EXCLUSIVE: Emmett/Furla Films is coming aboard to finance Lone Survivor, and director Peter Berg is in talks with Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster to play three of the four lead Navy SEALs. Universal Pictures, which developed the movie, will distribute. An adaptation of the book by Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor tells the harrowing story of how Luttrell and his Navy SEAL team members fought to stay alive after being ambushed in Afghanistan in 2005 by Taliban forces during a covert mission in the Hindu Kush mountain region, where the team went to kill a terrorist leader. Wahlberg will play Luttrell in Berg’s followup to Battleship, which stars Kitsch.
Berg and Universal first began developing the project at Universal when the filmmaker signed on for Battleship. At the time, movies with sand in them and war weren’t working, but the opening-weekend grosses of Act Of Valor indicate that audiences are once again hungry for heroic war tales, especially those involving Navy SEALs. Kathryn Bigelow and Sony Pictures are getting underway with a drama revolving around the Navy SEAL Team 6’s hunt and killing of 9/11 terror attack mastermind Osama bin Laden. Lone Survivor is a different film, but it is expected to get underway this fall. Berg and Film 44 partner Sarah Aubrey, Akiva Goldsman, Barry Spikings will be producers as well as Randall Emmett and George Furla. Wahlberg will likely be involved in a producing capacity also.
Berg, who covered the Middle East terrain previously with the taut drama The Kingdom, has put in the work on this one. He wrote the Lone Survivor script after embedding with a SEAL team for a month in Iraq, an experience that really gave him a chance to see how they do their job. Berg wanted to make the film immediately, but two years ago the studio made him a bargain: direct Battleship and then follow with Lone Survivor. The timing hasn’t hurt, at all.
“Bin Laden’s death has cleared the way for this, a movie that will be an unapologetically patriotic film that honors and pays homage to an incredible group of badass guys who do this,” Berg told me last May. “The film will be a bit like Black Hawk Down, but it will focus on the quartet, which is fewer guys than that film.
“The mission was similar to the assassination mission that got bin Laden, but things got complicated when they ran into three kids and an old man,” Berg told me. “Under the rules of engagement, they could have killed them, but they decided to let them go and take their chances, even though they knew these people would likely talk.” Shortly after, the mission had to be aborted when the SEALs found themselves under fire from about 250 Al-Qaeda soldiers. When the dust cleared — and after a rescue helicopter was blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade, 15 SEAL members were killed, and the lone survivor was Luttrell. “A massive land assault was carried out, but by then Marcus was brought to shelter by an Afghan tribe that fought off the Taliban until Luttrell could be rescued,” Berg said. The team’s leader, Mike Murphy, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
This puts Emmett/Furla Films principals into yet another major feature. They are prepping 2 Guns with Denzel Washington and Wahlberg for Universal; the Sylvester Stallone-Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer The Tomb for Lionsgate/Summit; the romantic comedy Rule #1, with Reese Witherspoon; the action/thriller Empire State starring Dwayne Johnson; and Lucky Strike, which is in discussions to star Vince Vaughn and be directed by Tony Scott, with EFF producing with Scott Free Productions. EFF just wrapped the thriller Broken City with Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones, which Fox will release in January; the Stephen Frears-directed comedy Lay The Favorite with Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Zeta-Jones and Vaughn, which The Weinstein Company acquired after its Sundance premiere; the thriller Frozen Ground with John Cusack, Nicolas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens; the drama Fire With Fire with Josh Duhamel, Willis and Rosario Dawson; the action-thriller Freelancers with Robert De Niro, Forest Whitaker and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; and the David Ayer-directed mystery crime thriller End Of Watch, which recently scored a $2 million advance and $20 million P&A commitment from Open Road.