Triple Frontier Interview
(L-R): Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam and
Ben Affleck star in director J.C. Chandor’s action-crime-heist film, ‘Triple Frontier.’

Reevaluating what makes them valuable to not only themselves, but also their families and society, can be an ambitious and difficult challenge for some people, especially those who are no longer needed in the field that defined them throughout the majority of their adult lives. That’s certainly the case for the at-times emotionally struggling heroes in the new heist crime film, ‘Triple Frontier.’

The five former Special Forces operatives who serve as the protagonists in the action movie are striving to cope with integrating back into civilian life after the ending of their long military careers, but the friends are continuously grappling with the loss of their adult identities and sense of purpose. The meandering point they’ve reached after the urgency and sense of purpose in their lives has left leads them to bond over their new perspectives on society and survival. As a result, they regain their sense of belonging, and determinedly set out to recapture their sense of purpose in life one more time, even if it means putting themselves in danger again.

Before its global launch on Netflix next Wednesday, March 13, ‘Triple Frontier’ is opening in an exclusive theatrical engagement today. The adventure drama was directed by Academy Award nominee, J.C. Chandor (‘Margin Call,’ ‘All Is Lost,’ ‘A Most Violent Year‘), who also worked on rewrites on the script, which was originally penned by Academy Award winner, Mark Boal (‘The Hurt Locker,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty’).

‘Triple Frontier’ follows a group of former Special Forces operatives, including Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis, Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia, William ‘Ironhead’ Miller, Ben Miller and Francisco ‘Catfish’ Morales (Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal), as they reunite to plan a heist in he tsparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake a dangerous mission for self, instead of country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, loyalties and morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.

Affleck, Hunnam, Isaac, Hedlund, Pascal and Chandor generously took the time recently to participate in roundtable interviews at New York City’s Four Seasons Downtown Hotel. Among other things, the actors and director discussed how like the characters in the film, they remained loyal to their mission of starring in, and helming, the project, despite the obstacles they faced throughout its at-times tumultuous decade-long development period. They also mentioned how they cherished the processes of working with military advisors on creating the physicality for the characters, as well as shooting in the actual locations where the story is set, as both experiences allowed them to better connect with, and understand, the emotional arcs of their former Special Forces operatives.

One of the major topics the performers and helmer discussed was how they all became interested in working on the movie, especially since it entered into development almost a decade ago. Chandor explained that he became attached to direct ‘Triple Frontier’ because he previously “made three films that all originated with myself. So quite on purpose, I was looking for source material…to free me up as a director. When you think of an idea and write it, and then shoot it, you become very attached,” he admitted.

“So before I became locked into one way of making a movie, I wanted to try something else,” the helmer disclosed. “When I read this story, what was neat about it was that I’m a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow,” who was originally attached to helm the drama, but remained signed on to executive produce it once she stepped down from the directing duties.

Chandor also admitted that “the story isn’t something that I would have ever come up with myself, which is what I was looking for, so that I could stretch myself. But the thematic element is something that I have looked at before, and will continue to do in my future projects.”

Hunnam noted that one of the major attractions for him and his co-stars was the opportunity to work with Chandor on the film. “We all have admiration for his prior work. I was a fan of his work on ‘Margin Call,‘ particularly the way he handled an ensemble cast. This movie also has a very good script, and gave J.C. the opportunity to put together another really exciting ensemble. He gave each character their own moments to shine.”

When Hunnam was initially sent the script, the filmmakers wanted him to read it with the idea of playing Ironhead in mind. “Ben and Oscar’s roles had already been cast. I knew that Garrett, who’s been a dear friend of mine for 15 years, was also reading the script at the same time.”

The casting process “was all we did!,” Chandor admitted with a laugh. “I became attached to the project during the summer of 2015. The casting was an amazing and bumpy process. But I believe that the right people are in the film. I’ve had crazy casting processes on all of my movies, but this one has been a little more publicly known. As things happened to this film, a lot of people knew about it. I believe that the people who are on set the first day of principal photography are meant to be in it.”

Hunnam added that once the performers were cast, “One of the changes that was made was that Pope and Redfly used to be brothers. At that point, they were still talking about the potential for that. But J.C. started to think that it would be distracting for Garrett and I to be on screen together, and have no familial bond, since we have the same sensibility and look. So he decided not to have Pope and Redfly be brothers, and have Garrett and my characters be brothers, instead.”

The experience of playing Hedlund’s brother on screen was one that Hunnam called fun. “Garrett and I had been wanting to act together. We’ve spent so much time together over the past 15 years, and are constantly being asked if we’re brothers. So it was inevitable that when we did finally work together, it would be in that capacity.”

“The same was true for me-the attraction was really director and character-based,” Affleck admitted. “Also, given this strong cast was the icing on the cake.”

Another major topics the actors and director discussed was the process of working with military advisors on creating the physicality for the characters in ‘Triple Frontier.’ Affleck revealed that “We worked with these great trainers and tactical advisors. We shot live weapons, and tried to learn how to emulate them the best way we could. We hung out with them and really worked with them.”

Hunnam then chimed in, adding that there were several Navy SEALs and a Delta Force operator who they worked with, who he called “extraordinary. The Delta Force guy blew my mind, particularly in his proficiency across the board,” the actor admitted. “He had such a diverse skill set. They were all really intelligent, and obviously very disciplined.”

In terms of working with the military advisors during the cast’s training for the movie, “I was shocked by how much trust they put in us very quickly. They allowed us all to be on the range with live fire, and doing increasingly more complex maneuvers, particularly the first day I was there. We ended up doing things like simulating ambushes and shooting through windows, which I didn’t know how to do,” Hunnam also divulged.

“One of the first things we did was go out into the desert in California, and go to the shooting range,” Isaac affirmed. “We met these incredible Special Forces advisors, and to me, that was the most important part of this whole process,” he admitted. “They helped build our confidence and focus on what really matters, which wasn’t necessarily how many push-ups we could do; it was more of getting us to think in a tactical way. By the end of that first day, they gave us live ammunition, and trusted us with it.”

Affleck also disclosed that there were stuntmen on the set, who were able to stand in for the actors during filming, if needed. “But the idea was to have us actors do as much as we could ourselves.”

With the success of the story depending on the close bond between the former Special Forces operatives, the connection between the five men came from the performers “spending time together. These other actors are men who I really like and respect,” Affleck gushed about his main co-stars. “I think we all knew that the movie would fall apart if there wasn’t a sense of history between these people, and I think everyone was invested in that.”

Hedlund followed up on the bond between the characters and actors. “All of us have known each other in different facets throughout the years. This was Oscar and my third film together (following ‘Mojave‘ and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’), and we’ve known each other for 10 years. Charlie and I have been pals for 15 years, and have always wanted to do something together,” he echoed of his co-star’s earlier sentiment.

“I think there is serendipity that goes into any project,” Pascal also divulged. He pointed out that “With this one, there were a lot of changes in the cast, but we were the ones who were meant to be in it. We all did know each other before we signed onto this film; I did my first professional play with Oscar here in New York about 14 years ago. I know Garrett through Oscar, and I know Ben through Matt (Damon, when he worked with on ‘The Great Wall.’) I also met Charlie when he was 19, and coming out to LA.

“So for me, all of these connections put us into this great ensemble cast on the mountains and in the jungle and water. Every job has its own thing to show and teach you. Then you have to find your entryway through that, in terms of opening your souls to the characters, which is something that you hope just happens,” the performer added.

“I remember when you called me and asked, ‘Are you going to jump in on this mission, buddy?,'” Hedlund recalled as he turned to Pascal, which garnered a laugh. “I wasn’t sure at first. But he was like, ‘Look, I’ve worked with J.C.’ I also knew J.C. from when he brought ‘All Is Lost’ to Cannes. Padro was like, ‘Look, he encourages improv, and it’s an easy set. The collaboration becomes really creative, and there’s room to build on these characters, so we can organically grow.’ I was like, ‘You don’t understand; I did ‘Four Brothers,’ and I’m 34 and still playing the younger brother!,'” which garnered more laughs.

After the actors signed on and started working together, “If J.C. saw any negativity towards us getting along, he really opened the door to use that to strengthen our bonds,” Pascal added. “He would sit back and secretly think, I can use this.”

Once the actors were cast in ‘Triple Frontier,’ Chandor didn’t mandate that they rehearse a certain way during the project. “I knew that there were these connections between the actors. Getting them all together as actors was like getting the characters back together,” the director pointed out. “I think that if you look at the journey that these characters go on, things start falling apart, and they start making bad decisions. The actors understood that, because they know that their characters are no longer in the military, and don’t have the government behind them.”

The motivations that Redfly and his fellow former operatives held when they decided to embark on the heist was “complicated. There were a lot of competing motivations, and one of the biggest ones was greed,” Affleck also pointed out. “There were a lot of pressures that were being exerted on this group of friends, and that’s what made it fun for me as an actor.”

The former Special Forces operatives faced difficulties after they retired from military life, which also led them to embark on the heist, Hunnam also pointed out. “Post-traumatic stress disorder is this one-all explanation for the difficulty of re-integration into civilian life. That doesn’t do justice into the difficulties that veterans face after being removed from a very specific purpose, and a community that’s hierarchical, where everyone has a specific role,” the performer further explained.

“They felt most vital and valuable when they’re engaged in their work. So the reintegration (into civilian life) after returning home” doesn’t fill the hole that was left in the veterans’ sense of purpose after they stepped down from their jobs, Hunnam noted. “This exciting experience that was the center of their emotional and mental capacity is finished. Then they returned home, and the life they knew before starting their service moved on.”

Chandor also offered his thoughts on the subject, saying “We’re giving these characters, who have essentially, for the past 20 years, been fighting a war for us, but are now no longer in the military, the chance to relive that experience. I think we, as a country, have been living with that, to a lesser extent, for the past 20 years, because there’s a war going on. A very small percentage of the population has carried the burden of that, and these characters are really living with it. So going into the project, I loved that the story was acting a parable for the last 20 years.”

Hunnam further offered insight into the former Special Forces operatives’ mindsets by emphasizing that “reintegration into civilian life is always difficult, which I thought was one of the interesting things about the script. What do you do when you’re still in the prime of your life, but your primary skill set is no longer deemed valuable? So these guys are at a loss of what to do. So the money was of secondary importance to them.”

Affleck supported Hunnam’s explanation over the difficulties of veterans reintegrating into civilian life when they return home from war and battle. “The movie wants to do justice to the difficulty of that process. If we paint a picture that’s accurate, people will have a better understanding of what it’s like to live this life very intensely, and then change gears so abruptly” when they return home.

The actor added that people like Redfly “just want to be seen and respected, as well as receive fairness. That demands that we appreciate and respect what people in the military, especially the Special Forces, do, especially when they have to keep deploying and going into combat.”

There were several different countries and terrains that ‘Triple Frontier’ was shot in, including Hawaii, the Sierra Mountains in Mammoth, California and Bogota, Colombia, which the performers and helmer also cherished. “There was a whole army of people who worked to make the experience of shooting in the different locations as easy as possible,” Hunnam confessed.

There was a difference between living and filming in Hawaii, Isaac also revealed. “We were working in mostly exteriors there, and the climate would change so quickly, so there was a lot of waiting around” for the elements to change. “Shooting in the Sierra Mountains was even more severe, because we were up in the high elevation…We definitely had some challenges with the weather!”

Photo ofBen Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal and J.C. Chandor
Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal and J.C. Chandor
Job Title
Actors and director of the action-crime-heist film, 'Triple Frontier'

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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