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The film 12 Strong — starring Chris Hemsworth, Rob Riggle, Michael Pena, and Michael Shannon, among others — tells the true story of the dozen American Special Forces operatives who sought to seize a Taliban-controlled town in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, riding into battle on horseback.
The Warner Bros., Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film is based on the 2009 book Horse Soldiers, as well as real-life events overseas.
At the film’s premiere at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday night, the stars, who mingled with their real-life counterparts, talked about the comradery they developed on- and offscreen.
“We had weeks of boot camp with intensive horse riding, military training and weapons training, forming a sort of bond and chemistry and rapport between the group,” Hemsworth told The Hollywood Reporter. “That period was essential, and we carried that right through the film.”
And, Hemsworth said, the guys became so close throughout filming that they were inseparable offscreen as well.
“Throughout the film we trained together; we hit the gym across the road from the hotel every day,” Hemsworth said. “It’s just a great bonding comradery we had, and you can’t really fake that onscreen. It was essential to portray this story with any real truth.”
Michael Pena agreed, saying, “This whole entire shoot was 12 of us, always hanging out, always talking, always wanting to make this movie great.”
Whether the actors were laughing at each other’s horse-riding skills (or lack thereof) or dancing and rapping, they developed a friendship that enabled them to depict their soldier counterparts as a bonded unit.
While most of the actors didn’t have any actual military training, Riggle not only served in the Marine Corps but he also plays his former boss in the film.
“This takes place in October of 2001, and I ended up being attached to this unit in November of 2001. When I got there, I reported directly to Lieutenant Colonel Max Bowers — I was a captain at the time, and he was my boss. I briefed him in the morning, and I briefed him every evening, and now I’m playing him in the movie. It’s a small world,” the actor said.
12 Strong hits theaters Friday.
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