We were lucky enough to sit down with both Michael Peña (who plays ‘Gordo’) and Jon Bernthal (who plays ‘Coon-Ass’), stars from the latest war movie, FURY, ahead of the film’s Blu-ray release.
HDN: In preparing to play your roles, was there anything surprising or shocking you learned about World War II?
MICHAEL: I tried to look on Wikipedia and there is not a lot on Latin people [serving] in World War II. That’s why it’s cool just to be in any frame [of this film] and acknowledge the fact that those guys did fight in World War II.
JON: There were three levels of research with this movie. There was the personal research you did on your own, reading books like “Another Bridge, Another Town,” “Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II” and books on tanking. Then, there was a part of the research that was the boot camp, the sparring, the unbelievably elaborate rehearsals we had, and really, really understanding the tank, itself, and getting proficient on it. Anything the tank did in this movie, [we did]: Michael was driving, I was loading, Shia [LaBeouf] was operating the turret and firing; Brad [Pitt] was commanding it. So, that was a huge part of the research: just getting proficient and learning how to be a soldier. A third part of the research was really research into each other and really investing in this group and in this family because that’s what this movie’s about at the end of the day: it’s a family drama. That really required in-depth research into each other and figuring out how we operate as a group and as a team.
HDN: Did director David Ayer put you through any specific bonding exercises prior to production?
MICHAEL: Bootcamp was one of them. You’d sleep two hours a night, maybe three, and then you’d wake up at five o’clock in the morning and you’d have to exercise before even having breakfast. And everybody breaks. And then your friends have to pick you up. And that was like a huge bonding [exercise]. Also, the sparring. You see professional fighters in the twelfth round and, when the bell rings, they have a lot of respect for each other. So, those two things really helped out. Plus, we were together almost every day.
HDN: How is David’s approach different from other directors you’ve worked with?
JON: For me, he does what so many filmmakers try to do and fail: he makes movies about men; real mean. He tackles issues and themes of brotherhood and loyalty and courage and male friendship. I think so many people try to make these kinds of movies and fail. I think the reason David can do them so well is: one, he’s obviously talented; two, he doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk. And he demands full commitment. He told us when we were making this movie, “Make this movie like it’s the last movie you’ll ever make.” There’s no amount of commitment that would be too much for him. So, there’s just that kind of energy on set and, you know, this was an eight-month process so, it was eight months of full immersion. It’s not just, “Hey, guys, I really want this acting from you,” it’s you’re going to do this. This is the way it’s going to be.” And I think it comes from him being a veteran and the life experiences that he’s had.
HDN: Did you ever feel claustrophobic working in the tank and, if so, how did you cope with it?
JON: You get used to it after a while.
MICHAEL: It’s tough, for sure. We shot most of the exterior stuff first and then we went inside. I guess it took a bit for them to make up the set. But it was rough.
HDN: Did you actually get to drive the tank and how was that?
MICHAEL: Oh, yeah, Daddy drove it. You know what was awesome? Third gear or fourth gear going really fast. Or, whatever you consider going fast in a tank. Thirty miles an hour is actually really fast in a tank.
HDN: What are you favorite war movies?
MICHAEL: I love Apocalypse Now (1979).
JON: Me, too. I love a lot of the Vietnam movies.
MICHAEL: Platoon (1986) is good.
JON: Full Metal Jacket (1987). I think this movie was sort of made in that vein. I think, often times, World War II movies about American soldiers have portrayed [them] as these kinds of steel-jawed, fearless, super heroic guys. None of us would argue with the fact that they were heroes. But what we try to do with this movie is we try to portray the fear. And we try to portray how war-torn and battle-weary they are. That’s what’s truly heroic: how beat up they are and [yet] they move forward for each other. We think that there’s something very universal about being a soldier that we really touch upon – at the end of the day, you’re there fighting for the guy next to you.
HDN: Awesome, thanks for taking the time to talk to us guys. FURY is a fantastic movie which I’m sure you’re both proud of!
FURY is available to purchase on Blu-ray on 23rd February. Order your copy from Amazon.co.uk.