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In 1993, Tom Berenger starred as a tough as nails U.S. Marine sniper Thomas Beckett, whose standing orders were to seek out rebels and remove them using his sniper skills. In 2011, Chad Michael Collins takes over the military position from Berenger as the franchise continues with the newest addition titled Sniper: Reloaded.
In Sniper:Reloaded, Chad Michael Collins plays Sgt. Brandon Beckett, a hotheaded infantry grunt and the estranged son of Berenger’s elite sniper Thomas Beckett. Brandon is military all the way, but determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps as a sniper even though circumstances seem to be pushing him in that direction.
Chad Michael Collins, who describes himself as an ‘accidental’ actor who has fully embraced “playing pretend for a living,” landed in LA to work in public relations. After several years of doing celebrity PR, he was approached by a prominent manager/producer who convinced him to try out an acting class – his first ever. Collins has a strong screen presence that lends itself well to playing soldiers and men of action, which has led him to be an actor with a diverse resume ranging from roles in horror movies Legion of the Dead and Lake Placid Three to numerous guest appearances on top rated television series including NCIS and CSI:NY.
Eclipse Magazine recently caught up with Chad Michael Collins to talk to him about his starring role in the newly released to DVD movie, Sniper: Reloaded.
Getting the Role
Chad Michael Collins was first approached about playing the role of Sgt. Brandon Beckett when a producer involved with the project thought Collins was a dead-ringer for a younger version of Oscar-nominated actor Tom Berenger, star of the three original SNIPER films.
“The main thing was that they (the producer, the studio) wanted me! That goes a long way into making an actor sign on,” he told me when I asked him what was one of the main things that made him feel like he really wanted to take on this role and how he came to be considered for it. “They knew me from LAKE PLACID 2, and having that confidence in me – coupled with a healthy resemblance to Tom Berenger – lead to me getting the part.”
Chad Michael Collins also had a familiarity with the first Sniper movie, which starred Tom Berenger.
“I remember watching the original, with that cool opening sequence where Tom Berenger appears out of nowhere, completely camouflaged in his ghillie suit. You watch enough of stuff like that as a young guy, and you either go for it and become a soldier for real, or you do the next best thing: become an actor, learn the Cliff Notes version of soldiering, and catch a free ride to South Africa to do it.” He says that while he was on the long flight over to South Africa where the film was being shot, Collins had a chance to check out Sniper 2 and 3.
“Tom Berenger might be a top-five all-time great Hollywood soldier. Then again, he has the Oscar nom to legitimize that claim…” Chad says with admiration.
It wasn’t just Tom Berenger’s work as a soldier that influenced Chad Michael Collins to take on a role in the military action movie, Sniper: Reloaded. He tells us that he comes from a family of veterans and almost enlisted in the military when he twenty.
“I was a little possessive of my GI Joe collection as a kid.” Collins says with a laugh.
When he wasn’t sending his GI Joes into imaginary battles, the actor tells us that he would be drawing them, memorizing their code-names, real names, specialties, reading the comics and watching the cartoon. All of this was, in hindsight, early preparation for his career as an actor. “Being able to learn how to think, act, talk, move, and be a soldier, and then get the chance to play one – even if just for pretend – was both an honor and a childhood dream. Now I’m looking to check the following off my list of roles: superhero; cowboy; boxer; football player; resistance fighter; space pirate. I’m sensing a pattern there…”
We are too Chad!
The up and coming actor plays a very convincing soldier in Sniper: Reloaded and he says that he has more than his childhood GI Joe pals to thank for that.
“I have to say, everyone involved in this movie was incredibly talented and, more importantly, a great person, from Claudio Faeh, our wonderful director, right on down the South African crew production assistants. But, my VIPs were absolutely the technical advisor – a Russian ex-sniper named Vadim – and the Armourer – the guys with the guns, led by former soldier Pete Smith.”
Of course playing pretend with GI Joes doesn’t fully prepare an actor for having to handle weapons in a military action movie like Sniper: Reloaded yet Collins came across as very adept at handling them in the movie. I asked him what kind of training did he undergo to prepare for his role as Sgt. Brandon Beckett.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get much weapons training before we started filming, but I grew up around guns and learned the basics of shooting at a young age so I was a quick learner on the job. One of my primary goals in playing ‘Brandon’ was to be as authentic as possible, and I picked these guys’ brains every single second of this shoot. From loading to holstering, stance, breath, commands and jargon, and ultimately firing, these guys were invaluable and a literal treasure trove of real-life experience. They put me through a basic training that was pitifully short – not by their choosing, of course – to start with, and then it was literally a sensei-grasshoppa relationship every day, between every take. I shot about four different kinds of guns, and I was determined to learn the ins-and-outs of all of them. They were invaluable to me in this film”
Despite his familiarity with weapons the actor tells us that there was one that gave him some trouble at first.
“The old school bolt-action rifle was a bit tricky because I spent a lot of time just firing those 5-shot clips on end, and those blanks tended to jam. You had to have a real finesse with her, but by the end we were an old married couple, finishing each other’s sentences. And taking out murderous rebels together, of course.”
Since he didn’t actually have to hit anything with real bullets, Collins says that he felt that overall, the weapons training was less important going into filming than it was for him to be in great enough shape to handle working every day of the twenty-three long, hot days of shooting.
Chad says that he thinks he had about three or four days off in the five weeks he was in South Africa but didn’t mind the pace. “I’ve always maintained that I’d much rather work six grueling, twelve-hour days in a row as an actor than a 40-hour work week parked at an office desk. The former is play; the latter is work.”
Filming on Location in South Africa
Sniper: Reloaded was filmed in South Africa so we asked Chad Michael Collins what that was like for him? What were the challenges and rewards of working on a project being in such an exotic location.
“South Africa had a little bit of everything, and it was all new to me: exotic wildlife; shantytowns; 1st world mixed with 3rd world peoples; and thirteen or so official languages. On location, we shot in a wildlife reserve/game farm where the lions were penned up, but the rest – giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, and more – roamed free, sometimes right onto and through our sets. One giraffe was particularly interested in our set lighting, and kept coming back to inspect it.”
At the time Sniper: Reloaded was filming on location In Johannesburg, South Africa was three months away from the World Cup and an influx of more than half a million people, which Collins says put an electricity of excitement in the air.
“I got to drive through the city and see the areas that represented the class distinctions, everywhere from Mandela’s compound to the rough part of town. We also shot on location in a legit shantytown, where hundreds of families literally lived in tin shacks, and the kids all kicked a soccer ball made of taped up rubbish while barefoot. I’ve never seen such happier kids though. The whole country was a trip, and I’m a better person for having lived in and amongst the South African people.”
Working With Billy Zane
One of the key things the producers did to keep Sniper: Reloaded tied to it’s roots in the original Sniper movie was to bring in Billy Zane to reprise his role as the American sniper Richard Miller. In the 1993 movie, Zane’s character was the student and Berenger’s character was the teacher. In Sniper: Reloaded, Miller is now the teacher and Beckett’s son Brandon is the highly reluctant student.
I asked Chad what it was it like working with Billy Zane who had this connection and history with the Sniper franchise.
“He was great to work with, a really generous actor and person” Collins says of Zane. ” He shared a lot of on an off-set advice with me, and he’s obviously a star who didn’t have to, so I appreciated working with him both as a fan and an up-and-comer.”
Collins says that he didn’t know what Billy Zane expected in regards to the actors he would be working with when he signed up to make Sniper: Reloaded, but he did know that by the end of filming Zane was having a lot of fun, and both of them talked about how great it’d be to do more Sniper movies together.
“We had a lot of fun creating “The Beckett and Miller Show,” but not all of those fun scenes made the final cut. I think if sequels were to be made, we could have a lot more fun with a buddy-action element. While still saving the world, of course.”
Speaking of saving the world, Sniper: Reloaded is now available to buy or rent on DVD/Blu_ray.
As for Chad Michael Collins, he has few new projects in the works that viewers can look forward to seeing him in. One of these projects, THE SUMMONING, a supernatural horror/thriller film about the legend of Bloody Mary, is scheduled for sometime in mid-2011. Veteran actor Robert Wagner and Mackenzie Phillips are also attached to star.
Learn more about Chad Michael Collins at his official web site.
Visit Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on the Web at www.SonyPictures.com
Sniper: Reloaded still credited to and copyright Sony Pictures. Chad Michael Collins photo credited to and copyright Inda Reid.