Based on the popular video game of the same name, Company of Heroes tells the pulse-pounding tale of an unlikely brotherhood of soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, making a daring raid into the heart of Nazi Germany to stop Hitler from developing an atomic super weapon. The highest rated strategy game of all time is now this year’s action-filled World War II adventure comes to Blu-ray™ and DVD with UltraViolet™ on February 2. I recently caught up with one of the Company of Heroes’ Chad Michael Collins.
Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan), Chad Michael Collins (Lake Placid 2, Sniper Reloaded), Vinnie Jones (The Tomb, Snatch), Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, “Band of Brothers”), and Jürgen Prochnow (The Da Vinci Code, Das Boot) lead an all-star cast in the first full-length film based on the popular gaming series
Can you talk a little bit about what the movie is about?
Company of Heroes is a World War II action film about a small band of brothers riding out the end of the war who get sent out on a last milk run type of assignment. After finding themselves trapped behind Nazi lines, they learn about a super weapon being developed by Hitler in Stuttgart, and despite the overwhelming odds and complete lack of know-how, the men – and boys (my character, ‘Nate’) – go all in to save the free world.
A few years ago, during the Saving Private Ryan days, War Movies made a big come back and then they kind of went away, can you talk about why you think there haven’t been as many in recent years?
I’m not sure that they ever truly went away; maybe some war stories began to be told on television (Band of Brothers, The Pacific), but you also had films like We Were Soldiers, Black Hawk Down, Flags of our Fathers, all great films. I think that they’ve been out there, and there have been a few that have dealt with current conflicts, like The Hurt Locker and now Zero Dark Thirty.
Obviously, with the films about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s a more delicate subject matter because they were so recent, or are still being engaged. I would think that that would be polarizing to an audience; some would want to see it and others would be incredibly turned off because it’s recent.
What makes this movie different than other War Films?
I don’t think this movie looks to reinvent the wheel in any way. The American GI’s are the good guys, the Nazis are the proud bad guys. You’ve got the underdog Army grunts going on a suicide mission to end the atrocity that is WWII, and along the way soldiers die, heroes rise, and everyone is forever changed. I will say this, about this movie, that after watching it a couple of times, it stands up to repeat viewing. The first 45 minutes just blow by, a lot of gritty action and a momentum that builds – I think that’s the sign of a great action movie. Despite what would be considered a lower budget film by Hollywood standards, you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence of it – it looks fantastic, a big credit to our director, Don Michael Paul.
Are you a gamer? If so, can you talk a bit about if you think games like COD, Halo, etc influence how war films are made?
I am. I remember getting my first Nintendo way back when, and I still play a lot of retro games, dabble in Xbox, and have been a World of Warcraft guy for years and years. I LOVED all the Medal of Honor games for Playstation 2, and WWII games have always been a personal fave in general.
Games today are incredible – looking, feeling, experiencing. They’re basically interactive movies – they’re setting the entertainment bar so high. How many copies did Halo sell worldwide on it’s release?! Amazing stuff – it’s STAR WARS-like in it’s popularity. I really don’t think that games influence how war films are made, simply because they’ve set their own high standard. They’re written by accomplished writers, acted in by talented thesps doing motion capture, with incredible graphics and sound. Of course, it’s 100% digital, so I’d beg the question of whether or not these games have a real “soul” as opposed to Tom Hanks’ reluctant schoolteacher soldier in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Films will always have more of a human element, so I think the pressure to duplicate or steal from games is very little.
Can you talk a bit about your character?
I play ‘Nate,’ a young man from North Carolina who lost his dad to WWI. He gets to Europe at the tail end of the war, in some strange way feeling that playing soldier will help give him more of sense of who his father was. Eager for action, but not expecting any, he proves himself to be quite a soldier, and ends up leading the small company on the mission that was drawn up and supposed to be carried out by spies (OSS). Along the way, he takes out Nazis, makes some friends, and meets a gal. All in a (couple) days’ work!
How do you prepare to take on a role like this – both from a physical and character perspective?
My preparation was really anti-preparation. ‘Nate’ got to the war late and is very green – we’re talking zero military experiences. Like he probably did, I grew up in the country around guns, doing a little hunting and whatnot, so that familiarity and having played soldiers before was all the prep that I needed to make ‘Nate’ feel real and wide-eyed authentic.
What was your favorite and least favorite scene to shoot?
The first quarter of the script and the first eight days of shooting the film took place on a bitter-cold Bulgarian mountain and surrounding valley, a beautiful location. The scenes we shot there were almost all pure action – weapons firing, explosions, dives, slides, fire, water, mud and more. I loved every second of it; boys will be boys, what can I say! But they were also the hardest days of the shoot, as the temps were well below freezing everyday, and our uniforms and boots got quickly soaked in the snow. I’m talking within the first 30-45 minutes, which made for many a numb, shivering shoot day. Looking back on how wonderful it turned out though, every fearful thought of hypothermia was absolutely worth it!
What key moment should audiences look for?
I think the train yard scenes about 1/3 of the way in are pivotal. It’s where we truly learn how evil these Nazis are, where we meet up with some crucial allies, and where great sacrifices are made. It’s the point where we all have to put up or shut up, especially my character.
What are you working on next?
This summer, I’m excited to be working on another Sony film, shooting the sequel to 2011’s SNIPER: RELOADED. I’ll be re-teaming with Billy Zane, my co-star, who will also be directing this one. The movie was based on the three SNIPER films that Sony did back in the day with Tom Berenger, and I play his estranged son who learns the way of the (long range) gun. We had a good time shooting the first in South Africa, and I hear this one will take us to Colombia. I’m very pumped to run around in some proper jungles!
Be sure to follow Chad’s progress on Twitter, Facebook and his official website.