×

Directors on Their Teams: Peter Berg on ‘Lone Survivor’

Peter Berg wrote and directed Universal’s year-end opener “Lone Survivor,” which centers on Marcus Luttrell, who was part of a Navy SEALs mission in 2005 to capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. It was a difficult shoot, with the mountains of New Mexico doubling for Afghanistan. But Berg is quick to praise his team and the collaboration.

Editor: Colby Parker Jr.

Colby has edited everything I’ve ever done. He understands what I like and vice versa. And he understands how to edit the mass amount of uncatalogued film I dump in his computer every night: I tend to shoot three cameras all the time. The film’s gunfight is almost an hour-long, with lots of different experiences within that. There are moments when it’s calm, quiet, slow and precise, also moments when it’s dynamic, disorienting, chaotic. We had to create it like a piece of music, with different builds, drops and climaxes. It was a great experience in teamwork, what we were able to do on the set and then in post-production.

Cinematography: Tobias Schliessler

This was our fifth movie together. He knew I wanted a dynamic style, but didn’t want handheld cameras; I wanted it to have a more stable look. He was able to get on that mountain with a substantial amount of equipment and a big team of grips, electricians and so on, to get up shots to give me a more stable look. Tobias’ father was a mountain-climber, and he’s a lover of the outdoors and of the physical challenges that were present when filming. Tobias did a great job of bringing beauty and a cinematic aesthetic to the film, in an extremely difficult shooting environment.

Sound: Wylie Stateman

This was the first time I’ve worked with so much sound design. I’d never worked with him before. When we met, he’d just finished “Django” and he’d seen a cut of my film and began talking about it like a piece of jazz music. He wanted to use silence to create a “piece of music” out of the gunfight. I wasn’t sure what he meant and wasn’t sure I agreed with him. He persuaded me to use less music than I would have and to let the organic sounds of a mountain gunfight be the score. He approaches sound design from as unique a vantage point as I’ve ever seen.

Music: Steve Jablonsky, Explosions in the Sky

Steve did the last reel; the band Explosions in the Sky did pretty much did everything else. They have an emotional, tender quality to their music, even when it gets aggressive. I didn’t want the score to be overly aggressive, I wanted it to be haunting and emotional. Steve Jablonsky came in at the end to do something more traditional, but when Steve does “traditional,” it’s not the usual strings. He created a wonderful sound at the very end.

Stunts: Kevin Scott

Stunt coordinator Kevin Scott really stepped up. I’ve worked with stuntmen before, but I’ve never seen anyone attack their stunts as aggressively as this team. Those mountain falls are as intense as anything I’ve seen in a movie. The stunts were all real, there were no dummies; they committed so intensely to the film. That’s partly because there were Navy Seals on the set all the time, so the stunt team were very aware of the men they were honoring.

Those stuntmen were doing very hard-to-control falls on a mountain at 8,000 feet, without backup: There were no ambulances if anybody got hurt. Kevin had to have one eye on safety and one eye on the work, and he did a great job. Even before filming, he helped us create an incredible training camp so the stuntmen and actors could become very proficient at their weapons. Having been there to see what these stuntmen put themselves through and what Kevin gets out of them…

Writer: Peter Berg

It was almost five years between the time I read the book (“Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10”) and met Marcus and the time we started filming. I was ready to do “Lone Survivor,” but then there was a deal with the studio to do “Battleship,” so I pushed “Lone Survivor” back. But my enthusiasm never waned. By the time I finished writing, I’d spent a year with Navy Seals and I got to live a month with them in Iraq. Plus, I did quite a bit of research on how they operated and I had a pretty good idea on how to bring that script to life. The script that I finished three years ago was more or less the script that we shot. I tend to improvise a lot, so there are always dialog changes, but the script that we shot was basically the script that I wrote.

Directors on Their Teams runs Monday through Friday. Tomorrow: J.C. Chandor.

More Film

  • The Lion King

    ‘The Lion King’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Lion King.” Ads placed for the remake had an estimated media value of $5.64 million through Sunday for 1,290 national ad airings on [...]

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez Takes Down Wall Street Crooks in New Trailer for 'Hustlers'

    According to Jennifer Lopez, basic pole dancing movements all revolve around a few foot positions. But as she tells her stripper student Constance Wu, it’s not just about the dancing. In the new trailer for “Hustlers,” Lopez and Wu swindle a number of high profile Wall Street clients in an effort to bring their white [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Leaders Warn Members About Contact With Fired Agents

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are warning members about being contacted by their former agents — asserting that such efforts are an attempt to undermine the WGA and its members. The missive, sent Tuesday from the WGA negotiating committee, came with the guild in a bitter three-month standoff with talent agents that appears [...]

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content