Miles Teller, 'Thank You for Your Service' Team Reveal How Boot Camp Created a Brotherhood on Set
Jon Stewart moderated a panel with the cast and crew following the New York premiere of the film about soldiers dealing with PTSD.
Thank You for Your Service tells the true story of Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) after he leaves his life of combat in Iraq to reunite with his family. Schumann, like other soldiers, struggles to fall back into civilian life as his memories of war overshadow his normal life.
Following the Avion-sponsored New York premiere of Thank You for Your Service on Wednesday (Oct. 25), Jon Stewart moderated a panel discussion with the film's team. Speakers on the panel included Teller, Schumann, writer-director Jason Hall and co-star Beulah Koale.
During the panel, Stewart praised the cast for their portrayal of soldiers who have recently returned home. The former Daily Show host mentioned a scene early on in the film in which Schumann, Tausolo "Solo" Aieti (Koale) and Will Waller (Joe Cole) dance in a bar, which shows the bond of brotherhood formed among the men during their time in Iraq. Stewart said that the scene authentically portrays the way veterans feel when coming home, "vibrating at a different frequency than civilians."
Teller credits much of his onscreen chemistry with Koale and other castmembers to their shared experience in boot camp while training for the film. "We formed these bonds. We had this tangible experience," Teller said. The brief boot camp was run by a master chief Navy SEAL and a number of men in the special forces. "We formed that brotherhood, and that was just a week," he said of the emotionally and physically draining experience. "All of the acting was gravy after that because I could look at any of those guys and I knew what their face looked like when they were just burnt out and just done."
Buelah argued that the boot camp process improved his skills as an actor. "You show sides of yourself and sides of your character when you're under pressure," he said. From constantly being screamed at to getting hosed down, the actor believes the experience forced him to show his vulnerable side to his castmates. "There's certain sides of yourself that you don't show to normal people and society, and those are the sides I saw in Miles and Scott Haze and the rest of the other guys."
After the men on the panel expressed their fondness for each other, Stewart had a bit of fun with them when he asked Buelah, "Does it hurt that they forgot your birthday today?" When Teller admitted that he didn't know it was his birthday until earlier that day, Stewart quipped, "I have Wikipedia, so I understand these things."
The panel then turned to the more serious topic of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, which is touched on heavily in the film. Stewart was curious about the lack of awareness from political leaders about the problems within the department. Hall shared that he showed the film to Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin of Veteran Affairs and that he did not see the current VA represented in the film. Hall recalled Shulkin telling him that he just toured the country, to which he responded, 'Well, did they know you were coming?'"
Hall did point out that while the United States is no longer in "the surge" and that conditions within the VA have improved in recent years, there is always room for enhancement when it comes to how veterans are treated. "I don't think that there's a way to villainize anybody within the VA," he said. "I've met great people all throughout the VA. It's just too big."
For Schumann, the film based on his experiences in Iraq has offered him a full circle moment. The veteran credits the films Austin Powers in Goldmember and Friday After Next for getting him through his deployments in the early 2000s. "We were able to come back off mission and sit down and laugh and hang out together. Those are what got us through," he reflected.
When speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Schumann admitted that at first he was nervous to be involved with the film. After getting to know the cast and crew, he said, "I'm happy to be the voice of the veterans."
Teller opened up to THR about the pressure of playing Schumann. "The movie's gonna affect that person for the rest of their life. A lot of characters that I play, I don't have to kind of bounce ideas off of somebody else. That character's completely mine," the actor said before the screening. "This is a marriage, and I would not want to do anything that didn't feel right to Adam."
Hall stated on the panel that the main goal with Thank You for Your Service is to look at Schumann and his peers as people rather than characters. "I want it to somehow make war personal for the people here," said the writer-director. "Make those wars that we've forgotten about and the guys that we have forgotten in those wars personal to American again."