass. But with the help of his marine corps brother (who lost both his legs in Iraq) Caleb whipped into shape.
Tremendous visuals, the jet passing under us, the battles, the Taliban swarming into the encampment. The film is so consistently alive and inspired. Were you driven?
Everybody was so driven on this set. Inspired by the men who died, inspired by the men who survived and were on set with us. Everybody toughened up on this set. No slackers. Once they got through boot camp, they were ready to get into the meat of it. But the crew was also inspired. We did some very unusual things in filming the movie- especially these very, very long shots throughout the battle. But everybody was up to it because nobody dared be the one person not “up to the challenge”.
Are you ready to let it go and begin something else?
I will never never let this movie go. Never. I have a few projects ahead- but they will all pale in comparison in terms of my emotional connection.