Actors, filmmakers celebrate Saints and Soldiers franchise with roundtable discussion
Provided by Saints and Soldiers: The Void/Go Films
It was finally time for Jasen Wade to tell the truth about Corbin Allred.
Seated at a table with his director, fellow actors and producers and surrounded by a small audience with cameras rolling, Wade revealed how his co-star in "Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed" would occasionally steal his lines.
"If you have ever worked with Corbin, it's pure manipulation. He'll make you think it's his idea," Wade said as the audience laughed. "Maybe you have nine lines and he has three, but by the time you shoot the scene, he has the nine and you got the three."
"None of that is true," Allred said, playing along and sparking more laughter. "I would steal lines from other people and give them to you."
It was one of many fun and memorable stories related in a taped roundtable discussion featuring representatives from each of the three Saints and Soldiers movies. Those seated at the table included Allred, who had roles in the first two films; Wade ("Airborne Creed"); Danor Gerald ("The Void"); director Ryan Little; producer Adam Abel; and Jeff Simpson, Deseret Book president and founder of Excel Films.
The event, which took place at Fort Douglas Military Museum in mid-July, was recorded for the future release of "The Void" on DVD. It was also intended to give fans a chance to meet the people behind the films, celebrate the franchise and pay homage to veterans.
"Saints and Soldiers: The Void" stars Gerald and premiers in theaters on Aug. 15.
It's been a rewarding experience to make the films, Little said.
"After the first film, we would have veterans come and thank us and we would say, 'You are thanking me? I should be thanking you,' " Little said. "I realized these films were our way to thank them. That has been extremely fulfilling."
The films honor the finest generation, Abel said.
"We wanted to give families the opportunity to experience the greatest generation, what they have done, and to carry on their legacy, hopefully having that same determination of character and commitment," he said.
The roundtable was broken into segments with short clips from the movies and included questions from the audience. Along the way, the group shared interesting facts and behind-the-scenes details about the three films:
The genesis for "Saints and Soldiers" came to Little as a college student. He thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if a German soldier and an American soldier were forced to spend the night in a barn together and had to learn to get along. The short film’s budget was $2,000. It won several student awards and even turned a small profit.
Little and Abel said the original title for the first film was “Saints and War.”
Allred's grandfather, William Weston Garrett, was in the Army and served in World War II. He was also awarded the Bronze Star for service rendered in the Korean War. Allred honored his grandparents by carrying a copy of the photo his grandfather carried of his grandmother during his military service.
The first movie was shot in January in order to take advantage of Utah’s snowiest month. “But in 2003, that wasn’t the case,” Abel said. “There were a lot of potato flakes involved.”
The first “Saints and Soldiers” film originally received an R rating. Simpson was part of the group that flew to Los Angeles to appeal the rating. The film didn’t have a lot of blood, gore or profanity. The MPAA told the group the problem was “personalized violence” because “you feel the impact more because you care about the characters.” Simpson told the panel, “You would rather I show unconnected, disaffected violence to my son, rather than have him understand the consequences of his choices?” The MPAA changed the rating to PG-13.
Little said they entered the first “Saints and Soldiers” movie in 16 film festivals, and it won the grand prize in each one.
The first screening of “Saints and Soldiers” took place at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The theater was full of U.S. Naval officers in white uniforms and their wives. “We screened the film, the credits rolled and the entire audience stood and gave a standing ovation," Allred said. "It was overwhelming. That moment is one of the highlights of my career."
The second film, “Airborne Creed,” was originally titled “Foxhole.”
“The Void” was the most ambitious and expensive of the three films, due in part to the use of tanks. These World War II machines were located in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona and were brought together for filming in Utah. They were the stars of the show, Little said. “They were crazy expensive and temperamental, just like actors can be,” he said. “Luckily, there were no major engine overhauls and no one got hurt.”
In order to embrace his role as an African-American soldier in World War II and better understand racism in “The Void,” Gerald chose to be the last cast member to eat lunch each day.
The core parts of all three movies were filmed in Alpine, Utah.
Afterward, all three actors expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity to be involved with the franchise.
"To honor these men and women, and to do it while having the best time of your life ... that is the thing I will always remember," Wade said. "I loved it. I loved the friendships that were made and the stories being told."
While each film contains wartime action scenes, what sets the Saints and Soldiers franchise apart is its focus on humanity amid conflicting circumstances, Little said.
"It's not just about killing people. We want to give audiences a roller-coaster ride, but behind the action, we must find a way to tell a human story about the characters and their personal struggles," Little said. "There has to be a human component."
"Ultimately, people pay $8 to be entertained, so we hope they are entertained," the producer said. "But we hope it leaves people with something to talk about. ... Who and what is American is written all over these films.”
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