What Actors In War Movies Were Really Like, According To Their Co-Stars

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Vote up the most memorable stories about actors on the set of war films.

War movie actors and camaraderie go hand in hand. Actors get pretty close to one another (physically and emotionally) while contending with the elements of a rugged outdoor set. Compare this to actors hitting their marks in a cushy soundstage on a Hollywood lot. However, that closeness does not always produce positive results. Some of the biggest conflicts in filmmaking history developed on war movie sets.

The following are both positive and negative stories involving notable war movie actors, as told by their co-stars.  


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    806 VOTES

    Tom Hanks Convinced His Fellow ‘Saving Private Ryan’ Actors To Stick Out Their Grueling Pre-Film Boot Camp

    To prepare for the most epic of war epics, the Saving Private Ryan cast endured a grueling boot camp. "It was the worst experience of my life," said Edward Burns, who played Richard Reiben in the film.

    Other actors had similar takeaways. Giovanni Ribisi recalled, "We were soaking wet, hiking five miles a day with 40 pounds of gear on our backs, getting about three hours of sleep. Only you don’t really sleep because you’re freezing and shaking in a tent." Adam Goldberg said, "The only way I could get through it was to shut myself down and become this soldier."

    After three days, the cast voted to abort mission. Tom Hanks reported the vote to director Steven Spielberg, who left the decision in the lead actor's hands. Hanks wanted to stick it out, so he convinced his co-stars to stay.

    Dale Dye, the Marine turned boot camp trainer, reinforced Hanks's resolve:

    I stood out there in the rain and said essentially what Tom had said, that you owe it to these people you’re representing on film to get this right. And in order to get it right, you’ve got to experience some of what they experienced.

    Many of the actors now look back fondly on the experience.

  • While Jon Bernthal is one of the biggest on-screen bad*sses, Brad Pitt is an OG, which Bernthal recognized long before he acted alongside him on Fury. However, Fury affirmed his admiration. When asked what it was like working - and stage-fighting - with the legendary actor, Bernthal replied:

    Being real? I mean, just the fact that Brad was there, I love that man. He’s 50 years old. He’s Brad Pitt and he doesn’t have to do a single thing that he doesn’t want to. Not only that, but he was not only there, but eager to throw down with all of us. It tells you a lot. The colder, wetter, and tougher it got, the happier he was. I only have the utmost respect for him.

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    470 VOTES

    The Less Experienced Actors In ‘Glory’ Said Denzel Washington And Morgan Freeman Were Incredibly Generous As Acting Mentors

    As a film about the first African-American regiment in the American Civil War, Glory employed thousands of actors, most of whom had zero or little experience. Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher were two of the newish actors who looked toward Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman for guidance. They did not disappoint. As Elwes told the Press Association:

    Whenever I was not working, I’d go and watch him [Denzel] and Morgan just hoping that something of their genius would rub off on me because I’ve been big fans of their work for a long time... They were so sweet and Denzel, of course, the part he played was so brilliant, absolutely brilliant. We all knew, I don’t want to sound like we’re all know-it-alls, but we did kind of know, watching him work, this guy is going to get some kind of accolade for this performance.

    Braugher was even more laudatory, recalling:

    ...It was my first film experience. I was a young actor, 25-26 years old at the time, and you really need role models when you go on the set because it’s very easy to lose your focus. I was really quite fortunate to have both Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington there because they are the ultimate role models for conducting yourself both on-camera and off. I made it my special purpose to emulate those guys: Early to bed, early to rise, and so forth. They’re scholars; they’re very specific in what they’re doing. I listened like a hawk to everything they had to say, and they didn’t lead me astray. I think it’s because they understood how important Thomas’s role was to the film, but also because they wanted the film to be magnificent, and that shows. There aren’t a lot of actors who are that generous. Period.

  • Sam Worthington Said Andrew Garfield’s ’Search For Truth’ Was Incredible While Filming ‘Hacksaw Ridge’
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Playing Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge couldn't have been easy for Andrew Garfield. Doss was a contradiction, being both a Christian pacifist and United States Army corporal during WWII. Having refused to kill enemy soldiers or even carry a weapon on the battlefield, Doss became a combat medic who saved 75 men and won the Medal of Honor, the first conscientious objector to do so. 70+ years later, accolades poured upon Garfield for his portrayal of Doss, including an Oscar nomination, but the best tributes came from his co-stars. Take this quote from Sam Worthington:

    Andrew Garfield's one of those actors who flies under the radar of how good he really is. His search for truth is unbelievable, he's got such integrity, and he developed a character who isn't like him, but he brought at the essence of himself to create the character of Desmond Doss. You could see him transform. Everything he delivered and bounced off you was so true and so real.

    Teresa Palmer, who played Doss's wife, said Garfield went method on the movie:

    He lived and breathed Desmond Doss, he stayed in accent, the way he held himself, the way he walked, the way he talked, he just was Desmond.

    Virtually everyone has great things to say about his performance.

  • Tom Berenger is the stand-out of Platoon, a movie filled with Oscar winners and nominees. As Sgt. Barnes, Berenger portrayed a level of sadism and sociopathy that tops most cinematic soldiers. Co-star Willem Dafoe said Berenger went to a deep, dark place for the role:   

    He’s the performance of the movie. He was able to contact some sort of rage and bitter disappointment that really ran deep.

    Asked if that were true, Berenger replied, "Yeah," before adding, "You don’t talk about all that stuff, but you use it."

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    316 VOTES

    Anthony Mackie Said He And Co-Stars Jeremy Renner And Brian Geraghty ‘Watched Out’ For Each Other On The Rough ‘Hurt Locker’ Set

    Although acting safety has come a long way since The Deer Hunter, modern actors can sometimes find themselves in unforgiving terrain near an active warzone. Speaking about The Hurt Locker, Anthony Mackie said they filmed three kilometers from the Iraq border in 120-degree heat while being guarded by "Jordanian military guys." He credits his co-stars Brian Geraghty and Jeremy Renner for helping him through the shoot:

    If it wasn't for Brian and Jeremy, this movie would have been a disaster. I say that honestly because there's a certain comradery that goes along with the lack of egos. Every day I showed up on set, I knew Jeremy and Brian had their s**t together, so I couldn't be the dude coming up and going, "How do I hold a gun?" So, every day, we really just supported, watched out for and really looked after each other.

    There was another, likely surprising, obstacle for the actors: Ramadan. That meant no "female or alcoholic distractions." The actors had to purge their emotional stress in other ways. Mackie continued:

    Most of the time, we had our weekends off, so we would just go away to Aqaba, the Dead Sea, Egypt or somewhere like that, to really experience the Middle East. As frustrating and as hot as it was, it was cool to be on set and just have a herd of 100 rogue goats come running through set. Nobody else has had to deal with that. You're shooting and, off in the distance, there's a bunch of Bedouins on camels, watching you. That was interesting and different. Things like that really made it worthwhile and really made us more acclimated to the Middle East.