Kate Mara, 'Megan Leavey' Director Talk Capturing Real Emotions at First Yankee Stadium Premiere

Courtesy of Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment
From left: Ramon Rodriguez, Megan Leavey, Kate Mara, Common, Edie Falco and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite at the 'Megan Leavey' premiere at Yankee Stadium

The stars of the film about a young Marine and her bond with a military combat dog and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite explain how their experience with animals informed their work.

Earlier this week, Kate Mara, Common and Edie Falco were among the stars who attended the first movie premiere at Yankee Stadium for the based-on-a-true-story war film Megan Leavey.

Megan Leavey centers around a young Marine of the same name, played by Mara, and the bond she develops with a military combat dog, Rex, while serving in Iraq.

The real Leavey, also in attendance at the premiere, now works as an executive in the New York Yankees' partnership sales department and was honored by the team in an on-field ceremony in 2012 after she and Rex were reunited.

"I couldn't be more excited that this premiere is here. This is a place that is near and dear to my heart," said Leavey of the event taking place at the Bronx stadium. "I'm honored that they think highly enough of this movie to have it here."

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite was similarly impressed by the history-making event, calling it "phenomenal."

"It's beyond anything I could have hoped for," she said, pointing out that the June 5 premiere was well-timed. "We filmed here to the day a year ago, so I guess it seems kind of serendipitous and pretty perfect."

While the film shot at Yankee Stadium and features a cameo from the real Leavey, the Marine admitted the filmmakers took some "creative liberties" after she told the writers her story, but she's happy with the outcome.

"I think it's great. I see where they're coming from," Leavey told The Hollywood Reporter. "But that's their job. I'm just the person telling the story. I'm not a producer. I'm not an actor."

Mara said she spent time with Leavey to get to know her real-life counterpart and stressed that the ex-Marine was always available as a resource.

"We just spent a lot of time, as much time as we could, together," Mara told THR of working with Leavey. "We just hung out and talked and just got to know each other. The script [answered] a lot of the questions that I had. Anything I was unsure of, I would just give her a call or if she was on set, I would ask her then. She was always very, very open about it."

The actress was also aided by her love of animals, which, she said, "definitely gave me that extra sense of pride in this story and connection to how Megan may have been feeling but also just her drive to protect this animal that she loves. My experience with working with animals and the Humane Society, etc., definitely gave me that extra sense of urgency and passion for it."

Cowperthwaite, who was attracted to Megan Leavey's "fresh take on a war film," said her experience making the killer-whale documentary Blackfish helped her tap into real emotions.

"I was trying very hard not to make this feel too saccharine or pull heartstrings on purpose with animals or try too hard to inspire emotion," said the helmer. "Letting those things happen naturally through Megan's relationship with Rex was something that I thought worked about Blackfish. I feel like you could kind of come in and knew what the film was going to be about and earn the feelings that you have about it because I think it wasn't being preached to you, it was being earned."

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