Clint Eastwood seems to be ending his career by making films about people many consider real-life heroes, as evidenced by “Sully” and “American Sniper.”
Of course, in true Hollywood tradition, actors played the lead roles — Tom Hanks as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the sniper.
His next film follows a similar pattern. “The 15:17 to Paris” will present the true story of the three young California men, including a National Guardsman and a U.S. Airman, who stopped a suspected Islamic State terrorist attack on a train traveling from Brussels to Paris in 2015. Only this time, in an rare Hollywood move, the heroes will play themselves in the movie.
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, the three men who thwarted the attack, will join a cast of seasoned actors including Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer and Ray Corasani, Variety reported.
The movie is based off a book the three men co-wrote about their experience, titled “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes.”
The three, friends since middle school, were traveling in Europe when they found themselves on a high-speed train with a heavily armed man named Ayoub el-Khazzani, a suspected Islamist militant, attempting a mass shooting on Aug. 21, 2015.
And they helped stop it, all because they decided to switch seats. As The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum wrote days after the thwarted attack:
“We decided to get up because the WiFi wasn’t so good on that car,” said Sadler, 23, a college student. “We were like, ‘We have a ticket to first class. We might as well go sit in first class.’ ”
About half an hour after the train pulled away from Amsterdam, they switched to the car where the shooter soon opened fire, he said.
Along with two other men, they tackled, then disarmed, a suspected Islamist militant who packed two guns, a knife and nine clips of ammunition into his rucksack.
“He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end. So were we,” said Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, his left arm in a sling, his right eye bloodshot and watering.
Eventually, they tied up Khazzani and began tending to the wounded.
Stone then “saw that another passenger had been severely wounded by a bullet during the attack and was ‘squirting blood’ from his neck. Stone said he barely felt any of his own injuries, so he focused on saving the other victim’s life. He stuck two of his fingers into the passenger’s wound to hold an artery closed until paramedics showed up.”
Their actions were met with worldwide praise. They were publicly lauded by President Barack Obama, who invited them to the White House, and they received the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, from French President François Hollande.
They also received a book deal, and their story was published on the first anniversary of the thwarted attack. Perseus Books Group, the book’s publisher, described it as “the gripping true story of a terrorist attack that would have killed more than 500 people if not for their actions, but it is also the story of three American boys, their friendship, and the values we hold dear.”
“I never thought I’d be writing a book,” Stone told The Post’s Ron Charles in 2016. “People kept telling us, ‘You guys should write a book.’ We were like, ‘What are we going to make a book about?’ We can’t make a whole book about a two-minute fight.”
But the book focuses on more than the fight. It follows the three friends’ intertwining lives, often flashing back to their childhoods.
Likewise, the movie will follow the three young men’s lives over many years. Though they will portray their most recent selves, Paul-Mikel Williams, Max Ivutin, Bryce Gheisa, Cole Eichenberger and William Jennings will play young versions of the three.
Rarely do people play themselves in films. When they do, as the Associated Press pointed out, they’re generally already actors — such as John Malkovich in “Being John Malkovich” or Bill Murray in “Zombieland.”
Production on the film is “underway,” according to a news release by Warner Bros., but it does not yet have a release date.
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