The true-to-life, war action-thriller “Lone Survivor” reunites Taylor Kitsch with director Peter Berg, after the No.1 box-office hit “Battleship” and NBC’s critically acclaimed sports drama “Friday Night Lights.”
Based on The New York Times bestselling true story of heroism, courage and resilience, “Lone Survivor” tells the incredible tale of four Navy SEALs on a covert mission to neutralize a high-level al-Qaeda operative who are ambushed by the enemy in the mountains of Afghanistan. Faced with an impossible moral decision, the small band is isolated from help and surrounded by a much larger force of Taliban ready for war. As they confront unthinkable odds together, the four men find reserves of strength and bravery as they stay in the fight to the finish.
Berg had discussed “Lone Survivor” with Kitsch years before production began. “He’d been raving about the book and the story for three-plus years,” recalls Kitsch. “So I started reading the book. Part of the way in, I said to myself, ‘This role is once in a lifetime.’ I called Pete up and said, ‘When you’re ready, I’m ready.’”
Kitsch plays the on-ground leader of Operation Red Wings, Lieutenant Michael Murphy (aka “Murph”), a respected Navy SEAL who walked into a clearing and drew enemy gunfire for his men. Kitsch, like the rest of his performers, felt the heavy weight on his shoulders to honor Murph and his fellow fallen servicemen. He reflects: “It’s a beautiful, true story that needs to be told right. It’s gutting, intense and encompasses why they do what they do, which is for each other—first and foremost.”
Kitsch knew that getting the nod to play the lieutenant would be a responsibility he wouldn’t take for granted. He reflects: “Murph’s actions speak louder than anything he’s ever said, and they should. I think he was that type of leader who just loved his guys, and getting the nod to play this guy was something special.”
The fact that he was portraying a real-life warrior who distinguished himself in the line of duty was not lost on Kitsch. Murphy posthumously received the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, becoming the first person to do so for actions during the war in Afghanistan. Subsequently, a Navy destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy, was also named in his honor. The accountability to the memory of this man weighed heavily on Kitsch. “It doesn’t go away,” he explains about the sense of responsibility that comes with the project, “and I’m sure the rest of the guys will say that, too. You just try and do everything possible to do it justice.”
Kitsch knew that having Marcus Luttrell, the author of the first-person memoir “Lone Survivor,” on set would be an asset throughout production. He says: “It was remarkable to have him there. When you take on something like this, you think, ‘How will Luttrell and Murph’s family react?’ You’re playing his best mate and their son, so those are the people that you want to come up to you and say, ‘Thank you,’ more than anyone else.”
In 2012, Kitsch was seen in Oliver Stone’s “Savages” alongside the riveting Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro. Earlier that year, he starred in Peter Berg’s “Battleship,” opposite Liam Neeson, Rihanna and Alexander Skarsgård, and Disney’s live-action film “John Carter,” which was directed by two-time Academy Award® winner Andrew Stanton (“WALL-E,” “Finding Nemo”).