Emile Hirsch paid a visit to Littleton's Alamo Drafthouse last night for the red-carpet screening of his upcoming film Lone Survivor, which features the true story of Colorado native Danny Dietz (played by Hirsch), along with three other Navy SEALs who were ambushed during a covert mission in Afghanistan. Hirsch was joined by the Dietz family, as well as several military men and women, at the event benefiting the Danny Dietz Memorial Scholarship Fun, which annually awards one scholarship to a student from Littleton's Heritage High School, where Dietz was a graduate in 1999.
Danny fought for what he believed in," said a dressed-down Hirsch during his red-carpet arrival. Commenting that he'd been a fan of the best-selling Lone Survivor book before he'd ever read the script, Hirsch confessed to having "an overwhelming awe of what these guys went through. I was like, man these guys are incredible. It was all so foreign to me. And that was the driving force behind the film, to discover what made these guys go."
Following the troubled mission of SEAL Team 10, Lone Survivor tells the story of the four-man mission into the mountains of Afghanistan, looking for a high-level al Qaeda operative who was said to be close with Osama Bin Laden. After capturing what turned out to be two civilians, the soldiers are faced with the ethical dilemma of either executing these men, or setting them loose with the realization that al Qaeda teams would learn of their presence. Unwilling to fire their weapons on non-combatants, the civilians were released, which led to the four Americans being attacked by Taliban fighters, according to a Navy release.
Along with two other soldiers, Dietz was killed in the operation, and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the U.S. military's second highest citation for valor.
Taking place not far from the Danny Dietz Jr. Memorial Highway, and the controversial statue of Dietz in Berry Park, the film screening was a somber occasion for many in attendance. While most of the ticket-holders to the charity event watched Lone Survivor in a larger theater, the Dietz family viewed the film that portrayed their son's heroic end in a private theater, where the usual food and drinks servers of the Alamo Drafthouse remained respectfully absent.
"It's not a political movie, at least not intentionally so," Hirsch said, commenting on the delicate nature of a film portraying a controversial war, particularly at a time when reports of massive delays of veterans benefits are scandalizing the military. "I don't think [director] Peter Berg wanted to engage in any particular debate. It was more about showing guys working in a very difficult situation, irregardless of the politics of war. It focuses more on the interpersonal relationships of these guys."
Since Hirsch was previously known for portraying outcasts and idealists in films like Milk, Into the Wild and Lords of Dogtown, taking on the role of a fallen soldier was a change of pace, and he trained extensively with Navy SEALs, as did co-star Mark Wahlberg. "I like roles that challenge me, frighten me, intimidate me," Hirsch said.
Lone Survivor opens in theaters on January 10.
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Follow Josiah Hesse on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.