When writer and director Steven Luke took on Operation Seawolf for Shout! Studios, he was able to tap into his abilities as a historian and war buff. Also joining him was star Hiram A Murray (The Terminal List, This is Us), who plays Capt Samuel L. Gravely Jr. The film focuses on the last days of World War II, when Germany, desperate for any last grasp to defeat the allied powers, formed together the German Navy and the last remaining U-Boats, for one last mission to attack the United States homeland. Luke and Murray spoke to Bleeding Cool about how the film came about, its historical inspiration, and working with Dolph Lundgren and Frank Grillo.
Bleeding Cool: What was the inspiration behind Operation Seawolf?
Luke: My producing partner, Andre Relis, brought the idea to me, and he's like, "Hey, Dolph wants to play a submarine captain. What do you get? You got some sort of story?" He knew I liked military films [specifically] World War II films, and he's like, "What do you think you can find?" I said, "Give me a couple of weeks; let me put something together," and I presented that to him. I dove into the research, looking at every nook and cranny.
One of my favorite movies is "Das Boot," the famous submarine movie. I thought it would be fun to do another side of the story. After some research, I found a few operations toward the war's end. I put together an outline and brought it all together. We presented it over to Dolph, and it was probably the fastest I've ever heard back from an actor. He was like, "I love this! I'm in, and I want to work on the character and story with you." We got to work hand-in-hand in developing both, which is amazing to have an icon work with you in developing this movie. That's the shorthand of how all of them came together.
Hiram, What appealed to you about the film?
Murray: What appealed to me is I had never heard much about the story of Samuel L Gravely and the USS PC-1264. I am a captain in United States Marine Corps. Given the opportunity to play a forefather in the military, it was a no-brainer. If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't have served. He opened the door as the first African-American officer in the Navy, who later on became the first African-American vice admiral in the Navy. It was an opportunity to pay homage and honor to this man. Of course, I jumped at the chance! I've worked with Luke on several projects, and when he presented it to me, I was like, "Hell yeah! I'll do it."
Were you able to offer some technical consulting on that as well?
I used my military background, just the way I command myself and my fellow actors on set. I made sure we kept our command and posture in the same way as the sailors, and Samuel L Gravely would have been during that time period; I made sure everything was squared away. So yeah, in that aspect.
You are on point with Frank [Grillo] and Dolph on there. How did it feel carrying the film with them?
They're awesome. Dolph is great, and he was my childhood action hero. He was my first He-Man and first Punisher. I just loved working with him, "Ivan Drago." I used to watch him all the time. I was in martial arts growing up, so I always watched "Rocky IV" to get me hyped up before tournaments. You're starstruck, working with your heroes, but you always have to maintain a professional composure. Frank is awesome and the true definition of a teammate, carrying and whatnot, even during takes. When the cameras turned around and we took breaks, he even gave me marriage advice, and he didn't have to.
Steven, what kind of coordination did it take to tackle something like this? Were there any other projects or films that provided a template for you or inspiration that helped drive "Operation Seawolf?"
Luke: To answer the second part of your question, I'm a big fan of chess, but I'm not very good at it. I like movies with cat-and-mouse like, "I'm moving here. You're moving there. What are they going to do next?" Let's discover a little bit. That inspiration in terms of like developing the story further, how I wanted to see these characters interact because I hate to make it so simple. The game Battleship, where you're like, "D-4, that's a miss" You're going back and forth trying to sink each other's Navy ships. To me, that is naval warfare almost to an extent, and I know it's more complicated than that. I love that aspect of trying to figure out where each other is.
The first part of putting something like this together is when you're working with historical pieces; you get costumes and props that have to be a certain way. You're working with several different actors and real things. It's a very fine dance when I try to put my pieces together. When we're ready to make it, everything's coordinated to work together and flow really smoothly. That takes a lot of pre-production to make happen because, with every movie, you're limited. You'd love to shoot forever, but you have so many days to accomplish what you need to do to piece together a delicate dance to bring everyone together. That's always the mission.
Operation Seawolf, which also stars Andrew Stecker and Apostolos Gliarmis, is currently in theaters and on-demand and on digital on October 25th.