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We Talk Thank You For Your Service w/ Miles Teller, Jason Hall & More!

10.24.2017

Being a civilian, it is hard to truly comprehend exactly what those that serve this country go through. We see movies, hear stories and maybe a song or two that represents the struggles they face in combat. One thing that is rarely discussed is feature films is just what happens when a soldier returns home. While you see it occasionally, all too often it doesn’t give the most honest interpretation of life after war. However, Adam Schumann is very aware of what it is like to come home after three tours. And now, his true life story is featured in the terrific new film THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

Recently, at the junket for the new drama, we had the opportunity to sit down one on one with some of the fine folks involved. First up we spoke to writer/director Jason Hall - who is making his feature film directorial debut with THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE - about taking on this film and his own family history with the military. We also sat down with the star of the film, Miles Teller. The actor opened up about playing Adam Schumann and how he approached playing Schumann. He also talked about connecting to the material, and the wealth of knowledge he discovered having Adam involved in the shoot.

And finally, we sat down with the man himself, Mr. Adam Schumann. This world of junkets and movie premiere’s is a bit new to Adam, but he fit right in. Sitting down with Adam was an absolute pleasure. We talked about his service, and how he was approached to talk about his life with author David Finkel who wrote the book on which this is based. Adam and I talked about everything from the perceptions people have as well as the struggles we as a country currently face with mental illness and more. This was a fantastic conversation, and one that I’m happy to share with you. Make sure to check out THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE this Friday at a theatre near you.

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JASON HALL

I guess the first thing I want to talk about, is your own history. Now I was reading you have a very strong military family. Is that what drives you to tell these stories with AMERICAN SNIPER and this?

I don't know. I guess to some degree it is. You know, I grew up hearing this history of my grandpa who got into a bicycle accident on base. And then his bomber went up without him the next day. He was pretty injured from the bike accident, with his whole crew and it got shot down over Germany and they all died. And he ended up coming back and was in the hospital where he met my grandma. But it always struck me that, that level of chance and uncertainty and ... you know? And if not for some bicycle accident I wouldn't exist.

And what he must've carried knowing that his whole crew died without him. The sort of ... the guilt and remorse that he must've carried and wondered about why him? Why did he walk away from that unscathed when those families lost their young men. I have a picture of it. We grew up with a picture of it on our wall, of his crew outside of this bomber.

Did he talk about it? Did he tell you-

Never talked about it. I heard this story only through my mom. 

Wow.

And she heard this story only through her mom.

How difficult it must be to have those stories and know that experience, and not being able to talk to people about it.

Yeah, yeah.

How quickly did these guys, when you talked to them when you started working on this film, how quickly did they open up to you?

You know, it took some work. It took some massaging for sure. They had been sort of progged by David Finkle who had followed them around for ten months. And he had earned their trust in war, he followed them into war for a year and wrote 'Good Soldiers,' which chronicled their deployment in Rustamiyah, Iraq. And then he followed certain members home who were struggling. And he wrote this book 'Thank you for Your Service.' So he had already sort of earned their trust and love and kind of cracked the story wide open. And it was about me maintaining that relationship and then finding a way to get a deeper essence of who they were. And how they talked and sort of the flavor of them, because in his book it's a bible for them when they came back. So I didn't necessarily go to them and make them retell the story that I already knew from the book. I was able to sort of befriend them and from those conversations, gained entry into ... and greater insight into their sort of psychic understanding of who they were if you will.

Originally Steven Spielberg was attached to direct correct?

Yeah.

How did it officially go to you?

Well you know, he was gonna direct SNIPER as well. 

I had heard that I believe.

So he was attached to direct SNIPER, we were working on that. And he brought in the book and handed it me, and said he wanted to do more about ... tell a story about our veterans coming home. And we were working on SNIPER and we realized that we kept adding to the part where he comes home after the sandstorm, and it got longer and longer. And we kept having to cut it back, and then it'd get longer and longer again. We were both very interested in that coming home, the resurrection of this hero. And so, yeah he put it down in front of me and we started working on that. And he dropped out of SNIPER and we continued working on this. And yeah, I operated as if he was gonna direct it for a good two years while I wrote it.

Wow.

And then only at the end I found out that he wasn't, at which time I pitched myself. And I think he had come to trust me, and trust my instincts in regard to this story and these warriors. And he knew how close I was to them, and my relationship that I built with them over the two years. And yeah, I had to go in and certainly pitch myself for the job. And you know? Visually illustrate how I wanted to shoot it and tell the story visually. And yeah, he was on the same page.

What was it about Adam's story?

You know Adam is ... Adam certainly is the protagonist in the book as well. But there's something of this every man quality to him that I think is representational of ... this sort of ... the every man warrior. You know? The blue collar warrior from one of our fly over states, who's ... you know, falls in love and this is his best option. This is the best option to be able to have a house with a fence and maybe go to school one day. And it was ... He's so emotionally articulate and open with what's going on with him that you just get this clear sense of him in the book. And I just felt like everything he had done over there, all the heroics he had done over there. David found him because everybody talked about Schumann as being one of the best soldiers in the whole battalion. 

Oh, okay.

They said that he was ... you know? We knocked on his door one day and said "Hey. I'm looking for a good soldier and they all pointed to you." And this was the guy if you wanted a guy who was nails, and who's responsible and always honored. It was Adam. You know? One day that took a turn for Adam, a thousand days in the war. And things started to go wrong for him. And he came home and he shared that with this journalist. And I thought that was just ... there was so much heroism and courage in the story of a guy who was that great of a soldier be that willing to open himself up for examination. 'Cause that is certainly not what you're taught and you know, trained in the military.

And you also have what is a really beautiful real life love story here. 

Yeah. So do you think the love story is between ... Who do you think the love story is between?

There's with her obviously-

Yeah, yeah.

And she is great here.

Right, right. But it's a love story between these two guys. 

It is. And that's pretty ballsy right there.

Yeah. No, that was ... someone actually pointed that out at a screening last night. At USC, a veteran who said "This is a love story between these two guys and I couldn't appreciate it more."

Wow.

"Because I love these men that work to my left and right." And like ... he's like "That's the thing I miss most about the military, is knowing that that guy to my right would die for me." He's like "I don't have that relationship here. I love my wife but it's a different kinda bond when you watch the guy to your right take a bullet for you.”

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MILES TELLER

I feel like over the past few years your career is just going in a really interesting and exciting way.

Thank you.

Have you been maneuvering your way through this? How are you choosing these roles?

Yeah, I mean, I think that I've been fortunate enough to where these scripts have been put in front of me and that these directors have wanted to work with me because I'm not writing these projects myself. Although, I almost feel like I would have written them because a lot of them are characters I feel so strongly about. But at the same time you need somebody to give you the opportunity and yeah, as the career goes on then you're able to make choices whereas early on ... people always want to criticize for their choices, it's like, I'm not making choices right now. I'm really just trying to keep a foot in this business and work my way up and hopefully in your 30s, you're able to work on some pretty, I guess some pretty great projects.

Well, I mean look, young actors usually are offered, what sex, comedies, or horror.

Right, exactly.

That's it.

Yeah, yeah.

You're not gonna get the Oscar winning material.

Yeah, because they feel like you haven't earned it, just in life and it's true. People in their 20s that's when you're ... Probably be a little more selfish with your time and the stakes aren't that high. Your not given as much responsibility like you were saying.

With WHIPLASH and this, are you finding yourself in kind of a new place as an actor? It's so fascinating to watch.

Yeah. I think for me I gravitate towards experiences that I couldn't have in every day life. Well I have a fiance now, but you could go to a bar and flirt with a girl or you could have coffee and you could talk about that kitchen sink kind of thing, which I enjoy. But no, like I said, I've been fortunate enough. With WHIPLASH and then with BLEED FOR THIS, like at the time I was like 26 years old, way out of shape and I hadn't played, in my mind, a man on screen. And then I got that opportunity and if somebody gives me that opportunity, then I'm gonna give it everything I can. I think that if a character or story requires that much of you, then you're fortunate. That means you're getting a great opportunity and fear of failure is also a driving force for me. A lot of these characters I've signed up for, I felt like I wouldn't be able to do it. I would have felt intimidated by it.

I was gonna say, it sounds like you choose roles that are specifically challenging for you.

Yeah, when you're out of your comfort zone, at least for me, that's when I've learned the most. I remember even Nicole Kidman kind of talked with me a little bit to where she's pretty scared about every one of these projects she signs up for. And that's a good problem to have. 

It really is. I think with this film especially like you were saying, it's hard to get in their shoes and really live in that world.

Yeah, I felt very strongly about it. I read the script and I almost shied away from it because I have so much respect for the military. I knew that I was gonna have to represent a staff sergeant in the United States Army and a guy who had just finished three deployments, and a guy who had lived through a lot. I knew that that was gonna require a lot of me and I felt weird even pretending to be that person. I know that's what we do for work but something felt cheap about it. But I met with Jay and Jay was extremely passionate about the project and then I just felt like I wanted that responsibility. I felt like I would be able to do Adam justice.

Well I think you hit a really interesting point too, it's like actors need to experience a little bit and to step into a role, they need to make it real.

Yeah.

You can't make this real.

No you can't. 

Ever. 

No it's like you've either been to war or you haven't. As civilians, we really can't relate to it. You can read everything you want and watch documentaries and stuff, but to actually live through it, it's impossible. But I think at the core of this is trauma and I think trauma is universal. Everybody will experience it and I've experienced some in my life and I have some personal things that I could draw on. I feel like that did bring me closer to Adam and there were other things. Look it's not like I could show up on this movie tomorrow, or even in a week or a month and make it authentic. There's just so much that goes into wearing that uniform and having the rank that Adam achieved. You sacrifice a lot for it. But we had great resources with Adam, who was an open book throughout this whole process and military advisors. We wanted to make an authentic version of the movie first. We wanted to be authentic first. We made it for these people and their families and then the larger veteran community and then kind of general audiences second.

I just wonder how, what do you hope this film does for our vets and what kind of effect it will have on them?

Well I think it kind of pulls the curtain back a little bit. I think as civilians it's like people can read the statistics and we know that PTSD exists and we know that maybe hopefully at this point that 22 vets a day are committing suicide. But this film humanizes it. It puts a face to it and also that's the power of film, right? It can impact you in way that just reading a book can't. I think that we're able to put the camera and put the audience right there. They're able to be a fly on the wall for this and what we know from the screenings we've done is that Adam represents millions of people who are watching this and they don't just have to be military vets. 

Anyone who's just experienced intense trauma and who has struggled, I think will see themselves in this film. And so I find it to be very hopeful but I hope that it does awaken and evoke some compassion, and hopefully if we're lucky, that it can make its way all the way up to Congress but it starts with us because these are our countrymen. And regardless what you think about war, they are representing our country and they are serving and they're sacrificing so we can do a better job.

I agree and I think mental illness is becoming something that we can't avoid any longer.

No, and mental illness is tough. I have people in my life that I'm extremely close with who are battling mental illness. And there's not a pill for it, there's not a magic bullet for it. It's complicated and it's complex and it's tough to figure out how the brain works and the brain lies to itself with mental illness. So it's extremely tough but you need people like Michelle in the VA that are giving their lunch breaks up to help. It's a lot of deep therapy sessions and just people, non-profit organizations that are lending themselves to help.

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ADAM SCHUMANN

I'll be honest man, I didn't even know how you can deal with having to tell the story, answer all these questions. Does it drive you crazy? Does it help or does it hinder?

Oh, it's helped, yeah. This is everyday therapy. Yeah, I get to look at ... I really get a look out of every day of how bad things can be and even when I was in those moments ... Growing up my mom always told me, "People always have it worse than you. Don't ever take a bad situation for granted because it could always be worse." And I just try and use that as my mantra. And now that I'm able to see it, and now it's a movie, and yeah, I can see that and go, "You know what? I can be worse."

When you first started ... I'm assuming David Finkel approached you?

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

What was your reaction?

Well, I was just told that I was getting Medevac'd from Iraq for PTSD. It was a blow to my ego. It was heart-breaking. I felt like crap. Guilty that I was leaving my guys and unaccomplished and like a poor soldier. And David walked in my room and I thought he was there to report on this guy getting sent home for being crazy. You know, that's what I thought he was there for. But, no, he opened up right away and said, "I'm here because I keep hearing your name and people keep telling me you're a good soldier and I just wanted to find out who you were." So I gave him the time of day and we sat down and we started talking, and the next day, he followed me to the helicopter. I got on it and I left Iraq and then 'Good Soldiers' was written about that deployment, and then he approached me a year later. He said, "I want to find out what you're going through now." He said, "This story's not done. I want to keep reporting on this." So he embedded into my life for about another 10 months of my recovery.

What was that like?

He's a professional. He was a fly on the wall. I mean this guy wouldn't even take a drink of water from my house. 

Really?

He wouldn't use the bathroom. He just, he stayed, he was ... Yeah. He was there but he wasn't. But it was nice because I had this hip pocket therapist with me everywhere I went. I just had someone to talk to. If I was having a shitty day, I had someone to tell I was having a crappy day and they didn't judge me, you know? It wasn't my wife, it wasn't a colleague, you know? It was just this guy that just wanted the story. 

Wow.

So it was just so nice just to tell him, unbiased, that this is what I was feeling today.

I mean, that's kinda cool right there.

Yeah, it was. Absolutely. David helped save my life. We're still best friends. We talk regularly.

A lot of times ... I mean, like I said, going into this interview, I talk to actors all the time and who do their thing and move on. They haven't gone through anything remotely like what you've gone through. And i just, I wonder, how do you process all those questions? Do you ever go like, "God, you guys don't f*cking get it."

We have to find a common ground. You really do. No matter who you work with, because everybody comes from a different past and a different present and a different future. Everybody's going for different things so, you know, for me to look at someone and say, "You haven't been through what I've been through." Well, I don't know what they've been through. You could have experienced some serious trauma in your life that maybe wasn't related to combat. So that's how I went into it. And, you know, I did my research on Miles and Jason and these were guys that had been through some shit. And I was very accepting of that. I knew that these guys could pull it off because they knew what it was like. Maybe not exactly what combat was like, but I knew that they knew what that feeling of guilt and what that feeling of regret and hopelessness and sadness and sorrow and anger felt like, in some sense, whether it was a loss of loved one or the loss of a comrade in combat, they're really one and the same.

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When did you realize that PTSD is something I really need to take care of? This is something I can't deal. I can't deal with this alone.

Yeah. Oh boy. I did three deployments and it was halfway through my third deployment when it really hit me that I was starting to not even function as a ... I couldn't even function as a soldier anymore, let alone a human being. And it was really a hindrance on my work and that's why I pulled myself out of the fight and went and got help.

How did your family deal with it, or did you talk about it?

Nobody really knew, so to speak. I kept it between myself, and I just kinda let everybody, you know ... Everybody knew, but they didn't know. You know, I was like, "Yeah, I messed up, whatever, but I'll figure it out. I'm gonna fix this." So I really took on that responsibility and maybe I shouldn't have. Maybe I should've just let more people in to help. And that's a big part of the story. Sometimes you just gotta ask for help. Doesn't matter. And once you're in a position where you're good, then reach out and help someone else. That's it.

Was there a trust issue? Is there kind of a, "Hey, you don't even get it...?"

Yeah. There was in the beginning for sure. I almost walked away from the whole thing. I said, "No, I don't want my name used in this and I don't know what your intentions are with this and you could spin this a million different ways." So me, you know, I'm constantly thinking of the worst possible scenario.

Are they gonna portray this character, Adam Schumann, as a crazy vet who's punching people in a bar and flipping out? You know, I didn't want that 'cause that's not ... That's a serotype everybody has but that's not really what it is. So, yeah, I was so scared. I was nervous and it was a giant leap of faith, but what did I have to really lose?

Can you talk about your relationship with Miles? He talked a little bit about working with you, saying you were his guide. 

Yeah, now, Miles, I consider him like a brother. I love him. There's nothing I probably wouldn't do for him. He's part of my family now. He's really ... Yeah, I treat him like one of the guys. I mean, him and I growing up together, we'd be probably best friends, you know? Just one of the ... not necessarily the same person, but just someone I can relate to as just being a good guy. He's just a really ... He had a good vibe, a feel. Not to sound hippyish or anything, but he's just got a good aura. He's just a good person, and it's hard not to feel that when you're around him. And he's a true professional.

How do you see your friends? Do you guys find a lot of support? Was that always the case or was it-

No, because when we all first ... You know, when I got out, I left the unit and I was kind of alone and separated and, you know, these guys, we all kind of follow that same path. We get out and we don't forget our comrades and our brothers, but when we get out and we separate from them, we feel like I'm not part of the family anymore, or I betrayed them by getting out. We all kind of did our own thing, but we're all finding now, you know, 10 years after this whole thing, that we're all reconnecting. I think I'm mad at myself for not reconnecting sooner with a lot of these guys and staying in touch. But the few that I have stayed in contact with, we've really been a good support system for each other 'cause when he's down, I sense it. Now, hell, when I'm down, they sense it and they help. They'll gut-check you sometimes. They'll tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Sometimes they'll, "Hey, you're f*cking up. Fix it." And that's what you get with Army guys, especially infantry guys. It's, yeah. It's a great bond and it's something that I don't ever want to lose.

Do you feel like you are the face of this? Do you feel that you want to show yourself as, "Look. You guys can get help. You guys can go out there?"

Yeah. I do now. With the books, you know, I told myself ... People ask me, "Why'd you do the books?" "How much money did they give you?" I was like, "Well, it's a book. It's journalistic work. You don't get paid for that." That's not a ... You know, people get that stereotype wrong. So, you know, in the beginning, David with me, it was just I hope one guy reads the book or one family member reads the book and reached out and got some help.

And it did. I met a guy at Pathway. I went there and worked as a peer counselor after I went through the program. I was hired on as a peer counselor to help fellow veterans. And this guy came through and he said, "You know what? My wife read the book and she got me help." And that made me feel, that was it. It was like life's complete at this point.

Well, now there's this movie. And I'm already meeting people at screenings. They're completly changed and moved and just thankful that they're story is told. It's not my story. It's our story. And it's truly amazing. It is.

Well, because it's something I think no one ... People were afraid to talk about. Like you said, you can't talk about it really because it can be so personal and painful.

Yeah, it was embarrassing. I didn't want to be that face. And now that I'm seeing the reaction, I'll gladly wear that as a badge of honor and I'll gladly be the voice for everybody if need be. I'll take that heat and it's no different than being in combat, you know? I'll talk commission for you and if that's what needs to happen, I will jump on this and ride it as far as I can and try to help as many people as I can along the way.

Are we making progress?

Yeah, we are. Slowly. I mean, there's some amazing people in the system. Amazing. In the VA, everywhere. But it's gonna get worse before it gets better.

Yeah.

'Cause we've got all these veterans now. We're 17 years deep in the Middle East with this FOEF. And it's only getting worse almost. It's not getting any better. What are we gonna do? So, yeah, more needs to be done. We're gonna have a huge wave of veterans coming and flooding the system and flooding our communities that are coming back from combat and from places that most people can't even imagine. And situations that most people can't fathom. But, you know, we gotta figure out a way to bridge that gap and re-integrate each other together and embrace it and just be a community again. That's it.

Do you feel now that the discussion is being so open about mental illness, about PTSD, do you feel that you could go further with that, like with the peer counseling? Is that something that we are moving to ... Battle your own demons I guess?

Yeah, I'm in position now to help, and if that is the platform I gotta jump on and rattle cages and help, I'm gonna take it. But I can't do it alone. And that's just it. If everybody just reached out to that one person in their life that's struggling. You know, I focus on a couple and they focus on me, 'cause I got my days where I don't want to get through the day, and they pick me up. So, yeah, I want to continue this. It's necessary. And we're gonna need a shit-load more of it in the next few years I think. 

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Oh, I think so.

And just look at what happened in Vegas. That's a traumatic event. Those people are gonna need help, for years. And nobody ... You know, people look at it as mental illness. Me? I look at it as a mental injury. 

Yeah. No, absolutely.

You weren't born with that scar on your brain of that traumatic event. You've created a new neurological pathway. You've switched back into the primitive brain, you know, fight or flight and survival and it's tough. That's why I say this movie encompasses trauma. Trauma is not biased or racist on who it affects and it affects everyone differently.

It's universal.

It is. It's universal. Everybody's gonna have it. Everybody's gonna experience it. We're all gonna experience it different ways, but we need to accept it for what it is and the fact that it's a mental injury. That we are capable of having mental injuries and that it's okay to have them and that it's okay to talk about them and that, you know what, that guy that's sitting in the corner by himself and doesn't associate with anybody? Maybe you just need to go sit down and talk to him. 

See that's the thing. I feel like we're so-

Individualized.

Yeah. And we forget about ... To understand.

How you doing?

Yeah.

Instead of saying, "Hi." Say, "Hi, how are you doing today? What can I do for you today? What do you need?" That's it. It's like saying, "Thank you for your service" versus "Hey man, welcome home."

I was reading an article, I think yesterday, about a lot of vets are offended by, "Thank you for your service."

It's not offensive. It's just not something you want to be thanked for. We just did our job. We didn't sign up for a thank you. We didn't sign up for free meals on Veteran's Day. We didn't sign up for a discount at the parts store. You know, it's nice but ... A buddy of mine discussed the other day. He was at a store and they had a parking space up front at the store that said, "Reserved for Veterans." And he said he thought for one second, "I'd pull in there." And he said, "Nope. I drove to the back of the parking lot and I parked." He said he would have felt guilty and we would have made fun of him if he had parked there. But that's how it is, you know. You just want to be ... It's not for notoriety, it's not for badges, it's not for metals. It's just for yourself.

 

Extra Tidbit: Universal and AMC have created a partnership on THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. Offer Valid at More Than 400 AMC Theatres Nationwide to First 25 Servicemembers Who Request Tickets to the 7:00 P.M. Preview Screening on October 26. For more information, check out www.ThankYouForYourService.com.
Source: JoBlo.com

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