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13 Hours: The Men of Faith behind Michael Bay's Benghazi Movie

Tig and Oz on the set of 13 Hours with director Michael Bay
Movie Info
 

CAUTION ADVISED:

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is rated R and contains inappropriate content for young audiences

RATING:

R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language

GENRES:

War, Action, Drama

RELEASE:

January 15, 2016

STARRING:

John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Furmusa, Max Martini, Alexia Barlier, David Costabile, Toby Stephens, Matt Letscher

DIRECTOR:

Michael Bay

DISTRIBUTOR:

Paramount Pictures

More on this movie at IMDb.com

“Tig”, “Oz”, and “Tanto” want to set the record straight. As three of the CIA’s Global Response Staff agents based in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, they know first-hand what happened during the much publicized attacks. Tired of the media spinning the story, the military veterans opened up to author Mitchell Zuckoff. The resulting bestseller became the basis for director Michael Bay’s new rated-R film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

A more dramatic and muscular John Krasinski (The Office) leads the cast of 13 Hours as they recount those fateful hours after the first attack that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith. The Transformers director and the cast felt a deep conviction to get this movie right, not to point fingers, but to honor the men who “sacrificed everything for us” and to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Faith Is Their Foundation

Raised in Christian homes, GRS agents Mark “Oz” Geist, John “Tig” Tiegen, and Kris “Tanto” Paronto had a spiritual foundation going into their military careers.

“Growing up, I always would be pushing the envelope,” recalls Tanto, a risk-taker who spent some of his earlier days drinking and setting stuff on fire. “What kept me grounded is I had a real strong family. My parents are still married. Christianity’s big in the family. For me, personally, God is always there. But as a kid, it really didn’t hit me...until probably the military.”

“God has always been in my life,” says Oz. “I’m by no means perfect. None of us are. To me, that’s the wonders of God and Jesus...that perfect isn’t what you are; we all know we’re not going to be. We’re all going to fall short of Him.”

Getting into Character

Actor Max Martini (The Unit), who brings Oz to life in 13 Hours, learned on set just how important faith is to the ex-Marine turned contractor.

“I’m open about, especially on a one-on-one basis, about my faith and the foundation of what God has done in my life. Because I asked him, I’m like, ‘Why do you need all of this?’ He says, ‘Well, this is how I can portray you as you’,” recalls Oz.

Dominic Furmusa (Nurse Jackie) had a bit of a harder job playing Tig, as the former Marine is typically a man of few words. Oz jokes that Tig “made Dominic earn his money.”

Tanto’s a different story. He’s kind of a character. The former Army Ranger says he lucked out getting Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is the New Black) as his on-screen counterpart. Picked early for movie, Schreiber and Tanto spent quality time together, talking on the phone, hanging out, and going to the gym.

“Pablo’s fantastic at his craft,” Tanto says. “He’s the most underrated actor,” Tanto says. “He did an excellent job getting my character, getting me down.”

The proud Ranger even jokes about having to reeducate the actor after he spent time training with Navy SEALs. He recalls saying, “‘Dang Seals! Come here, Pablo, let me show you how it’s really done.’”

Faith in the “Foxholes” of Benghazi

The old adage that there aren’t any atheists in foxholes is truth in Tanto’s mind. He kept two cherished Bibles (one he had for 10 years and one from a “Ranger buddy” who died from cancer) close, right up until that night in Libya.

“I lost everything in Benghazi,” Tanto says. “We had to leave and I couldn’t grab any of my stuff, but it was a Bible I would read passages every day.”

Thinking on that night, Tanto also remembers a moment when he felt God’s presence surround him.

“I was out in the open just like this and I’m shooting back. And there’s snap, snap…. He’s not going to touch me. I could feel it. You just feel warm,” he recalls. “It’s really a cocoon around you. ‘I’m good. Nobody’s going to hit me.’ Then, all of a sudden, this little Libyan angel, just a Libyan guy, come out of nowhere and he’s shooting next to me, and he just gives me a little smile.”

In the middle of a barrage of gunfire, there isn’t time to pray or think of your family back home. You’re focused on the frightful scene unfolding in front of you. But in between battles, those thoughts flood in.

“You keep going, keep going and there’s probably several times that night you thank God that you’re still there, after probably each firefight,” Tig says.

“And whatever happens, happens,” Oz says. “That’s His will. My prayer every day is, ‘God, use me as you see fit.’ His angels wrapped His arms around me that night. They put their wings around me. There were three mortars. They were 81-millimeter mortars and they have a kill radius of 21 feet. So that basically means anything within 21 feet has a 99 percent chance of getting killed. I was within 15 feet of three of them…and I lived. I know that His presence was there with me, and it’s what got me through.”

Faith in 13 Hours

These veterans’ personal faith isn’t as explicit in 13 Hours as it is in this behind-the-scenes featurette. However, the movie does include a scene when Tanto brings up God during a lull in the attacks.

“‘As long as I’m doing right with God, He’ll take care of me.’ Putting it into a movie, a movie this size, even that little bit, that makes me really happy,” Tanto says. “I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for putting God in the movie.’ Even that little bit. Even that one word.”

13 Hours’ Premiere Turnout

This week’s premiere at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, brought a crowd of more than 32,000, according to The Associated Press. The event benefited the Shadow Warriors Project, a charity Oz and his wife started to provide aid to often forgotten contractors.

“We found after getting injured and going through the whole process that contractors...there’s very little support for them,” Oz says.

“Since 2001, there’s been between 3,500 to 5,000 contractors killed,” Tig says.

“In 80 different countries,” Oz chimes in.

“Thing is, nobody really kept track of them, so it’s really hard to figure out exactly the right number,” Tig says. “In 2013, there were more contractors killed than there was military personnel killed.”

Making 13 Hours Worthwhile

For Tig, Oz, and Tanto, making the movie is their way of honoring Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Glen “Bub” Doherty, who died saving the lives of more than 20 Americans trapped in Benghazi. It’s a chance to set the record straight, but it’s also an opportunity to shine a light on the sacrifices contractors make every day to protect their fellow Americans.

“We have upwards of near 300 diplomatic facilities around the world, and there’s ambassadors at each one of those, or a consulate general, and security guys, and full-time employees of the government, contractors; and they’re sacrificing for this country,” Oz says. “And by the nature of being in a foreign country with an American flag, you’re just a bigger target than what you are here, and people need to know that there’s people out there doing that for them, and not forget that.”

“I don’t care if [audiences] even remember who I was in the movie,” says Tig, “just remember exactly what happened that night. Go back and realize what Stevens, Smith, Rone, and Bub did for everybody.”

. . . . . . . . . . .

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language. Extreme caution is advised. CBN.com's movie review of 13 Hours will post shortly.

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