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French President François Hollande poses with the four men who thwarted a terrorist attack on a French train during a Legion of Honor ceremony at the Élysée in Paris Aug. 24, 2015. Stone was on vacation with his childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, when an armed gunman entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter. The three friends, with the help of a British passenger, subdued the gunman after his rifle jammed. Stone’s medical training prepared him to begin treating wounded passengers while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Stone is an ambulatnce service technician with the 65th Medical Operations Squadron stationed at Lajes Field, Azores. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

French President François Hollande poses with the four men who thwarted a terrorist attack on a French train during a Legion of Honor ceremony at the Élysée in Paris Aug. 24, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

On August 21, 2015, an Islamic terrorist attacked the passengers on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. The terrorist was successfully subdued by his would-be victims Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Specialist Alex Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler. Now, Clint Eastwood brings this story of heroism to the big screen with some unexpected stars, the heroes themselves. Skarlatos, Sadler and Stone will be portraying themselves in Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris.”

The three men had written a book about their experiences, “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train and Three American Heroes,” and were ecstatic when they heard that Eastwood was going to make their story into a film. The biggest bombshell, however, was that Eastwood wanted them to play themselves in the film. “We’re all fans of Clint Eastwood going back into childhood,” said Skarlatos, “We’re obviously incredibly grateful, and then when he asked us to play ourselves, we were just shocked.”

Sadler agreed. “I thought we had reached the mountain top when he decided to pick up our story. Then to have him ask us to play ourselves? It was out of the whole realm of possibility…I’m thankful that he even gave us the opportunity and thankful for God that he gave us this opportunity.”

Stone also said that he felt they were very fortunate that it was Eastwood who picked up their story. “We knew he was going to tell our story right…It wasn’t even a decision. It was a given, and we trust him and he couldn’t do us wrong. He fully included us from the beginning to the end…Even before he asked us to play us we were very included in the story…Then having him ask us to play ourselves was just a huge blessing.”

All three men said it was an incredible experience reliving the European vacation that made them unexpected heroes. “It was super cool [to revist those sites.],” said Sadler. “It made it easy to put us back in 2015. We’re in the same clothes with the same bags, same luggage…it made for an easy transition.”

“It was really cool,” said Stone. “It felt like a closing of a chapter.”

The film version of this chapter of the three heroes’ lives has stayed very true to the real events. “The fight scene was 100 percent accurate,” said Stone. “A lot of things that went in our favor shouldn’t have…It’s a very genuine film. It’s very true to what we did, even on our trip beforehand.”

Skarlatos spoke positively of the film’s accuracy as well. “[It’s accurate] especially when it comes to the train. [Eastwood] wasn’t trying to hype it up. Our story was good enough for him to see something in it, and he just wanted it to be that.”

The true story is amazing, inspiring and truly filled with impossible coincidences. All three men felt that God was with them in those moments when they became heroes. “[His hand] was just all over the whole thing,” said Skarlatos. “The gun didn’t go off, and the primer was bad. It’s just not something that happens…Looking back, I think our lives were preparing us for that moment.”

“The movie, it shows a lot of my failures,” said Stone. “I hope that people, even if they aren’t feeling content in their lives, that they can take ease knowing that even the little things they’re doing right now…at some point you’re going to realize why you did all those things.”

Sadler agreed. “I want [people] to feel inspired and confident. Inspired from what we did and…that it’s possible…Confident in a way that maybe they can do something themselves if they find themselves in an extraordinary situation. Really I just want people to take from this…it’s not just us. It’s in everyone.”

“The 15:17 to Paris” premiers in theaters on Friday, February 9, 2018, and the trailer is currently available online. The book by Sadler, Stone and Skarlatos is available through multiple outlets, including Barnes and Noble. Take some time to follow the journey of three ordinary men as God placed them in a situation that would make them nothing short of extraordinary heroes.

 

 

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