Usually Hollywood gets it wrong. Usually, not in Sgt. Will Gardner though. Long has the profession of the warrior been the source of blockbuster action flicks and big budget epics. But…they’re not always accurate. In fact, they’re rarely accurate. The small inaccuracies are only glaring to those of us who’ve lived it. Much in the same way that the small details of Sgt. Will Gardner make it relatable and powerful. It’s not the action flashbacks, that give weight to this film by Max Martini. No, it’s something much more compelling and riveting. We sat down and talked with Max Martini and Luis Bordonada about the film.
Usually…a movie is either informative or entertaining, Sgt. Will Gardner was both. It was deep, it was tragic, it was hilarious at times, and we needed to know how Max managed to walk the line of entertaining and informative so well.
Max Martini: At the beginning of this process I had a decision to make and it was either to make a documentary, which could be a little bit more heavy-handed…or a film…which had to qualify as a film. So it had to have some entertainment value and it had to have elements that made the story digestible…It was a little bit of a riddle to solve. As far as the comedy goes, there was a point in time where I had a shaved head and a goatee and people would come up to me randomly telling me how much I looked like Bryan Cranston. I added a play on that in the film and having those breaks in the story makes it enjoyable as a movie and quite honestly the hilarity is realistic. My military buddies are just as goofy as the comedy in my film!
Indeed it was. The ability of Max to capture the authenticity of real life in the writing, where despite the darkness, there are funny moments, there are points where serendipitous humor exists outside of the seriousness of the main plot points. That’s life. That’s real. Authentic.
Throughout the movie there are points in which both Will (Max Martini) and Charlie (Luis Bordonada) exist on the fringe of the law, yet maintain a level of morality. We asked Luis that in the character of Charlie, what lines he thought our two main characters wouldn’t cross.
Luis Bordonada: I think from Charlie’s perspective anything any action on his part that would hurt his brother he wouldn’t cross. When he was in combat, he had a mission and it was to protect his brother next to him. It’s really just about each other. From Charlie’s perspective, I think Will is a little more in control than Charlie was. I think Will is a little more aware of both of their PTSD more than Charlie…I always saw Will as having that innate sense of protection, I think he wouldn’t cross to where he would hurt anyone he considered an innocent person.
Both actors, have had their lives intimately affected by military service. For Luis, it was watching his father react to Platoon. While with Max, it happened at the time of the premiere of Saving Private Ryan.
Max Martini: I had a very pivotal moment in my life…pre Saving Private Ryan I was a very different person…I go to the premiere, at the pre-party I was hanging out with all these World War 2 veterans and we’re all shooting the shit ya know and drinking beer, just small talk and we go into the theatre. The opening scene starts and I’m looking around and these guys are shell-shocked and bawling. At the end of this film, I came out of the movie and we got back together and had some drinks afterwards and it just HIT me suddenly what that sacrifice was all about. It really affected me, it changed my politics, my understanding of the significance of our armed forces and started this string of military films.
Luis Bordonada: When I was a kid, my dad is a veteran and served two tours in Vietnam got injured in both and one in Korea, then retired. I didn’t grow up with him as the soldier but as the veteran. I remember one night I had been sent to bed and I was maybe 11 or 12 years old and I heard this loud noise coming from the living room. So I snuck away, I’m low crawling through the living room at night following this sound and I see the back of my father…I lean over to the left and I slide in to see what he was looking at and it was Platoon. It was the scene where William Dafoe was getting shot from behind. It was such a weird like dramatic moment to land on for me, and I could catch my dad’s shoulder sort of flinching a little bit, showing a little bit of emotion and I hadn’t seen that from him…I knew that I wanted to cause that sort of emotion.
The gravity of this film comes down to one simple characteristic. The authenticity. There is a lot of bad, but there is some good as well.
Max Martini: The thing that differentiates this movie from other films we’ve seen on PTS, it’s not two hours of watching someone suffer, that’s not the point. The point, what I wanted to do was show the journey of an American hero, that when we meet him is in a really horrible place in his life, a really low point in his life. I wanted to show that characters healing process, not just his state of misery. It was important to me that he had a moral code, that he had self-respect, that he demonstrated that he was capable of living a full and rich life – with a little assistance…I wanted him to stand tall throughout the entire film regardless of that fact that he was experiencing these conditions.
Sgt. Will Gardner is out in theaters and VOD January 11 and available on Blu-ray and DVD February 19.
30% of the movie’s profits will go to veteran charities dealing with PTSD and TBI.
If there is one thing I could leave everyone with it is this personal note;
There have been circumstances in my life, that had these instances gone slightly different, I’d have been in the same boat. I would be homeless, I would have been one of the 22. While the circumstances may not fit exactly for everyone, I was thoroughly impressed with how gritty and real the film was. Reach out to your brothers and sisters, help where you can and lift each other up.
FOLLOW THE FILM AND THE CHARITABLE WORK ON INSTAGRAM MAXMARTINILA AND TWITTER @MAXMARTINILA
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Official hashtag: #sgtwillgardner
Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/6cJZ535DOhY