Rod Lurie is a West Point graduate and former Air Defense Artillery officer in the US Army. After his time in service he worked as an entertainment reporter and film critic. He then transitioned into film making by writing and directing his first feature film Deterrence, which is a political thriller. Rod also directed The Contender, The Last Castle, Nothing but the Truth, and Straw Dogs. Most recently, he directed The Outpost, the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers who battled a force of roughly 400 enemy insurgents in north-eastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
James Mardsen, Hunter Lurie, Kate Bosworth, Rod, and Paige Lurie during the filming of Straw Dogs (2011)
Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
Currently I live in Studio City with my wife Kyra who is a New York Times bestselling novelist. I have one stepson Isaac and a daughter named Paige where we have a family dog named POTUS. My son Hunter passed away two years ago today. The Outpost is dedicated to him where since he died so young his passing to me relates to the young soldiers who died at the Battle of Kamdesh.
My family growing up consisted of my father, mother and three brothers. At age five, my family moved from Israel to Connecticut and then to Hawaii. My father is a military veteran of Israel and he worked as a political cartoonist, which includes illustrations for LIFE magazine where he is “the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world”, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. My mother Tamar is still the most successful real estate agent in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Rod at West Point during his plebe (first) year.
What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father focused on two things for me: creativity and sticking up for myself and our Jewish heritage. He is a wildly creative person and he told us to never stop creating where he reminded us about how God had created in the Bible. My mother was a voracious athlete where she encouraged me and my sibling to really push ourselves athletically. She is truly kind, and she raised us with empathy as well.
A picture of Caleb Landry Jones as Medal of Honor recipient Specialist Ty Carter in The Outpost.
What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
The challenge for any Jewish person in that era and in that part of the world was anti-Semitism. We had immigrated from Israel where, of course, we never faced that within our own communities.
Rod Lurie interviewing acting and film legend Paul Newman.
What values were stressed at home?
Creativity, Righteousness and Athleticism. We had a strong sense of morality in our home where ethics are what society expects and morals are what we expect of ourselves.
Rod at his West Point Graduation in 1984.
What drew you to film and media while growing up?
Growing up I saw a movie on a little TV named Ben-Hur. I couldn’t believe my eyes because I did not even know movies were made where my understanding was that they were just kind of there. I was so thrilled with film I decided my goal was to be somehow involved. Because of my lack of knowledge of the film making process I was most impressed with film critics. Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael were my idols where I wrote to them and they wrote me back. In the end, no motivation was greater than for me than to be a filmmaker. One of my beliefs is that you shouldn’t go to film school where you should go to study what you want to make movies about. The USMA is a place of leadership, which is what I want to make films on. My dream one day is to make a movie about West Point where I made a deal with Universal to make such a movie on the academy titled Heart of a Soldier with Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. Unfortunately, the film fell apart once the Iraq War broke out.
Scott Eastwood as Medal of Honor recipient SSGT Clint Romesha in The Outpost
What made you want to attend West Point and is the best lesson you learned while there at the academy?
My political awareness from an early age because of my father’s political cartoonist work influenced me to go to West Point where it seemed like a natural fit for me. The best thing I learned from West Point; when you think you have exhausted everything you have you really have only used 10% of your capabilities. This was said to me before I went in to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school.
Orlando Bloom, Cory Hardrict, Jacob Scipio, Bobby Lockwood, Alexander Arnold, Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, James Jagger, Celina Sinden, Jack Kesy, Taylor John Smith, and Milo Gibson in The Outpost.
What did you enjoy most about your service as an Army officer?
What I enjoyed most about my time in service were the friendships and comradery of the people I served with. The best friendships I have had in my life were from West Point and from the service where nothing will ever top that. Another enjoyable part about my time in the Army came from the confidence generated in the team-based atmosphere. Many people think the most stressful time of a cadet is when you are going through Beast Barracks when in reality the toughest time is when you are taking your exams. I am on my own when taking those tests. When going through things with your fellow troops you are going through it together. There is something about the concept of if we all work together, then we can succeed. It creates a quiet calmness.
Rod as a cadet at West Point.
What leadership lessons in life and from the service that have helped you the most in your career in Hollywood?
Problem solving and Teamwork. The film was an exceedingly difficult movie to put together because of budget and time constraints. On The Outpost, as the boss and being a military veteran we had some actors that were veterans where I insisted on having them for a couple of reasons. One is that for all of us who have worn the uniform we can always say I have been in a tougher scrape than this. No matter what we come across we know we can solve this problem. Another part of having veterans as part of the production was realism where I had several vets that were also Technical Advisors. Because of the calm problem-solving skills and real-life team-based experiences, we functioned as military veterans; smoothly and without panic. We stayed grounded and focused unlike how it may have been on other sets where anxiety and fear set in due to such tight restrictions.
Taylor John Smith as Distinguished Service Cross recipient First Lieutenant Andrew Bunderman and Orlando Bloom as Bronze Star recipient First Lieutenant Benjamin D. Keating in The Outpost.
What did you enjoy most about filming The Outpost?
There is a great satisfaction in knowing that we are doing good on this film. There are many families that lost their loved ones in the Battle of Kamdesh which were sons, brothers, and fathers. The fact that we can give to these people and families, not just closure, but a promise that their loved ones will have their names repeated and spoken forevermore is very satisfying. When my son died, I realized the obligation we had to these families. The friendships and comradery on set were amazing because of this shared mission. The crew all got so close on the film because of its importance, especially since it was something we were going through together in a tough situation.
Scott Eastwood as SSGT Clint Romesha in The Outpost.
What is the main message you want people to remember about The Outpost?
My goal is to get people to daily remember the military currently serving abroad. The service members need to be remembered where I believe that people just don’t think ever about the soldiers that are serving overseas right now. In previous wars like WWII, Korea, and Vietnam they were on our minds and now we don’t give it a second thought. In WWII, every soldier also had the same mission; we are going to stop Hitler. Today the answer is most likely mixed with why we are there in the Middle East, which makes their service even tougher. It is just not cool that soldiers currently in the fight today are forgotten. People must understand what these soldiers went through and that their sacrifices matter.