Pete Berg Interview
Pete Berg Interview
And to use a real-life veteran amputee as a principal cast member ...

Pete Berg

Greg Gadson. Yeah.
At what point did that idea come about?

Pete Berg

Yeah, we had this role written for a veteran, somebody who'd been injured in the war. I was trying to figure out how to go about casting that role and someone showed me National Geographic Magazine and he was in that magazine and there was this great picture of him – he's got a really intense face, he kind of looks like Denzel Washington's big brother or something. And he had these incredible prosthetic legs and was just like, staring into the camera and I said, 'That's the guy.'

And that became the beginning of a pretty lengthy process, trying to talk him into doing it – he's not an actor and he'd never acted before, so it was an interesting journey for him to go on as a current member of the military, still in the middle of recovering from this pretty intense injury, to being a movie star.
I imagine the fact that he was spending all his scenes with the leading lady was an incentive of sorts?

Pete Berg

I think the whole thing was so surreal for him. We fly him to Hawaii, he's with Brooklyn Decker on top of a mountain with this giant film crew and he's got me yelling at him, you know, trying to teach him how to act. I think it was a pretty surreal experience, to say the least.
What was the hardest scene to film?

Pete Berg

Um ... it's all hard. You know, making movies is hard. Going out on the water is hard, going up in the mountains is hard, working with new actors like Greg, moving around the world, like we did, it's all kind of one big challenge. We were very well prepared and we had a really solid crew so there was nothing catastrophic that happened.

It certainly could have, considering we were filming out in the middle of the ocean. We went out there and we wanted to really take the audience into that experience and that required a lot of preparation and contingency planning. But I think our producers did a really good job of getting us ready, so there was nothing overwhelmingly difficult.
You have a strong working relationship with Taylor, obviously, going back to Friday Night Lights. Can you talk about that?

Pete Berg

You know, he's kind of like my little brother. And I know him pretty well and I really like his sense of humour. It's like a relationship or a good friendship that only gets better the more you stick with it. So many times you make a movie with a group of people and then it explodes and you never see them again. And by the time the movie's over you're just starting to get a sense of who they are and you're just starting to get comfortable with them. So I like the idea of working with people more than once and developing real trust and being able to have arguments and fights and disagreements and come back afterwards, which I think in a relationship makes it stronger.

And so when I find someone like Taylor and other actors I've worked with repeatedly that I trust, that I really consider friends and I like the creative exploration that goes along with repeating the process.
Speaking of which, I thought Rihanna was excellent. I was talking to Taylor about her and he said that he put that down very much to you, as an actor-turned-director working with actors. How was she?

Pete Berg

She was great. A lot of people were kind of scratching their heads and being pretty sceptical about Rihanna. I remember Frank Sinatra winning an Academy Award for From Here To Eternity and making The Manchurian Candidate, Mick Jagger was in Performance, David Bowie's acted a couple of times, Kris Kristofferson, Liza Minnelli, recently Mariah Carey was great in Precious, Whitney Houston was in The Bodyguard – it's not such a crazy idea that a musical star could translate that charisma and that talent to film and to acting.

And, like many people, I was a big fan of Rihanna from her videos and she's obviously beautiful and very sexy and has great charisma. I was surprised that no-one had ever asked her to act before. So she came into my office for the first audition and she wore a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt and was very non-glamorous and we just improvised and played around and talked about acting. And she demonstrated a very clear desire to want to be an actress and she's a young, very talented girl and there was never a question in my mind that she wouldn't be good.

When I asked her to play the part, she said she would but she wanted me to promise her that I would treat her just like every other actress, that I wouldn't go easy on her, that I would not lie to her and tell her that something was good [when it wasn't], that I push her and I said I would and she said she'd work her butt off and she did. So it was a great experience.
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