Man of Steele
Total DVD's Phil Mason spoke to Jason
Isaacs, British star of Black Hawk Down
How did you get involved
with Black Hawk Down?
Basically because I loved the book. It's the
most page-turning work of non-fiction I've ever read. My character, Steele, is
the most fascinating man.
Basically because no one really liked him,
despite the fact that he was a good guy. The paradox of leadership is you want
the men in your command to like you and to follow you, but you also want them
to be scared of you - so that ultimately, when bullets are flying, they do what
you say rather than follow their instincts. That was him. He was a very
by-the-book guy who tried to maintain discipline amongst these 19-year-olds.
There's a definite sense of romance about the elite Delta Force, who the
Rangers worked with in Somalia, and Steele had to stop them being influenced by
that. Those guys are much older than the Rangers, they don't use rank, they
call each other by their first names and so on - whereas the Rangers have a
prescribed method of doing absolutely everything. He realised if they started
that, the whole chain of command could fall apart. I actually felt some
semblance of his unpopularity myself on the time we spent preparing for the
shoot. We went to train with the Rangers and, as it turned out, they didn't
understand the hierarchy of the film business - if I was playing Captain
Steele, it was decided, I should be put in charge of all the actors. I ended up
having to make some very unpopular decisions, like when the food hadn't arrived
in time and we had to go out to eat. Since we had to get up early the next day,
I said no one was allowed a beer. It was basically a week-long improvisation
and, all credit to them, most of the time they went with it. They could easily
have told me to f**k off.
Was it a difficult role
to prepare for?
I'd like to say that after a week we were
all ready to fight, but I'm sure it was a heavily diluted training programme.
It was more an indoctrination to get inside the minds of these incredible
people who live by something called The Ranger Creed, which, as far as I can
see is like a Medieval code.
The other thing I wanted to make sure I got
right was the accent. We trained in Fort Benning in Georgia, which is where
Steele is from, so luckily I was able to soak everything up like a sponge when
I was there, which tends to happen to everyone that hangs out with these guys
for long enough. I met one guy from Yorkshire who'd joined the Rangers and he
had a Southern accent. The action scenes were certainly difficult to prepare
for and shoot - simply because the whole thing was absolutely f**king
terrifying. Not often in acting are you called on to perform with buildings
blowing up either side of you, the ground underneath your feet rumbling while
being peppered with bullets, but we were on Black Hawk Down.
Did you ever feel in
Tempers flared quite a few times because
adrenaline was so high, but there were very few injuries. My theory is that the
people that were orchestrating the chaos around us were doing it in a far more
safe fashion than they let on, in order to cultivate a sense of panic.
Is the film successful in
getting across the situation in Somalia?
I don't think Ridley was actually trying to
represent the situation in Somalia at all - he was more interested in telling
an intimate, personal story than a political one. He just wanted to take you
through the lives of this company of Rangers over a very specific 24-hour
period, so in some ways it could have been set in any urban conflict.
It represents the soldiers accurately,
pretty much as supermen. Every country has a regiment like this - front line
infantry who go in to the most dangerous places that haven't been softened up
by air attacks and that will lay down their lives for their comrades without
question. The mission itself was successful and was over in fifteen minutes.
But the helicopters got shot down, and then they weren't coming back until they
recovered the bodies, even though the likelihood was that they were dead. The
guy that Eric Bana plays in the film did something that was so extraordinary,
that they couldn't actually include it. When it was all over, he loaded up his
weapons and walked out again by himself and came back in with the location of
the bodies of two fallen delta force snipers. He'd got them off of the mob,
taken them somewhere and buried them out of harm's way.
Phil Mason, Total DVD, October 2002