Celebrity Interview: PATRIOTS Day Producer Scott Stuber Talks on Making The Film, Mark Wahlberg, and Honor Bound Agreements

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PATRIOTS Day, from CBS Films, brings to the screen a recreation of the Patriots Day Boston Marathon bombing, the stunning finish line trauma, a four-day manhunt, and the key players that made Boston residents and Americans feel a national pride.

Written and directed by Peter Berg, PATRIOTS Day stars Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michele Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Michael Beach, Alex Wolff, Jimmy Yang and Themo Melikidze along with a stellar cast of supporting actors.

At the recent Press Day promoting PATRIOTS Day I had the opportunity to interview the producers with Hutch Parker and Michael Radutzky in one session and Scott Stuber, alone, in a second session. Below is an excerpt of the interview with Scott Stuber.

Janet Walker: So, I asked your colleagues, what were some of the specific challenges as producers that you found under your particular umbrella?

Scott Stuber: The challenges inevitably as you know it is a real-life story and you need to make sure you're getting it right. Getting all the information was imperative. We told the story accurately, and the amount of meetings in pre-production just with all the different law enforcement officials, hospitals, all the organizations, the marathon group and the athletic association and all that and which you do on a lot of different films which on top of that the emotional content of sitting down with the victims' families sitting down with some of the survivors and knowing that you had to tell that story so right and personal.

So, that was probably the biggest challenge of just making sure that we got this done the right way and honored our obligation we made when we sat across from them and said we are going to do this the right way.

An Honor Code?

JW: Your colleagues they gave me so much information so I'm going to ask some of the questions I left that interview with. They had mentioned, they alluded to a particular honor clause, almost, and unspoken when they meet with the victims, there was a truth they were going to honor, basically an honor code, and that's highly unusual so . .  

SS: Yes. I think we all came to this movie with the same intentions. Between Michael [Radutzky] and Hutch [Parker] and obviously, Pete [Berg] and Mark [Wahlberg] we all felt a great sense of obligation. I spent a lot of time in Boston and understood that community and have a great affection for it and love for it and I think we're all likeminded people and we all recognized the importance of sitting across from every entity who is very skeptical of Hollywood and saying we're going to do this the right way.

We believe in this story and so we all held that standard to each other no matter who reached out to us and we told every organization whether it was the governor's office, the mayor's office, the chief of police, the commissioner of police, if someone has a problem, if someone wants to speak to us we're going to do it.

Almost every night at the filming, we had a dinner with someone who wanted to tell us their story or wanted their perspective, or another victim's family would say here's who we are, we human beings, we not just some machine and for us, that was very important all the way through the process including showing them the film before we finished it to say "did we do the right thing here?" "Did we honor what we said?" "Did we get this accurate?" We got the feedback and the endorsement from them and for us the most important thing.

Project Timeline

JW: They had mentioned also, and we didn't get the chance to talk the specific of time frame but, it began with the partnership of CBS Films they said moving their brand into film and this was a natural fit for them, they said, and so we didn't get a chance to speak about the specifics of when that happened, and with the Boston Bombing being only three years ago and CBS them and Michael's stories and coverage on that  and where did that move into the we're going to make this into a movie, was that a year ago, six months ago? Because it has all progressed so quickly.

SS: I don't remember off the top of my head the exact time line. For me personally, I spent quite a few years in Boston shooting films and I knew the impact that had on the community and been to Patriots Day before in my life and as I started to understand it more and have it unfold I was compelled by so much of the humanity in it and not only the real accomplishment of the law enforcement, but the people and how they reached out to each other.

And for me it started to feel like a movie that deserved to be told and a story of who we aspire to be as human beings. As I did some research I realized 60 minutes had a lot of that stuff so we sat down with Michael who I had great admiration for just as a person and we had a great connection and I thought well this is a great human being and then and as we started talking to CBS films.

Patriots Day Review – A Triumph! Powerful, Authentic, Challenging

Terry Press [President of CBS Films] and Les Moonves, [President and CEO CBS] said, "You have a good relationship with Mark do you think he would be involved?"

Mark and I had made a few films together and his partner Steve Levinson we've all known each other for twenty years, and then I reached out to them and having Mark as the ambassador was kind of an imperative and you needed a Bostonian to be at the center of this and we've all worked with Pete.

So the team kept getting built and as we were working together and working on our story we recognized Hutch had a project over at FOX that was about it as well and they had some elements in it that we needed and wanted and for us it was important to make the right story and he was not getting the momentum on his project over there so we reached out to him over there at FOX and bring them in and buy project and we bought it and brought Hutch in and it just became that thing where the ego goes away when we understand the enormity of what we have to do and getting it right had everything to do with it and each of us approached it that way and it was a great team because everyone had that honor code we're going to get this right and work as hard as we can to do it well.

JW: So I don't want to say from concept, because we know when it happened, from the point that you all became involved and the team blossomed, how long from then until completion.

SS: Probably about 18 and 24 months. Michael and I sat down and we got moving. We hired a screenwriter and got working and when Pete and Mark got involved we all got working it and I would go down to the set in Louisiana when they were filming Deep Water Horizon, and we would all sit in Mark's trailer and talk about it and run the grocery list of what we had to do and the immediacy of the energy we wanted to put behind it.

I think Mark has probably talked about it to some extent, in the initial stages we knew this was a good story and when would this story be appropriate when should we tell the story of this movie and we were debating it and unfortunately more of these incidents started happening in the world.

We felt this story needs to be told know and we want to tell it because we're the one that really care about it and we're afraid someone else will do it and they won't do it well and that was a big fear for Mark being a citizen of Boston. So, once we recognized and sort of galvanized this and said let's tell the story about how we process these things which we are all struggling with. Then it began.

Memorable Moments

JW: And it shows, it shows.  I had also asked them what were some of their most memorable moments from the process and what would yours be?

SS: You know there was a lot, and I think it is in the film for me being at that Marathon and seeing Patrick complete it, um, I was overwhelmed that day with the sense of obligation to do our jobs well and not interfere on such a celebratory day.

And we had our a film crew and Mark in a police uniform and we were getting the footage we needed and  I was very concerned that we were working well with the Athletic Association and the police department who were kind enough to grant us that access.

So I was so worried are we doing this right and by the time that it happened we had accomplished most of things we needed to film and so you were starting to let your anxiety loose a little bit as a human being and there is something really great about the end of a marathon no matter what  because people have endured such difficult physical hardship and people are crying and I think on the day we were there were at least three people take a knee and ask a women to marry them.

So profound emotional things were happening when you see people propose at the end of the finish line and then that happened and you couldn't not break down and cry and you couldn't not feel the raw emotion of the accomplishment and what it meant for him to have done that.

I'll never forget that. I am honored to have witnessed that moment and it will be something that stays with me forever and it is why we all wanted that footage in the film because we wanted people to feel what we felt that day.

JW: There are a few particular scenes, I mean it all stands out, honestly, and I think of the comical scenes, when the girls come around the corner in the dorm, and the female officer on the roof at the end had a comical element to it but when the police are . . . when they've closed the city, you picked up the actual footage and then the tanks are rolling through the streets – how did you coordinate all that? Where those actual police officers

SS: A lot of it yes, we went to different location law enforcement and some of them were extras. We've been able, Michael I think alluded, we put together a timeline of everything and we had an enormous and great editorial staff and a great research staff.

We would categorize all the footage, different aspects of it, and Pete really wanted to incorporate the actual footage in the movie and the law enforcement gave us so much footage we could use all the footage of the Tsarnaev brothers. It integrated nicely into the film and then all those different elements of those people who had cell phones pointed out their windows while the tanks were rolling and how enormous this concept that a city was put on lockdown and a military unit basically moved in to find someone. It was a really complicated thing and we had a lot of units who knew what they had to accomplish to get new footage to add in to the real footage that we already had to augment it.

Fellow Patriots Day producers Hutch Parker and Michael Radutzky also sat for an interview which is set for later editorial release.

Patriots Day is in theaters everywhere. Check your local listings.

 

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