demanded eliminates those who are unable to pull off demanding missions and unexpected situations in which inventiveness, strength, cunning, team-spirit, mental toughness and versatility are vital.
And that’s what Waugh and McCoy show – how from Day One, trainees learn their lives depend on teamwork as well as willingness to sacrifice everything for their buddies. Navy SEALs have never left another SEAL behind on a mission. But filming that story while keeping out of the way was no easy task.
Open water rescue
“It’s important to note that no Navy assets were diverted into making this movie,” notes Waugh. “We worked around existing training operations and that’s why it took over two and a half years to shoot — and four years from start to finish.
“For four years,” says McCoy, “we were humbled and honored to be invited into the world of Navy special warfare, to take a look at their story. We spent a lot of time meeting the men and hearing the stories.”
Six months into the project, they identified five true-life acts of valor that had actually happened in the last 11 years. So, McCoy and Waugh hired screenwriter Kurt Johnstad to craft those incidents into a movie.
“Act of Valor” isn’t a documentary — it has a plot, including a damsel in distress.
When her rescue in Latin America leads to the discovery of a deadly terrorist plot against the U.S., a team of SEALs is dispatched on a worldwide manhunt. The valiant men of fictional Bandito Platoon race to stop a coordinated attack that could kill and wound thousands of American civilians — but must balance their commitment to country, team and their families back home.
Reviewers are marveling that this is not yet one more Steven Segal-type good guys vanquish evil movie. Everything about it looks real — because it is real. Or is it?
This scene features a real U.S. nuclear sub
“We worked around training evolutions and combat deployments,” notes Waugh — since the Navy wasn’t going to jeopardize any true-life combat missions by letting the filmmakers tag along. “During the making of the film, every one of these guys went on full combat deployments all over the world. It’s important to mention that the SEALs in this film are not acting. They’re not playing a character. They’re just being themselves in their own world.”
“This is a brand-new type of movie,” says McCoy. “This is a real-life action film. There are no computer-generated special effects, no actors
faking it on a green screen or flying around on wires. This is all for real.”
Real SEALs, real families, real stories
Were there any surprises? “The sacrifices made by their wives and children,” says Waugh, “seeing the heroic women there who support their men. That’s something you really don’t consider until you see it for yourself. We were so fortunate to use the real-live wives and children in the film – to give moviegoers a peek behind the curtain.”
But doesn’t that put the SEALs wives and kids at risk?
“Well,” says Waugh, “all we can say is that the way we went about it, none of the SEALs were worried about it. I really can’t say anymore.”
One criticism of the film is that it shows too much.
No, disagrees McCoy. “The Navy scrubbed the film for ‘TTP’ — technique, tactic and procedure. They made sure we weren’t giving away anything classified. The last thing we wanted to do was to give the playbook to the bad guys.”
Does the film offer any misinformation so as to lead America’s enemies astray?
There is a pause, then, “No,” says Waugh, “No way were we playing any games. We’re really just showcasing what the SEALs are all about.”