To transform their acting ensemble into a credible military unit, the filmmakers enlisted the aid of former U.S. Marine Corps Captain Dale Dye, whose dedication to the military did not end with his retirement from the service.
"I believe there is a certain core spirit that is common among men and women who fight
for their country, and I think to understand it fully, the actors playing them need to experience the rigors that combat people all over the world face," Dye states. "So, to
the extent I can, I immerse the actors in that lifestyle: I take them to the field; I make
them eat rations; I make them crawl and sleep in the mud and the cold and the dirt... And
when they come out, if I've done my job successfully, they have an inkling of what people
sacrifice to serve their country in the military."
Dye and the staff from his company, Warriors Inc., took Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore,
Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi and Adam
Goldberg through what amounted to nothing less than boot camp. From the start, he kept
them constantly reminded of the job at hand, calling them only by their character names and
drilling into them the basics of soldiering. They had a total of ten days of training, including weapons drills, close combat, individual maneuvers and tactics, and World
War II-era military lingo and hand signals.
"By the end, we were proficient in drills and infantry movements, so we really felt like the genuine article," Diesel says.
"We also knew how to handle a weapon. I was able to disassemble and reassemble an M-1 rifle blindfolded to simulate having to do it in darkness. That was a cool experience."
The last five days of boot camp- spent in the field, living in tents and eating rations- proved a test of their spirits as well as their endurance. The actors had to suspect that Dye could even command the elements when, on their first day out, a cold rain turned the ground to
Goldberg jokes, "If you could imagine Stanislavski running boot camp, that's what it was like. We were forced to be 'method,' whether we wanted to or not. The only way I could get through it was to shut myself down and become this soldier. But, in the end, it proved
beneficial to all of us."