“I think everyone should do a week of boot camp because it shakes you out of your little bubble,” he said on the red carpet at the Regal L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.
Teller explained that he and five cast members endured a six-day boot camp last year before Jason Hall began shooting footage for the PTSD drama. “Thank You for Your Service” is based on David Finkel‘s book about U.S. troops returning from Iraq and dealing with the complications of life back home.
“We had a small taste of what these guys deal with,” he said. “You can bond a lot with people in a short time through collective suffering. We had that tangible experience. I knew what their faces looked like when they were completely gassed.”
Scott Haze, who plays the part of Michael Emory, said the experience had a profound impact on him.
“Being in this movie changed my whole life, because we’re not doing a good job of helping the soldiers who serve so selflessly,” he reflected. “So what I’ve discovered is that I’m happiest when I’m helping someone.”
Hall, who received an Oscar nomination for the “American Sniper” script, said “Thank You for Your Service” is a follow-up film to 2014’s “Sniper.” In a Q&A after the screening, he admitted that part of the inspiration came from 1946’s “The Best Years of Our Lives,” which dealt with the aftermath of World War II when soldiers returned home.
“The difference with this movie and that movie is that, in our film, the war is still going on — not only literally but also in their hearts and minds,” he added.
Teller was joined on stage with his real-life counterpart, vet Adam Schumann — who apologized to Finkel for not reading his book.
“I read the first paragraph and realized it’s a story I already lived and put it back,” Schumann said. “I really loved the movie.”
Schumann lends his voice to the movie with the song “Freedom Cadence,” performed by Bruce Springsteen. It was inspired by a cadence that Schumann sang in boot camp. Producer Jon Kilik had heard Schumann sing the song and reached out to Springsteen. His version runs over the closing credits.
Finkel admitted that the evening had a surreal feel, adding, “This premiere is the furthest thing from being in Iraq 10 years ago.”
DreamWorks Pictures’ “Thank You for Your Service” hits theaters on Friday with Universal handling distribution.