“An author cannot, of course, remain wholly unaffected by his experience.”
These are the words of arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and WWI veteran, John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien.
In June 1916, the newly commissioned lieutenant kissed his newly married wife goodbye as he boarded the transport to Calais, France. Come July 1st, one of the bloodiest battles in human history took place near the Somme River. That day, his closest friend was killed and Tolkien forever changed.
Shouldering the burden of leadership and the ever looming threat of death, by disease or the enemy, Tolkien carried on. Ultimately, it was Trench Fever that sent him home ten days before the dust settled.
Deemed no longer medically fit for service, Tolkien returned to his passion: writing. The rest is history.
When the second edition of TheLord of the Rings was released, the foreword stated: “The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.” Tolkien continued with, “But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”
He hated direct comparisons of his works to real world events. No real world leader is Sauron. No real world army are the orcs. And the One Ring is not a reference to the nuclear bomb.
Much of the psychology and emotions of his works, however, did pull from his time on the battlefield, most notably with the Dead Marshes. In the second volume (and film) The Two Towers, the ghoulish Gollum lead the protagonist, Frodo Baggins, through a swamp full of bloated bodies under the mud and water.
Tolkien’s biography, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, explained that what Frodo experienced in the Marsh was specifically based on the Battle of the Somme where Tolkien saw countless bodies across the muddy battlefield.
Themes were also pulled from his leadership and the bravery of his men. Tolkien studied at Oxford and lead men from mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. In another biography, Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien said he “felt an affinity for these working class men, but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with ‘other ranks’.” This man-apart thematically affected many of the characters in his novels.
One of the largest changes from the novel to any film adaptation is the “Scouring of the Shire” and the mindset of Frodo after the war. In the final chapters of the last book, Saruman attacked the Shire and all of the townspeople had to defend their home.
Afterward, Frodo was left alone.
War changed him. Frodo couldn’t just return to being a happy, singing Hobbit like everyone else after the war. He’d been stabbed, poisoned, and lost a finger. Frodo, like Tolkien himself, had become “shell-shocked” after combat.
The forward of the 1991 release of The Lord of the Rings added another Tolkien quote: “The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important.”
…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy,
Whiskey in the Jar
Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.
…complete me. (
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.
Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and
Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.
Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story,
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.
The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.
The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.
It’s now safe to say that Disney+ has a bonafide hit on its hands with their new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. The gritty worlds depicted in the series are ripe with believable characters, well shot and choreographed action sequences, and of course, an adorable (and highly meme-able) character just begging to become a hit toy this Christmas. I’ll admit, as the sort of guy that tends to prefer Kirk over Solo, I wasn’t all that excited ahead of time about “The Mandalorian,” but three episodes in, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert.
What won me over? Well, I’m a sucker for a space western (I am, after all, a card carrying Browncoat), but it’s not just the “shootout at the OK Corral” vibe of the show that gets me; it’s also the weapons tech. Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but the technology depicted in the franchise has always been more about the future than the past, and much like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Mandalorian” is choke full of technology that may seem at home in the 24th century, but is actually on the verge of becoming a reality right here and now.
While I’ll try my best to avoid them, here’s fair warning: spoilers ahead.
What sort of tech is that? Well there’s…
Weapons that can see through walls
In episode 3 of “The Mandalorian,” Mando is doing a bit of reconnaissance on a building he may want to blow his way into (trying my best to avoid spoilers here), so he shoulders his breach-loading doom-rifle and syncs it with his helmet, using the rifle to help him see the heat signatures of people through the walls of the building. This sort of gear would certainly come in handy for galactic bounty hunters, but is also finding its way into use with first responders and the U.S. military already.
Systems like Lumineye will soon allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier using wall penetrating radar.
This system won’t work from a few hundred yards away like Mando’s, but his setup seems to be FLIR based rather than using radar technology. As FLIR themselves point out, most walls are actually too thick or well insulated to allow the detection of heat signatures, putting Mando’s version a bit further into the realm of science fiction… unless those walls are made out of some really thin space dirt or something.
Jet Packs that actually work
Boba Fett, the character that’s arguably responsible for the existence of “The Mandalorian” (despite never actually doing anything cool in any of the movies) may have become a pop-culture icon thanks to nothing more than a kickass helmet and a jet pack, which made it sort of disappointing when the protagonist of this new series was shown hoofing it everywhere. By the end of episode 3, we do get to see some jet-pack-packing Mandalorians take to the sky in one hell of an action sequence, proving that there’s more to being able to fly than just falling in a Sarlacc pit.
While not quite the same in practice, British Royal Marine-turned-inventor Richard Browning has been raking in headlines for a few years now with his own jet pack suit that often draws comparisons to Iron Man (the first installment of which was helmed by John Favreau — the same guy that created “The Mandalorian”). Recently, Browning made a pretty damn cool looking flight off of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Take on Gravity Jet suit demo with HMS Queen Elizabeth
Granted, the “Gravity Jet Suit” isn’t just a pack you wear on your back like you see in “The Mandalorian,” so Browning doesn’t have two free hands to dual-wield pistols… but dual wielding is a pretty dumb thing to do in a fight anyway. Instead, Browning and co. developed an M16 mount for the jetpack that, honestly, comes with its own problems.
A grappling cable that works
Mando uses his grappling cable for a number of things, from climbing moving vehicles to killing bad guys, and while the U.S. military isn’t quite ready to start spearing dudes with grappling hooks in the field, they have already begun fielding machines that assist in climbing (or reverse-repelling) up walls. These systems aren’t quite small enough to be wrist-mounted like Mando’s, but are pretty damn effective when it comes to climbing. I had a chance to try out a version of this technology at Shot Show a few years ago, but I didn’t look quite as cool as the Mandalorian when I did it.
A system similar to this one has already found its way into SOCOM’s inventory, and the exact system I used has since been contracted to the Chinese government for their special operators.
The trailer for “Rambo: Last Blood” has been released, and this time, John Rambo’s fighting right here at home. It’s been 37 years since the first Rambo film hit theaters, yet somehow the titular character remains a fan favorite among veterans young and old. At first glance, this new movie looks just like Rambo’s previous outings: ripe with gritty violence and fiery explosions, but just beneath the surface, the Rambo franchise offers America’s veterans a whole lot more.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) Teaser Trailer— Sylvester Stallone
The Rambo franchise has always filled a unique role in the American cultural lexicon. Over the decades (yeah, decades), the franchise has shifted under the weight of popular sentiment across a wide spectrum of themes, delivering vastly different stories through the lens of the same main character.
From a troubled special operations veteran struggling to find his place in the “civilized” world, to a killing machine with a heart in the jungles of Burma, John Rambo’s character has long been a reflection of American fears about what war is, and more importantly, what it does to us. While Rambo may not offer us the most poignant approach to society’s ills, it has always been there like a cultural Rosetta Stone, translating contemporary fears into blockbuster action using the same visual language sold to the coveted blockbuster demographics that came before us. The world changes, but Rambo stays the same.
Okay, so maybe his knives get bigger.
In Rambo’s newest (and likely last) outing, the legendary character appears to have finally come home – working on a farm that, logic dictates, is close enough to the Mexican border to find the legendary warfighter squaring off against a powerful cartel. Unlike in previous Rambo films, which have shown the character traveling the world to fight the enemy, Last Blood brings the fight right to Rambo’s door. Of course, in keeping with the character’s (perhaps repetitive) journey, he seems reluctant to get involved at first, until an unseen catalyst forces his hand.
In many ways, the Rambo franchise has taken on its own sort of veteran journey, starting with the character’s struggle to find a place for himself after a war that gave him purpose, maturing into the story of a reluctant expert in his field, and now, proving that we veterans can still fight for what matters even as we get older. Rambo is indeed warrior-wish-fulfillment, but not in the ways its critics might imagine. The violence depicted in Rambo may be rad, but the violence isn’t the message, it’s the medium.
Rambo films are always about finding a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. Purpose, for many veterans, is exactly what we feel like we lack after we put up our boots for the last time. We may not see ourselves in John Rambo, but in the ludicrous universe these movies inhabit, we do see one of our own — struggling and winning, thanks to the same hard work, grit, and determination we prize in ourselves.
Unlike most veterans, John Rambo has always been able to pull off a bandana, though.
While it may seem lofty (and even silly) to attribute such serious thought to a film with the almost comical title of “Rambo: Last Blood,” it’s just as silly to dismiss the lasting effect John Rambo has had on generations of moviegoers. The first Rambo film hit theaters three years before I was born and twenty-four years before I put on a uniform for the first time, but somehow, the movie weaseled its way into my brain, informing some of my expectations about service and its social and political costs. The movie gave Vietnam veterans like my father a melodramatic and passionate spokesman — because hard emotions don’t trade in nuance, and neither does Rambo. And it spurred a series of sequels, each tailored specifically to their times and the conflicts weighing on American minds.
Last Blood’s Rambo is no different; as an aging veteran offers us one more wish fulfilled, proving that even as we get older, we can still fight just like we always have, and we can still sacrifice for a cause that’s worthy.
Is Rambo realistic? Of course not. Is it ham-fisted storytelling? Absolutely.
Bruce Willis stars with Frank Grillo (The Grey, Captain America: Civil War) in a new explosions-in-space film called Cosmic Sin.
Set in 2542, 400 years after humans colonized other planets, Willis plays a retired military general who is called back into service after a hostile alien threat with the power to infect and take over human bodies attacks a remote planet. Willis teams up with Grillo and a team of elite soldiers to face off against the alien fleet.
Written by Corey Large and Director Edward Drake (who co-wrote Breach, another sci-fi feature starring Willis), Cosmic Sin also stars Adelaide Kane, Luke Wilson and Lochlyn Munro. This of course isn’t Bruce Willis’ first sci-fi or even space rodeo. The action star is known for his work in The Fifth Element, Looper, 12 Monkeys, and, of course, Armageddon.
Cosmic Sin comes to theaters, On Demand, and On Digital on March 12, 2021.
It’s a testament to the everlasting mythology of the SEAL Teams when a screenwriter – who also happens to be an Air Force Pararescue Jumper – and his Marine veteran dad team up to write a TV show about them. That’s exactly what happened with History’s show Six, now in its second season.
David Broyles is the son of Hollywood (and Vietnam) veteran William Broyles, writer of some of the best military films and television in recent memory, including China Beach, Apollo 13, Jarhead, and Flags of Our Fathers. Now father and son can add Six to that list.
Before David joined the military, he watched the Twin Towers fall with his father, who was a lieutenant of Marines in Vietnam. He had just finished his degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Within a week, he was looking at joining the military, judging them by their special operations teams.
Yes, he considered joining the Navy to be a SEAL. What he chose was Air Force Pararescue.
(Courtesy of David Broyles)
“I looked at the SEALs, I looked at the Marine Corps, and I found Pararescue,” says David Broyles, co-creator and one of the main writers on Six. “It seemed really challenging with the high washout rate. But also the job was to save lives, so after watching the towers come down I wanted to help. I want to make a difference. And probably like most of us, I wanted to challenge myself.”
There were 82 would-be pararescue jumpers in Broyles’ initial class. By the time he graduated there were only two (and four more would graduate later). Broyles spent his career in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan. There were good times and there were bad.
“I never felt more alive and never felt more terrified,” Broyles says. “The bonds of brotherhood that I experienced have always stuck with me and the things I saw and did have always powered my writing.”
Broyles always knew he would be a writer. After the military, he attended Columbia Film School in New York City. When the opportunity came to write Six, it was a chance to express in writing what it all meant to him and his friends that went through the war together.
“It was a way to work through that through writing,” he told We Are The Mighty. “A cathartic way to explore it and really honor the guys that were still in there and the guys that didn’t come back.”
With his father William Broyles, the two wrote the pilot for Six, the elder Broyles bringing his experience in Vietnam while the younger Broyles brought his experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Six, however, William Broyles was also bringing his experience as a father who watched his son go off to war.
(Photo courtesy of David Broyles)
William Broyles went off to Vietnam as a youth and didn’t really think about how his mother or father felt during his time away. his recent experiences with war put him in just that position. While his son was deployed, William Broyles would go to his cabin in the mountains and not answer the phone. It was a trying time for the families back home.
So while Six highlights the military family in the field, it doesn’t forget the family at home that gets left behind.
The father-son duo knew they couldn’t please everyone (they acknowledge how hard it is to please the entirety of the military-veteran community) but were determined to zero-in on the emotional truth of those moments of what it meant to serve and to be part of a brotherhood.
And they succeeded.
David’s friends and colleagues in the special operations community reached out to him to voice their support and admiration for the show and appreciate his message of what it means to be part of that team.
“I think they respect what we’re trying to do,” Broyles says “But, it’s the toughest group to please. There’s no doubt about it. We’re constantly straddling the line between reality and drama. We try to straddle the worlds between the hard authenticity, the tactics, the equipment, the movement. We wanted to make it as real and authentic as possible without putting any of the guys who are actually doing the job at risk.”
The other side of the coin is telling the story to those who have no experience in war and loss, but making them come to understand what is to be part of that bigger picture.
“That is drilling down to the emotional truth of the moment,” he says. “It’s not just about war, it’s about brotherhood and loss and family. I think people respond to those kind of broader, deeper issues regardless of whether or not you have military experience.”
Okay, you’ve heard all the complaints about the F-35. It’s super-expensive. It’s got problems getting ready for combat. But in the real world, there’s no other option. And as WATM has already explained, the Marine Corps desperately needs to replace its F/A-18 Hornets.
But suppose, instead of blowing their RD money on the F-35, the Air Force, Navy, and Marines had decided to pull out File A56-7W and instead replicate Airwolf? They’d have gotten a much better deal – and it might even have helped the Army, too.
Airwolf’s specs (click here for another source) reveal this helicopter already took advantage of some stealth technology, had modern ECM systems and sensors, and very heavy armament (four 30mm cannon, two 40mm cannon, and various air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles). All in all, it’s very powerful, even if it was the brainchild of one of the big TV showrunners of the 1980s and 1990s.
So, why does it beat the F-35? Here are some of the reasons.
1. It can operate off any ship
With a top speed of over Mach 2, Airwolf may have the performance of a fighter jet, but it takes off and lands like a helicopter – without the need for the complex mechanisms used on the V-22 Osprey.
Think of it this way; with Airwolf in its hanger deck every surface combatant and amphibious ship could carry what amounts to a Generation 4.5 fighter. Even the Littoral Combat Ships could handle Airwolf, giving them a lot more punch in a fight than they currently have.
2. It would replace more airframes than the F-35 would
The F-35 is replacing the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and A-10 Thunderbolt II in U.S. service. Airwolf not only would replace all four of those airframes, but it would also replace all of the AH-1 and AH-64 helicopters in Marine Corps and Army service. The promise of the TFX program as originally envisioned in the 1960s could be fulfilled at last!
3. Better performance
According to an Air Force fact sheet, the F-35 has a top speed of Mach 1.6, a ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a range of 1,350 miles without refueling. Airwolf hits a top speed of Mach 2, a ceiling of 100,000 feet, and a range of 1,450 miles.
In other words, Airwolf would have the F-35 beat in some crucial areas. Now, the F-35 might have an advantage in terms of payload (fixed-wing planes usually have that edge), but the fact remains, Airwolf would have been a very viable candidate for that competition – and might have had the edge, given that the Army would have bought airframes to replace the Apache.
Oh, and here’s the Season 1 opener, just for kicks:
The early 1980s brought us some epic action movies like “Conan the Barbarian,” “Blade Runner,” and let’s not forget “E.T.”
Although these films were fun to watch, they didn’t have the impact on veterans like the movie “First Blood” did.
Directed by Ted Kotcheff, John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was a former Green Beret who just wanted to visit his Vietnam buddy when things took a turn for the worse and he ended up battling a small town’s police force after an unlawful arrest.
But we’ve always wondered what it would have been like to serve under his command. Here’s our take on how being in Rambo’s platoon would be.
1. Alternate shooting techniques
In most boot camps we’re taught proper weapons handling. But forget all those safety briefs you were forced to listen to when Capt. Rambo reports in as the new commanding officer, because every shot you fire from here on out will be from your hip.
Plus it looks awesome if you can handle the recoil. (Giphy)
2. No bayonets
Having the ability to mount a knife on the barrel of your rifle isn’t enough.
If you were in Rambo’s company, your blade would have to be up to such standards that it can slice a bad guy up and be thrown across the room with perfect precision.
Where in our culture, do you find the difference between the artistic freedom of Star Wars and the commercial viability of Star Wars? The answer is clearly what you can and can’t say at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. After a decidedly mixed reception to the opening of the hugely anticipated theme park attraction, one small detail emerged relevant for parents and children. Do you remember what Yoda and Obi-Wan call children-Jedi-in-training in the Star Wars prequels? Well, if you do, don’t expect the in-character staff at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to say that word.
That’s’ right, according to early reports, you can’t say “younglings” at Disneyland, and that’s because of one line for Revenge of the Sith. On June 6, 2019, Newsweek reported that according to Star Wars YouTuber Jenny Nicholson, staff will no longer say “younglings,” and instead say “kids” or “children.” The reason why is: “Parents didn’t like it because one of the only times you hear it in the movies is the phrase ‘killing younglings.'”
Now, this isn’t an officially confirmed press release from Disney or anything like that, so it’s not clear that this is 100 percent true. And though Obi-Wan does say “I’ve seen security footage of Anakin killing younglings,” in Revenge of the Sith, Yoda also warmly and affectionately calls the smallest Jedi Padawans “younglings.” It’s also notable that the word “younglings” is spoken with affection and reverence relative to young Jedi children throughout the popular animated cartoon seriesStar Wars: The Clone Wars. Also, at some point, before George Lucas sold Lucasfilm and the Star Wars IP to Disney in 2012, he was considering a spin-off series just about younglings.
If parents really are objecting to the use of the word “younglings” at Disneyland because it triggers the line “killing younglings” in the minds of their younglings, then two things become true right away.
First: these parents are letting their kids watch Revenge of the Sith enough times that this “killing younglings” line is burned in their brains. This is a dubious parenting decision. You could argue that Revenge of the Sith shouldn’t really be a movie kids should watch until they are at least in their early tweens, perhaps later.
Second: Despite the huge hoopla made in the fandom about the return of The Clone Wars, families maybe don’t really care about Star Wars cartoons? Because if their younglings were watching the programming aimed at younglings and not the murder-fest that is Revenge of the Sith, then they would know “younglings” is a word to be celebrated.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open now, and you can start making new reservations in early July 2019
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
There’s a widespread belief that MPs will look the other way for other MPs in certain situations. Now, I am in no way saying that there should be unfair advantages given when it comes to the law. That being said, there is no denying that this practice exists in various ways.
MPs hold one another to a standard that is often a few pegs above the written, established standard. So, a lot of times the “looking out” comes in the form of keeping other MP to task and up to snuff when the human element rears its head. Sometimes, “looking out” means offering just a ride home — it depends on the variables.
4. People want to be cool with you… when they don’t hate you
Everyone wants to be cool with MPs. It means they’ll probably get through the gate on personal recognition a little more frequently and, if they have an encounter with an MP, it’ll likely be pleasant.
This rapport is typically built through politeness, a few well-timed store runs, and some glazed pastries.
3. Face of the base
These days, we hear a lot of references to the ‘tip of the spear.‘ The expression is typically reserved for those special few among us who are truly and undeniably badass.
As a Military Policeman, not only are you the first face to greet every single visitor and vehicle to enter the base, you are, by definition, the tip of that extremely local spear. Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but hey, that is a pretty big deal.
2. Rapid maturity
Having an authority that supersedes rank can be a lot to handle. With young MPs, you typically get one of two types:
Type A is someone who has walked with a big stick for most of their life and now they have some actual weight behind their actions. They are likely to push the limits of their authority a bit further than most until they learn better.
Type B is someone who is timid and unsure of how to impose their authority the right away. They’re more likely to tiptoe towards competence with fewer mistakes along the slower road.
Both of these guys are going to have to make their way through the gauntlet fast if they hope to survive through their enlistments.
Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.
WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.
WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?
We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.
My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..
We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.
The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615
As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.
We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.
They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.
Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.
I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.
The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.
WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?
I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.
President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov
WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?
I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.
A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.
WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?
I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.
And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com
WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?
There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.
Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.
Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.
Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.
Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com
Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com
WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”
When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.
When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.
I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!
As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com
Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.
Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.
WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?
“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.
I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.
“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.
Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.
“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.
Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.
My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”
Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.
Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.
Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.
Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.
On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?
I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.
Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.
Did the prime minister or the grunge icon say these things?
On the surface, the two have nothing in common. The Washington-born front man for Nirvana led the group to rock stardom. Eventually becoming known as “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain as “the spokesman of a generation.”
On the other hand, Sir Winston Churchill served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and led Britain to victory over Nazi Germany during World War II. Both Cobain and Churchill were student of literature — Cobain a poet and Churchill a writer. Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his overall, lifetime body of work.
Besides their different walks of life, the two seem to have a similar outlook. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Can you guess who said what?
In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Matrix, Dolby Cinema™ and AMC Theaters will be showing the film on the big screen for one week only. Starting Friday, Aug. 30, you can follow the white rabbit and — if you so choose — you can do it with sound so powerful, your seat will literally shake.
Dolby Vision™ has colors more vivid than any other theater I’ve experienced. In fact, the Dolby trailer at the beginning of the screening was one of the most surprising moments of the viewing experience. I won’t spoil it here, but I was pretty impressed.
Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos® sound “fills the room and flows all around you” — literally. There are speakers on the ceiling.
First of all, I absolutely recommend seeing The Matrix again in theaters. If you saw it twenty years ago or you’re already a fan, I think you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of it (and if you haven’t seen it since then, my bet is you’ll catch so much more than you did the first time).
If you somehow haven’t seen it yet, the film totally holds up. Some lines are so perfect, they make the screenwriter in me giddy. I went home and re-read the script. It’s great.
The whole scene with The Oracle is perfection. I love a good prophecy story, even if it’s just about a vase.
As for seeing it in Dolby Cinema™, here’s what I’ll say. It’s intense. You can literally feel the sound waves hit you in your seat. The punches, the technology, the gunfights — you can feel them. It’s great sound design, but if you’re like me and you have sensitive hearing, then be warned and definitely don’t sit up front (although, there are speakers all throughout the theater, so I don’t know where you’re most safe?).
Actual footage of me watching ‘The Matrix’ in Dolby…
I expect that most people aren’t as sensitive to light and sound as I am, though, so if you’re already a Matrix fan, or just an avid movie goer, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.
I’d also guess that, short of plugging us all into the actual matrix, this is how the Wachowskis would want someone to see their epic cyberpunk film — plus it’s a good time to freshen up your memory before ‘Matrix 4’ is released.