Real life heroes star in Clint Eastwood French attack movie

Alek Skarlatos, left, Spencer Stone, center, and Anthony Sadler overpowered a gunman on a Paris-bound train in 2015. The three childhood friends play themselves in a movie about the incident, opening in US movie theaters on Friday. (Getty Images)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Real life heroes star in Clint Eastwood French attack movie

LOS ANGELES: In 2015 they were hailed as heroes by US President Barack Obama and given France’s highest honors.
This week, the three American childhood friends who overpowered a man wielding an assault rifle and a box cutter on a passenger train to Paris are starring in a Clint Eastwood movie about the attack, and it’s feeling a little surreal.
Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos from Sacramento, California, play themselves in the movie “The 15:17 to Paris,” opening in US movie theaters on Friday.
After meeting the three men in their 20s at an awards show, Eastwood decided to make a film, but rather than casting actors, the Oscar-winning director called on the friends themselves.
“Three weeks before shooting, he’s like ‘Do you guys want to do it yourselves?’ and we were like ‘What? The movie starts in three weeks and we never took acting classes,’” Sadler said.
“(Eastwood) was like ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re just going to go and do it.’ So he just kept it simple and said ‘Be yourself and we’re just going to capture it’,” he added.
The trio were on a train from Amsterdam to Paris on a European vacation on Aug. 21, 2015 when a suspected Islamist militant opened fire on passengers.
They helped overpower the man, and Stone plugged the wounds of another passenger with his fingers after being struck himself by the attacker. Two other passengers were wounded and the attacker was arrested when the train stopped.
Stone is glad the film also honors the other people who sprang into action. In the film, many of the passengers are the same people who were on the train in 2015.
“A lot of the times the story is depicted that we were the only ones who did anything,” he said. “For them to be honored for what they did in such a big way is awesome because it’s something we’ve always wanted but we just didn’t know how we could do that.
“We just wanted to get it right and I think we did,” Stone added.
Skarlatos said shooting the movie “helped us close a chapter in our lives and move on.”
But the trio is also hoping it opens other doors.
“Hopefully this launches movie careers for all three of us,” said Sadler. “We’re all trying to pursue acting. We’ve kind of caught the acting bug and he (Eastwood) gave us the confidence to do it.”


‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

Updated 15 November 2018
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‘Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses’ tells heart-wrenching story of Syria’s lost artists

  • The 93-minute film follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement

BEIRUT: Filmmaker Nigol Bezjian premiered his latest movie “Broken Dinners, Postponed Kisses” with an intimate screening in Beirut on Wednesday night.
The 93-minute film — which features dialogue in Arabic, Armenian, German and English with English-language subtitles — follows six Syrian artists as they narrate their stories of displacement.
Bezjian, an Armenian born in Aleppo, Syria, spoke to Arab News about the experience of making the powerful film and said it was inspired by one of his previous works, “Thank You, Ladies and Gentlemen.”
“The movie is about Syrian refugees in the camps of Lebanon and it stayed with me,” he said about his previous film. “But I wanted to make a film about people in our region who had to depart their homeland, from the time of the end of World War I until today.”
That sparked the idea for his latest venture.
Bezjian chose six characters and honed in on their past experiences in what turned out to be an insightful peek through the keyhole into the lives of those who have been affected by the strife in Syria.
“The characters in the film are artists who work in different disciplines of art,” he explained.

“The film is something of a documentary, as the characters’ stories are all real, yet the concept that ties them all together was created by me,” the filmmaker continued.
Making an appearance are filmmaker Vartan Meguerditchian, actor Ayham Majid Agha, musician Abo Gabi, dancer Yara Al-Hasbani, painter Diala Brisly and photographer Ammar Abd Rabbo.
The film explores the inner feelings and reflections of people who had to leave their homes and be transported to a new environment, facing many challenges along the way.
Despite the sometimes heart-wrenching subject matter, Bezjian noted that the main challenges he faced while producing the film were budget and timeframe.
“The movie took two-and-a-half years (to make), so the main challenge was not to give up and keep the same spirit and momentum throughout this time,” he said.

At the screening, an eager crowd listened as the filmmaker gave his introductory speech.

“There are a lot of faces I don’t recognize, and that’s a good thing,” Nigol said. 

The movie is filled with tense moments, artistic shots and captivating characters, that succeeded to show the reality of artists’ lives in environments marked by conflict and refuge.