In the Star Wars universe, Obi-Wan Kenobi is regarded as a great warrior, a capable military commander and a great man; the actor who played Kenobi in the original Star Wars films shared these same attributes, plus his acting ability. Although Sir Alec Guinness was not a fan of the Star Wars concept calling it “fairy tale rubbish,” Obi-Wan is undoubtedly his greatest acting legacy. Before he battled on screen in a galaxy far, far away or in the jungles of Burma, Guinness fought in WWII as a Royal Naval officer.
Guinness started his acting career at the age of 20 on stage at the King’s Theatre in Hammersmith while he was still a drama student. From there, his acting career soared as he went on to perform in Shakespeare alongside stage legends like Peggy Ashcroft, Jack Hawkins, Ralph Richardson, and Anthony Quayle, with whom Guinness became close friends. He even acted alongside the legendary actor Laurence Olivier in a production of Henry V.
With the outbreak of WWII, Guinness traded in his costumes for a uniform to serve in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve at the age of 27. His naval training took place on the HMS Raleigh on a naval base as well as Hampshire and Loch Fyne. Guinness concluded his formal naval training aboard the HMS Quebec in 1942 and was commissioned as a naval officer. In 1943, he sailed to Boston where he was given his first command. Guinness commanded a landing craft through a series of German aircraft attacks and successfully landed on the coast of North Africa. From there, he and his crew readied themselves for the allied invasion of Sicily.
On July 9, 1943, Guinness and his crew staged another successful landing at Cape Passero where they delivered 200 men. However, during the operation, communications broke down and Guinness did not receive a message saying that the landing was delayed by an hour. As a result, Guinness and his crew landed on their own. Afterwards, a ranking naval officer accused him of being late rather than early and insinuated that the actor was not fit for military service. Ever one to have the right line, Guinness responded, “And you will allow me to point out, sir, that in the West End of London, if the curtain is advertised as going up at 8:00 pm, it goes up at 8:00 pm, and not an hour later, something that the Royal Navy might learn from.”
Following the invasion of Sicily, Guinness was reassigned to ferry supplies and allied agents to Yugoslav partisans on the eastern Mediterranean front. During this time, he was given leave to appear in a Broadway production of the play Flare Path, a show about RAF Bomber Command. Although he considered turning to the priesthood during the war, to the relief of Star Wars fans worldwide, Guinness decided to return to acting instead.
From 1946 to 1948, the former naval officer acted at the Old Vic theatre in London. His first major film role, Oliver Twist, released to wide acclaim in 1948 and set him on the path to stardom. With classic films like Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Star Wars to his name, Alec Guinness has been immortalized on the silver screen. In addition to an Oscar and two BAFTAs, Guinness was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. The next year, he was honored across the pond with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Guinness died of liver cancer on August 5, 2000 at the age of 86.
Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.
And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.
Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.
Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.
Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.
(Imperial War Museum)
The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.
Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.
Roland Emmerich is the writer and director behind some of the most badass military military movies of our time. He loves to combine state of the art computer graphics with amazing battle sequences. You can thank him for the dogfights in Independence Day and for the famous “Aim Small, Miss Small” quote from ThePatriot (I still whisper this line every time I snap in at the rifle range). But now, Emmerich is taking on the most pivotal moment in the U.S. Navy’s 244 year history: the Battle of Midway.
We Are The Mighty joined the director for a sneak peak into the film’s key scenes and to discuss how he had to convince the Navy that he was the right man to direct a film about their greatest comeback — a film that he’s been trying to make for over 19 years.
Roland Emmerich speaking with us at his edit bay in Hollywood
“You can’t tell the story of Midway without Pearl Harbor,” Emmerich explains before we watch the opening sequence. He’s right. That infamous day, December 7, 1941, was arguably the U.S. Navy’s greatest defeat, but it was also the first key moment that led the American Navy towards their victory at Midway. The film’s depiction of the surprise Japanese attack is incredibly accurate — especially the scenes on battleship row, as well as the salvage operations afterwards. The U.S. carriers were away from Pearl Harbor that day and this stroke of luck would come back to haunt the Japanese fleet.
“The Navy is a family and I wanted to show that,” Emmerich tells us. Many of the Naval Aviators who would be pivotal during the Battle of Midway returned to Pearl Harbor as the fires still raged and oil slicks covered the water. In the following hours and days, the sailors of the carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet would learn that their friends from basic training, prior deployments, and even the Naval Academy had been killed in the attack. Midway depicts the personal toll that the attack took on these sailors and we watch the seeds of revenge being planted.
Woody Harrelson stars as ‘Admiral Chester Nimitz’
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy and the entire military struggled to determine a response. With only a few carriers and support ships left to fight against the massive Japanese Navy, there could be no room for mistakes. The U.S. needed to make a comeback and fast. “It’s important for the audience to understand how bad the situation really was for Nimitz… morale was low,” Emmerich describes. He goes on to explain how Admiral Nimitz, played by Woody Harrelson, took command of the Pacific Fleet facing not only a daunting enemy but also a shortage of experienced sailors to strike back. The coming battle would depend upon a series of unknown heroes.
Patrick Wilson stars as ‘Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton’
However, Nimitz did have one advantage: the intelligence unit under command of Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, played by Patrick Wilson, had broken the Japanese code and were ciphering through thousands of messages in an underground bunker nicknamed the “Dungeon.” Even members of the Navy Band were pulled in to help with the effort. However, the codebreakers could only guess as to the location of the Japanese fleet and the leaders in Washington decided it was time to hit the Japenese homeland instead.
Despite their desire for revenge on the Japanese fleet, the crews of the carriers Enterprise and Hornet were assigned to escort duty, and to make matters worse they would be escorting Army Bomber pilots. The mission known as the “Doolittle Raid” is a key moment both in history and in the film. As the massive waves of the North Pacific rage over the carrier decks, we are transported into the ready room where dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Dick Best, played by Ed Skrein, is frustrated that the Army pilots are given the chance to strike the Japanese first.
Aarron Eckhart stars as ‘Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle’
When the fleet is detected before the scheduled departure point, the bomber pilots under Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, played by Aarron Eckhart, make the pivotal decision to launch despite the weather and the risk of running out of fuel. Emmerich reinforces the tension in this scene on the flight deck where Navy pilots take bets that the massive B-25 bombers won’t even make it into the air. The entire scene is incredibly powerful and only reinforces Emmerich’s reputation for blockbuster filmmaking. While this is a scene we can watch over and over again, it was a moment the carrier crews would never forget. They wanted their own piece of history and it would soon come with a gamble from a gutsy Admiral Nimitz.
With only one chance left for a strike on the Japanese fleet, Nimitz relied on Layton’s codebreakers to determine the exact location of the next battle so that the U.S. could surprise the enemy just as they had surprised the U.S. months before. Layton and his team were not able to directly read the Japanese code, but they could make predictions based on bits of information. All signs pointed to Midway as the target, and even with the risk of failure, Nimitz ordered the two carriers into battle. In addition, Nimitz knew that his Naval Aviators, especially Lt. Dick Best, were prepared for the gloves to come off.
Dick Best (Ed Skrein, left) and Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank, right)
“The World War II generation was special and I wanted to ensure their heroism was not forgotten,” Emmerich explains, as we prepare to watch the final battle of Midway. We are in the cockpit of an American Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber above the same Japanese fleet that struck Pearl Harbor. With enemy aircraft swarming overhead and massive fires from anti-aircraft guns below, Emmerich’s Midway shows the insane odds these pilots faced as they thrust their aircraft into nosedive attacks. In a matter of minutes, a series of bombs strikes the Japanese fleet. The explosions and smoke remind us of the first few moments of the movie, when the Americans are left bruised, but not broken. As the lights come on, it’s obvious that Emmerich has indeed created a film that honors the U.S. Navy’s greatest comeback.
However, as we discuss the challenges of making a movie of such epic portions and detail, Emmirch recounts how the production was a series of endless problems. “None of the carriers from that time still exist, and it’s hard to even find aircraft… I knew we would need the Navy’s help,” Emmerich explains. But the Navy had to make sure Emmerich was the right man for the job.
The Battle of Midway is such a pivotal moment in U.S. Navy history that it had to be told right. When Emmerich met with the U.S. Navy Admiral he’d have to convince, he explained that this is “a movie about Dick Best and the other unknown heroes of the Enterprise and Hornet.” That’s what the Admiral needed to hear, and the Navy agreed to support the production and even provided current Naval Aviators to ensure every scene was as accurate as possible. In some cases, Emmerich had to start from scratch to rebuild 1942-era planes and carrier decks.
Director Roland Emmerich (right) behind the scenes on the set of Midway
From first look, Midway is poised to not only to be an iconic depiction of the Navy’s greatest comeback but also a film that depicts the human variables that are so crucial in determining the fate of battles. Roland Emmerich’s film Midway releases on November 8th, 2019, and will be an amazing way to honor the sacrifices of all servicemembers this Veteran’s Day.
Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.
As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.
Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.
1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.
Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.
Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.
2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”
The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.
This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.
3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.
Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting
gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.
4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.
Ok, he wasn’t an
actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.
It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.
No comfort for Chewbacca here.
Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.
For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This op/ed by We Are The Mighty co-founder and CEO David Gale originally appeared on the Hollywood Reporter website on May 22, 2017.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, I decided to re-watch William Wyler’s 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, which follows three WWII servicemen facing the challenges of transitioning to civilian life. The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, and proves that a well-told, honest and authentic story is still the most powerful way to instill empathy and provide some understanding of even the most complex emotions and human experiences.
While our military is still a quintessential part of American culture, today’s Hollywood rarely gets it right, often resorting to stereotypes and common tropes to portray veterans as either dysfunctional misfits or larger-than-life heroes. Perhaps this misconception is an expected result when less than 1 percent of our population is currently in uniform. Those who come home to work in the entertainment industry, are more likely to be offered jobs making coffee and copying scripts, than to encounter an employer who authentically appreciates and values the leadership, skills and responsibilities of military service.
While there is a handful of successful vets in this business, most notably Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCU, in my 30 years in entertainment, I never met an executive who served in the military and who has responsibility for making important creative decisions. This, even though we have been at war for 16 years and millions of veterans have returned home. While some studios and networks have helpful veteran hiring programs, and nonprofits such as Veterans in Film and Television are there to support veterans who work in this industry, there are few clear paths for vets to move into the creative and executive ranks of the business.
On the contrary, the cast and crew of The Best Years of Our Lives had veterans in nearly every major creative position. Wyler, the director, served in the Army National Guard; actor Fredric March served in the Army; the author of the book on which the film was based, MacKinlay Kantor, was a war correspondent who flew on bombing missions over Europe; Robert Sherwood, the screenwriter, fought with the Royal Highlanders of Canada; and Daniel Mandell, the film’s Academy Award winning editor, served in the Marines. Gregg Toland, the film’s acclaimed cinematographer, was a lieutenant in the Navy’s camera department; he also co-directed with John Ford a documentary about the attack on Pearl Harbor. And, of course, Harold Russell, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, was a WWII veteran and double hand amputee.
War and homecoming are undoubtedly part of the American experience, yet according to a study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe that the American public has no understanding of the difficulties facing this current generation of veterans and military families. While we cannot expect the average person to comprehend what it is like to serve in the military, we can expect the media to do more to find and empower the storytellers who have served. Making sure veterans have more opportunities to play meaningful roles in entertainment and media is the best way for us all to begin to have some understanding of our military community and the challenges they face. This will allow us to discover the kind of extraordinary talent this next great generation has to offer. Not only is this good for our veterans, it is good for business; The Best Years of Our Lives was a huge financial success. In a time of perpetual conflict, in which so few are asked to do so much for so many, getting veterans right is also good for our country.
As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.
While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.
Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.
One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.
The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.
One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.
Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.
(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)
That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.
As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.
This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.
While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.
If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.
It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.
As we endure the long wait for titles like “No Man’s Sky,” “Battlefield 1,” and “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” We Are The Mighty decided to dust off some old games in the archives.
“Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” is the re-mastered version of the 2006 game known for its chainsaw kills, ‘roided up characters, and brutal gameplay. It allows players to fight as Delta Squad soldiers against the dreaded Locusts, an army of bug-like monsters, in H.D. Players control Marcus Fenix or Dominic Santiago in a mission to map Locust tunnels and deploy a Lightmass Bomb – imagine a cross between napalm and a nuclear bomb.
For most of the game, Delta squad consists of four members which the player can give simple orders to as they face off against Boomers – massive infantrymen who fire explosive grenades, Berserkers – unstoppable linebackers who will charge players, Locust Drones – standard infantrymen, and others.
The fights progress from the ruins of major cities and through underground tunnels and mines before culminating on a moving train. Features of the different areas, such as whether or not the area is exposed to satellites or is lit by the sun, change the combat mechanics and keep the player on their toes.
The main antagonist, General RAAM, is the head of all Locust forces and is known for his ruthlessness. He executes one human after another in brutal ways and is able to control a flock of krill, bat-like creatures that will attack Delta soldiers en mass and tear them apart.
Considering how far out the game’s plot and enemies are, it features surprisingly realistic combat mechanics. Players need to maneuver carefully and use cover to bring down the Locust grunts and massive monsters. In two-player mode, players can support each other during attacks, even when the map forces them to use two different routes.
Players have to endure a number of different scenarios in the main game, everything from defending a stranded outpost like they’re on a firebase being overrun to assaulting an enemy strongpoint defended by elite warriors.
Players need to support each other in multiplayer mode. Despite the small teams, the fighting is still intense. (GIF: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox 1)
In multiplayer mode, modern gamers may be surprised that most game types support four versus four multiplayer, and one only supports two versus two. But, these smaller teams make the fighting feel less hectic and more personal, creating less chaos and supporting tactical play.
Of course, the re-mastered graphics make everything in “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” look more realistic and prettier than in the original. While this breaks from the aesthetic of the 2006 version, a notoriously gritty experience, it still feels like Delta Squad is in the suck.
For gamers who haven’t gotten into “Gears of War” yet or who want a refresher before the release of “Gears of War 4” in October, the Ultimate Edition is great fun.
Wil Willis knows a thing or two about weapons. He was born into a military family, served as an Army Ranger for four years, then transferred to the Air Force to become a pararescueman for another ten years. Since his time in service, he’s found ways to utilize the skills he learned on active duty as both an entertainer and an instructor.
Now an actor and writer, Willis is perhaps best known for his work on Forged in Fire, a competition series where world-class bladesmiths compete to create iconic edged weapons from history. He also teaches veterans and members of the first responder community about tactical combat casualty care.
So, yeah, he’s kind of bad ass.
U.S. Marine Weston Scott met up with Willis to connect over a past-time they both love: hitting the road on two wheels.
In this episode of “Paving the Way,” Willis and Scott hang out in their favorite Los Angeles garage working on their bikes and chatting about what it means for them to ride.
“I don’t do anything illegal. It’s not out of control. But I definitely am more aggressive than a lot of other riders. I ride every day.”
His riding style might be “fast and loose” but Willis insists it helps him slow down.
“I think being left alone with your thoughts can be scary sometimes, especially when you’re talking about a transitional period. I’ve got through it a bunch of times. Everybody’s had rough times. For me, getting back on the back was a way of slowing everything down in my mind. I do believe there’s something spiritual I get out of riding.”
Check out the episode above to find out more about why Willis rides every day, but Scott sums it up nicely: “It’s just good for the soul.”
The 1986 movie “Heartbreak Ridge” took the Marine Corps community and audiences by storm as it showcased Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway’s rough and tumble personality. Clint Eastwood took on dual roles as he starred in and directed this iconic film role about a man who is on the tail-end of his military service.
Moviegoers across the nation love to get a fresh bucket of popcorn and sit down in front of the big screen to watch a well-crafted action film. With so many cool explosions and witty one-liners, there’s only one thing left to take a movie from great to legendary: an epic knife fight.
From a directorial standpoint, capturing an excellent knife fight on film is both dangerous and difficult, but the following movies managed to pull off the impressive feat in unique ways.
In 1986, New York City got its first taste of the knife-wielding, Aussie bushman, Michael J. ‘Crocodile’ Dundee. The character from down under was a huge blockbuster for Paramount Pictures and featured one of the funniest almost-knife fights to ever hit the big screen.
In a knife-measuring contest, Dundee’s unveils his monster blade and dwarfs the tiny switchblade brandished by thugs who wanted his wallet. Unfortunately for the muggers, the Aussie’s steel was far too fierce.
It may not be the most action-packed knife fight, but it’s f*cking hilarious. Who could forget this line?
It’s safe to say that Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. Known for his cinematic helicopter kicks, Van Damme takes on a bunch of murderous thugs in his living room while sporting nothing but his undies.
In attempts to avenge the murder of his wife, the Belgian martial artist travels through time to try and rewrite history, defeating all the bad guys along the way.
When moviegoers show up to the cinemas to watch a Tarantino film, they know they’re in for some witty dialogue and a sh*t-ton of F-bombs. When they showed up to watch Kill Bill: Volume 1, they got just that — and a whole lot of action. In this scene, our protagonist goes up against an old enemy and the two immediately draw steel. Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox put on a dazzling display — until they’re interrupted by a four-year-old girl.
Although 1992’s Under Siege, starring Steven Seagal, defies many of the real-life attributes of life in the Navy, it does showcase a pretty cool knife fight that you wouldn’t have expected out of acclaimed actor Tommy Lee Jones. Seagal and Jones go toe-to-toe, pitting a real-life Aikido expert up against a talented actor in one of the best knife-fight scenes ever to take place on a Navy vessel.
Tommy Lee Jones takes the two top spots on this list — who would’ve thought this veteran actor was so freakin’ talented with a blade? In 2003, William Friedkin brought The Hunted to the big screen, which follows an FBI tracker (played by Jones) as he sets out to capture a trained assassin (played by Benicio Del Toro), who’s made a sport out of killing humans.
The film features some pretty epic knife fights and showcases some interesting human-tracking skills.
Most people know the basic history of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy — that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, who had briefly defected to the Soviet Union, fired the shots that killed the 35th president using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that had been purchased from a mail-order catalog.
But could there be more to the story behind one of the most dramatic events of the 20th Century? With the declassification of over 2 million documents, now the assassin’s activities can be traced in weeks, months, and years before Oswald fired the shots that altered the course of history.
A former CIA agent and a former LAPD detective are now looking into these documents – carrying out an independent investigation spanning the entire world in order to answer the many questions about the assassination of President Kennedy that have divided America for decades: Did Oswald act alone, or did he have help? If so, who helped him, and why?
The upcoming HISTORY series “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” premieres April 25, 2017, and features a bombshell – a document showing that Oswald had met with Soviet officials in Mexico City six weeks before he assassinated John F. Kennedy.
The series features a host of interviews and new revelations, including insight from experts and former special operations soldiers like WATM friend Marty Skovlund. Check out the short trailer from HISTORY below.
By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.
Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.
“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.
Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.
In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.
He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.
The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.
“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”
There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.
The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.
“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”
The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”
He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.
“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”
Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.
“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”
And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.
“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”
After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.
He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.
“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”
By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.
“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”
He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.
Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.
Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”
At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”
And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.
“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”
And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.
“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”
Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.
“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”
Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.
“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”