×

Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Lone Survivor’ Faced Skepticism on Financing Side

Afghanistan war actioner opens on Christmas

With Universal opening “Lone Survivor”on Christmas in two U.S. theaters, several financiers behind the Afghanistan war tale find themselves amazed that they were able to raise the funds last year at Cannes.

“We knew that getting presales from the Europeans that this was not going to be easy,” recalls Stephan Martirosyan, CFO of Envision Entertainment and a partner in Foresight Unlimited. “It’s just not the kind of story that the Europeans care a lot about.”

Mark Damon, who handles Envision’s foreign sales through his Foresight Unlimited banner, agrees that selling the story of  Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was more than a bit unnerving — even with Mark Wahlberg on board to star and Peter Berg attached to direct.

“At first glance, it seemed like a jingoist film that would probably not win any Oscars, but Peter did a great job at Cannes and then made a great film — much more than we were expecting,” Damon said. “We didn’t want to make a political film.”

The film recounts the failed 2005 attempt to capture a Taliban leader and is based on Luttrell’s book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.”

A year after the film was shot, the execs remain astonished over Berg’s attention to detail — which included having  Luttrell move into Berg’s home for a month, meeting with  families of the deceased and living for a month with Navy SEALs in Iraq — and then shooting the film while in rugged New Mexico mountains.

“Peter was not interested in shooting this film in easier locations,” notes Envision CEO Remington Chase.

Foresight managed to sell the film into 40 markets and Envision provided the coin for about 80% of financing for the project, which carries a price tag estimated in the $40 million to $50 million range. “Lone Survivor” will begin rolling out next month in France, the U.K. and Spain and expanding in the U.S. on Jan. 10. 

For Matirosyan, “Lone Survivor” has a particular resonance because he worked in the former Soviet Union during the time of its decade-long war in Afghanistan. He and Chase formed Envision in 2010 and saw success in financing and producing “2 Guns,” the Wahlberg-Denzel Washington actioner that grossed $130 million worldwide this year.

Envision and Foresight are also financing and producing Rob Reiner’s comedy “And So It Goes,” starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, along with a pair of upcoming projects: the Justin Timberlake starrer “Spinning Gold,” a biopic about record exec Neil Bogart with Spike Lee directing, and the Africa-set action project “The Englishman” with John Moore directing.

“Lone Survivor” lists Berg, Wahlberg and Envision’s Vitaly Grigoriants as producers along with Sarah Aubrey, Randall Emmett, Norton Herrick, Barry Spikings, Akiva Goldsman and Stephen Levinson. Besides Chase, Damon  and Martirosyan, there are 10 other exec producers: George Furla, Simon Fawcett, Braden Aftergood, Louis G. Friedman, Adi Shankar, Spencer Silna, Brandt Andersen, Jeff Rice, Lauren Selig and Jason Shuman.

More Film

  • Festival director Thierry Fremaux speaks to

    Cannes: Thierry Fremaux on the Lineup's Record Number of Female Directors, American Cinema and Political Films

    The Cannes Film Festival has unveiled a lineup for its 72nd edition that includes some high-profile Hollywood titles, genre movies and films from 13 female directors. The official selection has been applauded by many for mixing established auteurs like Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory”), Terrence Malick (“A Hidden Life”) and Xavier Dolan (“Matthias and Maxime”) [...]

  • RUDOLF NUREYEV 1961

    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

  • The Last to See Them review

    Film Review: 'The Last to See Them'

    Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” stretches long as a late-evening shadow over Italian director Sara Summa’s feature debut “The Last to See Them.” The Italian title, “Gli Ultimi Viderli Vivere” which translates literally to “The Last to See Them Alive,” is also the heading of the opening chapter of Capote’s book. The setting is, similarly, [...]

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content