Ryan Phillippe & Channing Tatum Interview STOP-LOSS

     March 26, 2008

Opening this Friday is the new Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) movie “Stop-Loss” For her follow-up film she’s decided to focus on the retention of military soldiers beyond their expected term. Using a loophole in soldiers’ contracts to prohibit servicemen and women from retiring once their required term of service is complete, the US government has been doing what’s widely referred to as a “Back Door Draft.”

In simple terms, say your contract with the military is for 2 years. You’re expecting to get out on the day you contract ends. But instead of going home, the government ships you back to Iraq or anywhere they chose. That’s getting Stop Lossed, and it’s what the film is about. Here’s the official synopsis:

Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind with the help and support of his family and his best friend, Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum), who served with him in Iraq. Along with their other war buddies, Brandon and Steve try to make peace with civilian life. Then, against Brandon’s will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor.

Anyway, about a week ago I got to participate in a roundtable interview withRyan Phillippe & Channing Tatum – the two leads in the movie. During the interview they discussed making the movie and everything that went into making it as realistic as possible. And, of course, we discussed what they have coming up.

As always, if you’d like to listen to the audio of the interview just click here. It’s an MP3 and easily placed on a portable player. Finally, if you’d like to watch some movie clips from “Stop-Loss” click here.

Question: Can each of you talk about how Kimberly Peirce approached you specifically or how’d it come about that you were chosen?

Channing Tatum: I chose Kimberly on this one. I totally read the script, you know? I heard that Kim was doing a movie. I loved her first film. I read the script and had no idea about stop-loss. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with Steve (his character). The idea of playing a soldier was always in my mind. I don’t know. I loved Steve. I thought that he embodied someone that I’ve always wanted to, like, be. I just never really had the balls to go and join the military, you know? Then I did a really extensive audition process, long, back and forth to New York and stuff like that and eventually came on the movie.

Ryan Phillippe: I had read the script. I had just finished working and I was worn out and I went to meet with her and we had a decent meeting and she didn’t want me (Laughter) and the studio kind of did. I spent more time with her-

Channing Tatum: I didn’t know that.

Ryan Phillippe: Yeah. I spent more time with her and then at that point I wasn’t sure whether or not it was right for me either obviously. I felt like she was a filmmaker and she have me forced upon her and then I guess she changed her mind. We started spending time together and developed a great working relationship and I decided it was a great opportunity to work with her and to play this character. There was so much range and all of the emotion and stuff with this guy. As we started shooting I was so happy that it all worked out because I loved the experience and everyone I was working with so much.

Q: So how do you see this guy?

Ryan Phillippe: I see him as a guy who has always sort of known hat is right and lived that way through most of his life. I think he is a very straightforward, decent, honest guy and through the events of this movie finds himself having to reconsider all those things about himself. I think that crisis of conscience and that soul-searching over what is duty and honor and weighing what is most important to you, I think his whole life everything is kind of black and white to him, you know? There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way.

Q: You guys play best friends. I wondered if you had to get together separately to get that dynamic before you shot.

Channing Tatum: Well, I had never met Ryan before and we kinda just got thrown into boot camp together- Hollywood boot camp, you know? Six days out in the 106-degree heat of Austin, which was binding in itself. When you camp there’s no TV. There’s no nothing and you just have to sit and talk to each other and Ryan came on and was just the leader immediately. I took to that and we all just sort of fell into our roles. It was learning experience. It was camp. It was like summer camp for kids and you got to shoot guns and learn urban combat and stuff.

Ryan Phillippe: You’d be surprised how close you can get over the course of like six days around the clock with a group of guys and it was one of the best things Kim did for us and for the film because it was genuine and I think you see it and feel it in the movie.

Channing Tatum: Absolutely.

RP: I think even that boot camp laid the groundwork for where we are all at today, like the way we are all still hanging and stay in touch because it was real and we all genuinely like each other and it is a pretty diverse group in terms of age and background.

CT: We all get together. I mean, Ryan’s got kids so he’s a little more locked down, you know, but we all spent New Year’s together. We all spent New Year’s out in the country together. We’re a family like that. A lot of people say that on movies, “Yeah, we’re all family”, but this is really real. I love these guys!

RP: Plus this movie was started a year and a half ago.

Q: Once you heard of the policy of Stop-Loss, how important was that in your decision making process to take these roles?

RP: You know, for me, I never had a political agenda. I didn’t want to feel like the movie did. What is most interesting to me about this movie in comparison to the other movies that are related to this war is that this one is strictly from the soldier’s perspective. It is strictly telling the soldier’s story it’s not about a leftist, anti-war. The fact that the character gets stop-lossed, that is the crux of what he goes through in the film, but that to me wasn’t an overriding reason like, “Oh people have got to know about this”. I think it’s good that people know about it and I think it has kind of been, not covered up, but put in the background. It is important to have an awareness of it, but it wasn’t a crusade like, “The world must know about stop-loss”, you know?

Q: Do you have an opinion about stop-loss yourselves?

CT: I don’t like to get political, but the only thing I have to say about that is that I feel like if there was a regular draft, you know like Vietnam, I don’t think there would be a war still. I think it would effect different families, you know, richer families and I do not think we would not be at war.

RP: I don’t like the term a lot of people are throwing around, you know, “The backdoor draft” because a lot of soldiers know about stop-loss. They know about the clause. Some of them don’t. I think some of it is brushed under the rug and sort of breezed over and not brought to attention, but this is the only war it’s been used in really.

CT: Yeah, and I think the soldiers now are slightly more aware because we’re four or five years in. It’s happened to a lot of people they know.

RP: Right.

CT: I think when they signed up it wasn’t something they were told up front. It’s not a big selling point when you are trying to get someone to sign up.

Q: (To Ryan) and your opinion?

RP: You know I’d hate to have it happen to me. I can understand the frustration. I think if someone signs up and dedicates and survives the length of what their contract was meant to be- and I know that these soldiers in Iraq where they hate it. They hate being there and it is boring. It’s a desert and they sit and think about every day, “I’m gonna get out. I’m gonna give my mother a hug. I’m gonna have a baby. I’m gonna get this job”. That’s what gets them through there time over there so I can’t imagine having that all taken away from you.

Q: Particularly at the eleventh hour.

RP: Absolutely at the eleventh hour and I think it speaks to really how unpopular this war is and how people do want it to end to kind of have to force people back into combat. That’s what it says to me.

Q: How did you guys become Texans? Did you just go and talk to a lot of people there in Austin or did you have friends?

CT: Being there helped. It’s so atmospheric. Everyone talks funny.

RP: Yeah, and I know I put on the jeans and the cowboy hat the whole time I was there and I listened to all the country music.

CT: I’m from Alabama and I love Country, but I didn’t listen to it as much as you. (Laughter) I actually love country music, but you listened to it like a maniac! I was just like, “Aaargh”!

RP: I had further to go because I am East coast, Northeast coast, so I had to-

CT: overcompensate? (Laughter)

RP: Yeah.

Q: You were in the barbeque capitol. Do you love that?

CT: Wooh. I was 205 pounds when I got off that movie.

RP: That’s right.

CT: I was a big, old boy when I got off that movie. I’ve been 215 in my life, but that was when I was working out and a muscle head. Oh! It was just barbeque and beer.

Q: That’ll do it.

CT: It’s true.

Q: Are you trying to say that Austin has a party life? (Laughter)

CT: Nah. (Sarcastically) I think there’s a little college there, a little one. I think they do a little drinking and a little partying.

Q: What’s that actually like, being a big movie in Austin? It’s a very film-centric town. What’s that experience like being in that place.

CT: It’s cool. You know, they embraced us. The more we went out and stuff the managers in the bars were like, “Yeah, come on back”, that sort of thing. They embraced us though. It was fun. It was a good time. We lived right on 6th St. so you couldn’t walk out of your house without running into some of dunk person so you are just like, “Oh, alright, y’all wanna get a drink?” (Laughter)

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Q: What’s with the little facial hair there? Is that for a role or-

CT: Yeah, I’m doing G. I. Joe right now.

Q: Oh. You’re the other G. I. Joe guy?

CT: Yeah, I’m the other guy, but I’m just trying to grow up a little bit. (Laughter)

Q: Channing, I’ll just throw this question at you. In the last few years your career has definitely exploded. You are doing G. I. Joe right now and you are also gonna be in Public Enemies-

CT: Little part, little part. I have a really cool, little part in that.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what attracted you to G. I. Joe and what the experience has been like and also are you looking forward to working with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp?

CT: Oh man, that goes without saying. That’s obvious. I’ve been a huge fan of both those guys and Michael Mann. You know, G. I. Joe, I was originally opposed to it. Especially coming off of Stop-Loss, playing a soldier about a really sensitive topic? I had no interest in going to play a fake soldier in a hyper-real kind of fantasy war. I was just like, “Nope. No thanks”, and then it came back around and I met on it and I read the script finally and the script was great. It actually has nothing to do with war, nothing to do at all. It’s like X-Men, Mission Impossible, and Star Wars. That’s how it is. I got kind of excited about it and jumped on. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it so that was kind of more of an incentive. I love him. He’s one of my best friends and to get a chance to work with him for a long time is really fun. Then I get to play Pretty Boy Floyd in the Michael Mann thing and Christian Bale gets to shoot me so- (Laughter) I never died in a movie. I’m a little nervous. I am like, “Oh god!” That’s a tall order, you know?

Q: Joseph plays the opposite side of you. Are you guys trashing off each other?

CT: Oh, you have no idea. (Laughter) You have no idea. In this he gets the better of me. I’m strapped to a table and he’s torturing me so it’s not gonna be fun. It’s not gonna be fun. I’m like, “Great, wait ‘til number two”. I’m like, “Mmm, you’ve got it coming.”

Q: What’s Franklyn? That’s something you’re doing?

RP: Yeah, that’s something I’ve finished. It’s a strange movie. It’s hard to describe. It’s essentially four different characters whose lives intersect in London. It’s with Eva Green and Sam Riley who’s really great.

CT: What was that now, what you said yesterday?

RP: Batman meets Magnolia. (Laughter)

Q: It’s a futuristic film?

RP: My role, yeah, sort of takes place- I play two characters and the majority of it takes place in a sort of alternate reality, but the whole movie isn’t set in the future.

Q: Do you have something coming up on the next few months?

RP: No. Nothing I’m starting on right now. I’m writing, but-

CT: babies. He’s taking care of his babies.

RP: Yeah, my kids. Just hanging out.

Q: Ryan, you’ve done two military, “coming home” sequences. One in Flags of our Fathers, one in this film. Both have an undertone of irony. How else do they differ?

RP: I think they differ in their capacity. That war was absolutely necessary and I just would have given my life for. That generation kept a lot more to themselves. That displacement the soldier feels coming home and the notion of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), those things weren’t really an aspect of World War II soldiers’ reality. I think everyone came home and kept it to themselves. I know my grandfather didn’t talk about it. The guys today, I found, that we talked to that have served over in Iraq are much more forthcoming and there’s a lot more acceptance of them dealing with what they have experienced. The other aspect that I think is incredibly different is the modern soldier. In World War II a kid was plucked from a neighborhood and put on a battlefield within the space of a month. Now you go through extensive training and you’re a machine. You’re a professional soldier now and that’s certainly not how it was in World War II.

Q: Did it surprise you to find out that Americans are inn hiding? That people that served our country are having to live under the radar now?

RP: It did, but I guess I would draw that same parallel to the ex-pats who are up in Canada or went off to Mexico. That was choice they were faced with when the draft was instituted and now there is no draft. I think is sort of a similar notion. I know it’s surprising and hopefully that will change.

Q: A lot of these guys, like your character, are feeling that they are at the top of their limits and they are going to flip and they shouldn’t be sent back when they are in that state.

RP: It’s a dangerous thing for the soldiers. It’s a dangerous thing for the civilians on the foreign soil. There’s also this thing to me that is really disturbing. The army now will accept people that have legitimate injuries and legitimate deficiencies and put that back into combat because they can’t get enough people over there. I now people who are in the National Guard in their 60s, they’ll take them to Iraq. They may put them in a desk job, but back in the old days if you had a strain or a bad back you couldn’t even get in the army. Now you can be blind in one eye and be put on the battlefield. That disturbs me.

Q: Have either of you made any trips over seas? I know a lot of actors have gone with the U. S. O. or whatever.

RP: No. I haven’t.

CT: I haven’t. I plan to though. Me and Joe and a few other guys are planning n doing some sort of documentary. We’re still shaping what it’s really gonna be about. I just want to know what they think. What do they think about all these war films coming out. I want to give them the camera and let them ask me questions. What do they think? Do they think Hollywood is doing a good job? Do we get it right? I know we can’t get it right. That’s impossible. We can get it close and we can try our hardest, but we are never gonna know what it’s like to be in war. All we can do is create a real person and try to be a real soldier.

Q: You talked to Kim’s brother who was a soldier over there. Is he okay about it? Does he seem like a regular guy?

RP: He seemed regular to me, but he’s really close friends with Channing.

Q: Did he have one tour or two?

RP: I don’t know. (To Channing) Was it once?

CT: I know he was in for four years. I don’t know how long he was over there.

RP: He was one of the ones that signed up after 9/11 with the intent of getting back at the people who aggressed against us. The thing is when he was over there Kim would I. M. him when he was in Fallujah, whatever it was. His closest friend over there was a guy who served as the inspiration, the guy who was stop-lossed. His life was put on hold so everything began there for Kim. She started to go around the country and researching. She’d go to actual homecomings and did extensive interviews and it kind of all built. Brett was around for quite a bit of the movie and really helped out in the beginning and we had guys who were there with us, soldiers that we spent our free time with, and I think it really enhanced the truth.

CT: Brett got out because of a soldier injury and he couldn’t- his shoulder was all messed up and when he got out the guy that replaced him died. He died, actually, during the filming. He was the leader of a tem, of a sniper unit and they ran into an L-shaped ambush.

Q: Because your guy was a sniper too, did you get to talk to him?

CT: He wanted to be a sniper. He didn’t actually get in. He was going back in to be a sniper.

Q: Ryan, you said you are going to write?

RP: I am writing right now.

Q: Is this a project you want to write and direct?

RP: It is something I’m hoping to direct this fall, a small, kinda dark comedy based on a true-crime story, probably set in Texas.

CT: The kid should write. He should direct. I wanna work with him too. I want him to direct me one day.

Q: Do you have a boo-boo? (Laughter)

CT: Interesting story. (Looks around) Make sure my publicist isn’t in here. He’ll kill me. I got into a head-butting contest with one of the soldiers last night.

Q: A real guy?

CT: Yeah. I lost (Laughter)

Q: So you haven’t left it behind yet?

CT: It’s not totally gone!

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