Actor, director and all around badass Clint Eastwood has done it again: he's given patriotic Americans yet another reason to love him.
Eastwood has been defying Hollywood norms for decades, and in his recent projects, most notably Gran Torino, has experimented with casting actors with little to no experience for the sake of authenticity. The celebrated director has decided to take his unorthodox approach a step further for his next film, The 15:17 to Paris, which covers the incredible real-life story of the three American heroes, including one National Guardsman and one U.S. Airman, who took it upon themselves to thwart a heavily-armed Islamic terrorist on a train bound for Paris.
To play the three real-life heroes, Eastwood has cast the three heroes themselves.
"In an unconventional move, Clint Eastwood has tapped Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone to play themselves in his next movie, 'The 15:17 to Paris,'" reports Variety. After a "wide-ranging search" for actors who could play the three American heroes, "at the 11th hour" Eastwood decided the men themselves were the best choice.
Variety's sources say that Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone will have "good-sized roles," but they will not be "full-on leads."
Sources say that, while the three will have good-sized roles, the film is expected to begin during their childhood and show their friendship leading up to the moment that changed their lives. That means the roles will not be full-on leads.
The harrowing incident, which took place on August 21, 2015, on the "15:17 to Paris," became one of the biggest stories in the world. A few days after the thwarted terror attack, The Washington Post provided an account of the heroic acts of the three men, who managed to subdue suspected Islamic terrorist Ayoub el-Khazzani:
“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.
After tying up Khazzani, the three men then tended to the wounded, including a passenger who had blood "squirting" from his neck. For their actions, French President Francois Hollande honored the men with France's most prestigious decoration, the Legion of Honor.
According to Variety, before deciding on producing a film adaptation of Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone's autobiographical account of the event, Eastwood was "weighing a handful of movies" that featured other real-life stories of heroism, "including 'Impossible Odds,' the story of humanitarian worker Jessica Buchanan, who was kidnapped while working in Somalia and later rescued by a group of Navy SEALs."
Eastwood's biggest directorial hit is American Sniper (2014), which grossed $350 million domestically and a total of $547 million worldwide. Eastwood's Sully (2016), which also told the story of American heroism, brought in $125 million domestically.