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Q&A With Hollywood’s Emile Hirsch

The 30-year-old actor on what it meant to play Littleton’s Danny Dietz, one of the Navy SEALs killed in Operation Red Wings in 2005, in the recent blockbuster Lone Survivor.

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5280: The director of Lone Survivor, Peter Berg, revealed that you lobbied pretty hard for the role of Danny Dietz. Why was it so important to you?

Hirsch: It was important to me to represent Danny to the best of my ability because honoring his courage, commitment, and sacrifice stirred something deep in me. It is what makes me, as an actor, know I am doing something truly worth doing, and I wanted that responsibility to ensure it was done right. I also really liked Danny as a person—he wasn’t any regular type of person or SEAL. He was truly unique.

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Tell me about how you prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally for the role. In doing your research, what surprised you most about Danny?

Preparation for the role consisted of six days a week training at a place called Pro Camp in Venice Beach, talking with Danny’s friends and family on the phone and through Skype, visiting Coronado and BUDS, reading books and articles, and making sure I was up to the role. Danny had such a loving heart, I would discover. He was a very sincere, determined person.

What was the most difficult part of Danny to capture?

His focus and his physicality were the hardest parts to capture because he had so much of both qualities.

What were you most nervous, or concerned about, in terms of how the film would be received by Danny’s family?

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I knew no matter what I did, they would never be able to see Danny when they saw me onscreen. It’s impossible. People are too unique. I told his family that in advance, and I think they appreciated my honesty about that part of the process. I did want them to feel like Danny was portrayed in an honest and true-to-life way, and not feel like it was a false version or a Hollywood treatment. That was very important to me.

What did you take away from Danny’s story?

Danny had so much strength, so much courage, so much love. He had continuously inspired me to be a better person since the day I first read about him. He has influenced me tremendously and the experience of playing him changed my life forever.

(Read Kasey Cordell’s story on Danny Dietz in 5280′s July 2015 issue or online)

Follow senior editor Kasey Cordell on Twitter @KaseyCordell.

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