Capt. Dale Dye (USMC) has been on my interview bucket list since I started doing this. So I’m really happy to bring you, the valued reader this. If you don’t know Dye’s name that’s ok, because you defiantly know his work: Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Forest Gump, Born On The Fourth of July, Band of Brothers and so many more. Without Dye these films won’t have been the same, his guidance and experience as a soldier helped give these films meaning and life.
Capt. Dye, is an to honest to God national treasure. Thirty-one major combat operations, decorated for his service. Author of several books. Helped craft some of the greatest war films in history. Now he’s taking on the monumental task of writing and directing a WWII epic, entitled NO BETTER PLACE TO DIE. Unlike a standard Hollywood film, Dye wants to employ vets in key roles of the production. For this to happen, Dye as turned to indiegogo to kick it off.
I hope you enjoy this interview and consider supporting Capt. Dye in this effort.
When you left the service, why did you choose to pursue film making and acting?
I was really at a bit of a loss about what to do when I retired from active duty in the Marine Corps. The standard pursuits (police work, defense contracting, corporate world) didn’t seem to fit. If I went there and stifled my creative side, I’d probably have been miserable or turned into a bar-fly. I just sat down and examined my assets – such as they were – and decided I was a big movie fan. I’d seen most of the military or war-themed films available at the time and they all just disappointed me in one way or another. They were full of action but they didn’t say much about the character of the soldiers and I wanted to see what I could do to correct that, so I came to LA and started to research the situation. What I discovered was that previous “technical advisors” for a number of reasons were mostly dealing with superficial aspects of military life…how uniforms are worn, how weapons are handled and things like that. What they didn’t do was train the actors in deeper and more significant aspects of who we are as military people in extremis. I decided to correct that with my methods of full-immersion training. I work on the body but I’m also very interested in teaching and showing the heart, mind and emotions of the soldier at war
Had you always wanted to become an actor?
I started to have some thoughts about it as I watched my methods working on the actors in Platoon during training in the Philippine jungles. I would often teach by demonstrating and it occurred to me that teaching like that was really a version of performing for an audience. After that, directors who saw me work suggested I might save money and time by simply doing what I do on camera. It was more a lucky accident than anything intentional, but I really enjoy it now.
I’ve heard a number of Vietnam vets say Platoon is the closest film to the actual war. I think for a lot of guys they felt finally people would understand what they went through. Did you know working on the project its importance and the impact it would have?
Not at first but when I began to watch it all take shape on camera as Oliver Stone directed the story, I began to feel we had somehow captured lightning in a bottle. Between the two of us, Oliver and I had gone to great lengths to create moments in the movie that we knew all Vietnam Veterans could relate to in some way. When I saw the completed film and saw the tremendous reaction to it among veterans, I knew we had done something huge. We had helped melt some of the ice that had formed between Vietnam Veterans and society that sent them to war.
You’ve had the luxury of working with amazing directors, Stone, Spielberg, Zemeckis, Mann…etc, did one director understand war better than the others or did they each bring something unique to the subject?
I think all good Directors understand that war is a platform for great drama. Hemingway was right when he said war is man’s greatest adventure. As filmmakers, we keep coming back to that well because using war and combat as a stage you can see the full gamut of human emotion and behaviors, from the very best to the very worst. Directors vary in their willingness and abilities to explore war on film but they all understand the emotion and drama involved.
I read a quote that you said Ron Livingston (Band ofBrothers) was the best actor you’ve trained, I’ve also spoke with Richard Speight (Band of Brothers)before and said the training for Band of Brothers was tough and you treated them with respect but you didn’t let up. Question is could Ron make in the army or is there another actor that would make a better GI? And what does your training look like?
Ron is among a double handful of known actors who would have made good soldiers. I’d also include Tom Berenger, Tom Cruise, Tommy Lee Jones, Damien Lewis, Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise and some others. These people all have strength of character and strong hearts. Unlike many actors, they can sublimate personal interests. They have an understanding of synergy and group effort toward a common goal.
As I said earlier, when I train an actor to portray a soldier, I work at making him live the life to the extent I can. I isolate them from acting concerns and distractions. I put them through an abbreviated and very intense version of life as a combat soldier in the field at war. That’s tough physically and mentally and I intend it to be. When they begin to get a little insight, I go to work on the psychology, the emotional and spiritual elements of how a soldier thinks, feels and relates to his fellow soldiers. The actual implementation of the experience changes with the demands of the story. I train actors to be ancient Greek hoplites differently than I train them to be infantrymen patrolling in The Sandbox but the spirit of the eternal warrior is the same in all eras. I do what’s necessary to make them understand that.
I’m so excited for No Better Place To Die, Why this story? And why have you decided to direct it?
I’ve been aware of this story for a long time. I first started studying the gallant stand of a small group of American paratroopers at La Fiere during the D-Day invasion of occupied France when I was still on active duty. I thought it was a classic example of what a small, motivated group of men can do against overwhelming odds when the big plans go in the crapper and everything seems hopeless. The paratroopers scattered all over Normandy understood the crucial importance to keeping the Germans from reinforcing against the invasion beaches. They understood the crucial nature of taking and holding the bridge at La Fiere so they innovated, adapted and overcame in a brutal, extended and very bloody fight that was crucial to the very success of the D-Day invasions. Nothing went the way the generals had planned but the paratroopers at La Fiere held on by tooth and nail. That says a lot about the spirit and character of the American soldier. It’s a microcosm of a thousand other stories of individual initiative and courage from World War II and I always wondered why it had never been explored on film, so one day I just assembled the research and sat down to write the script.
As you indicated in an earlier question, I‘ve worked at the elbow of some of the world’s greatest Directors and many of them have been kind enough to teach me filmmaking from the ground up. I know how to make a terrific war movie. Lord knows, I’ve had enough practice at it. So when I got that script written and backed off a little, I decided the only way it would be done right was if I directed it. I’ve only done a little directing for film or TV, mostly 2nd Unit things, so it was difficult to get the big money players to trust me with a $20-25 million budget. But like those WW II paratroopers at La Fiere Bridge, I decided to adapt and innovate. We are using a crow-funding campaign to raise seed money and I hope that will lead us to the people who have deep pockets and understand what we are trying to do with No Better Place to Die.
I love the fact that you’re bringing in vets to work on this, will most of the actors be made up of vets like Range 15 or will they be primarily behind the camera in technical roles?
We are committed to using as many military veterans as possible both behind and in front of the cameras for No Better Place to Die. I’m enough of a realist to understand we will have to make exceptions, but I’m going to try and get real vets involved in all aspects of the production. They will bring a work ethic, a motivation and a spirit to the making of the film that will translate to the final product on screen. I know that. I would also hope that our method serves as a sort of showcase for all the young military veterans who are trying so hard to break into show business either as actors or technicians. They are tremendously talented and tremendously under-utilized. If we can make No Better Place to Die work as I believe it will, maybe the Hollywood establishment will re-think the way they hire or cast military veterans.
What is the time frame for the film and where is it in production right now?
We want to release this film in 2019 for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Right now we are in the fund-raising phases. We’ve got to load before we can fire. I’ve got the entire film drawn out in storyboards but there’s a lot of work yet to do. We’ve got to bank some earnest money so we can make credible offers to at least three name actors and we’ve got to do all the legal work. The big goal right now is to find that person or outfit with deep enough pockets to fund us so we can get started with the practical aspects of pre-production.
You have an indiegogo campaign to help out, what exactly are people supporting and what cool perks are there?
On a macro-scale, people who contribute to this film are supporting an effort to take an in-depth look at the character, legacy and sacrifice of our American military. That hasn’t changed since World War II. Taking an apolitical look at that topic on screen will be refreshing and a reflection of what I perceive as a great populist ground-swell throughout the country. In short, I think America is ready for this and can appreciate our effort to make a film about veterans, made for and by veterans.
In the short-run, contributors are helping us raise the money we need to attract big investors. They are showing those potential investors that the support is out there and that support, interest and enthusiasm will pay off at the box offices.