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thedrifter
02-15-09, 07:47 AM
'CHANCE' OF A LIFETIME

By ROBERT ABELE


February 15, 2009 --

Although it concerns the somber ritual of tending to the remains of a Marine killed in Iraq, Kevin Bacon didn't choose to make "Taking Chance," airing Saturday on HBO, because he saw it as an Iraq movie.

"It's more a simple telling of the casualties of war and what happens when someone sacrifices their life," says Bacon. He plays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, the Marine who takes leave from a Quantico desk job to escort the body of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps to his family in Wyoming. "It could be Korea, it could be Vietnam, it could be Afghanistan. The movie doesn't do a lot of commenting. It's giving us a process we don't get a chance to see."

What drew Bacon to the role of the real-life, now-retired Strobl, who chronicled his observations about the trip in a journal he published, was conveying the inner life of a veteran military man volunteering for a duty that almost demands reflection. "He's not a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, and the challenge was going would be to play the things that aren't said," says Bacon. "You have to communicate the restlessness in his soul about the choices he's made in the past, and his connection to this kid he's never met."

In the film, Strobl is shown struggling with a sense that he should be overseas with his fellow Marines, which helps him forge a silent connection with his fallen companion. "What surprised me was how I felt emotionally attached to Chance by the time the duty was over," says Strobl, who co-wrote the screenplay. "It felt like we were on a trip together." Bacon, he says, captured that aspect of it completely. "A lot of it is very quiet and solitary, and he has to carry scenes without dialogue or interaction, and it's pretty amazing."

Bacon sought a complete enough portrayal of Strobl that he even replicated the Marine's prematurely gray hair. "There's really no reason for me to do that, because nobody knows what Mike looks like. But to do the hair makes me feel less like Kevin in between 'Action' and 'Cut,' and that's what I'm going for, to feel like I'm walking in Mike's shoes." Of course, the Marine uniform does its part, too. "It's amazing. It just makes you move and stand and react in certain ways." Bacon laughs, adding, "To sit down in that uniform on an airplane, for instance, is just extremely uncomfortable."

The actor plays another real-life Marine on a protective mission in the Oscar-nominated feature "Frost/Nixon." He appears as Lt. Col. Jack Brennan, Nixon's chief of staff after the disgraced president left office. "It was coincidental that I played two Marines in a row," says Bacon, adding, "But I guess it worked out well because I already had the haircut."

He may have started out his film career as a boyish leading man of nervous intensity ("Footloose," "She's Having a Baby"), but with movies like "JFK," "Apollo 13" and "Murder in the First," Bacon has segued into a genre-spanning character actor nearly impossible to pigeonhole. "The second I see a trend starting to go in one direction, then I think to myself, I've got to do something different," he says. "Right now, I've been getting a lot of intense stuff, but you know, career planning is an oxymoron. I'll always have these delusions of grandeur that I know what I'm doing next, and it never really necessarily pans out."

Certainly the news late last year that Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick, star of TNT's hit drama "The Closer," were victims of investment scam mastermind Bernie Madoff has put the need to work in sharper perspective. "It's not something I can really talk about" is all Bacon will say right now. Meanwhile, he's busy trying to set up a comedy, and developing a series for Showtime on the Booths - father Junius and sons Edwin and John - America's first family of acting, and, notoriously in John's case, assassination. "It's an amazing story, worthy of a series even without the assassination," he says.

Bacon turned 50 last July, and while he admits he wasn't thrilled by it, the year marked enough milestones he couldn't ignore. "We'd been married for 20 years, it had been 30 years since my first movie, 'Animal House,' and something like 25 years since 'Footloose.' So it seemed like a year of big numbers." Bacon pauses. "But then you get past it and you move on."

TAKING CHANCE, Saturday, 8 p.m. HBO

Ellie

thedrifter
02-15-09, 08:31 AM
Posted on Sun, Feb. 15, 2009


Bringing home the Iraq war, and one of its dead

By Sam Adams

For The Inquirer
Ross Katz figured the last thing the world needed was another movie about the Iraq war. But when he read Lt. Col. Michael Strobl's account of escorting the body of a young Marine named Chance Phelps home to his family in rural Wyoming, the story got its hooks into him but good.

"I was sort of avoiding it," Katz said, "and then I read it one day and I couldn't shake it."

Havertown native Katz, 37, started out as a DJ on Christian station WZZD-AM (990) under the name Ross Andrews. He worked briefly at WYSP-FM (94.1) before heading to Los Angeles to break into the movie business. Starting out as a grip on Reservoir Dogs, he worked his way up to producing Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and In the Bedroom, among others.

He makes his directing debut with Taking Chance, the story of Strobl's cross-country journey. The film, starring Kevin Bacon as Strobl, premieres on HBO on Saturday.

Katz had been looking to turn director for some time, but he hesitated when executives at HBO sent him Strobl's autobiographical essay. "I didn't want to make an Iraq movie," he recalled in Park City, Utah, a few days after the film's premiere last month at the Sundance Film Festival. "I figured, 'It's 2006. If you don't know how you feel about the war, you've been living in a hole.' "

But a short while later, Katz was watching the latest casualty report on CNN and realized to his horror that the news of Americans killed in combat left him unfazed.

"I sat there, and I didn't feel anything, and I was very disturbed and angry with myself for not feeling anything," Katz said. "I had an intellectual response, but there was no emotion. I remember walking outside in New York City and saying, 'Everything's normal. Some parent just got a knock on their door saying their child is gone. Shouldn't something happen?' "

In Taking Chance, something does happen. As Strobl travels from the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base to Philadelphia International Airport (the first stop for all airborne remains) and westward from there, the people around him stop in their tracks to pay their respects. Construction workers doff their hard hats, baggage handlers gather on the tarmac, and cars on a two-lane highway turn on their lights to form an impromptu funeral procession. Without being told, they seem to know the nature of Strobl's task, and the sacrifice made by the man whose body he carries.

Despite the strong feelings the war and its attendant loss of life provoke, Strobl said he sensed no whiff of partisanship. "Just the sheer number of people that responded, you have to assume they represented the full spectrum of beliefs about the war," Strobl said. "But they never conveyed any of that when they were conveying their sympathy and their gratitude."

"Something changes when you are proximate to a body," Katz said. "The war is no longer abstract. People drop their ideology at that moment, and the humanity comes out."

Strobl, who recently retired after serving 24 years in the Marine Corps, is lean and soft-spoken, his white hair cut close to the scalp. He speaks easily, but with an undercurrent of reserve. After the film's premiere, when an audience member asked if he had shown the film to Phelps' family, the only outward sign of the feelings the question provoked were the few seconds that Strobl took before stepping to the microphone.

Although Phelps' family had approved the making of the film, they had never read the script, or even the story on which it was based. So when they saw Taking Chance in December, it was the first time they had gone through Strobl's journey from start to finish.

"It was very intense," Strobl said in an interview later. "When it was over, it took us a few minutes to catch our breath. And then we started talking about Chance."

The fact that Marines aren't given to tearing up made it all the more important to cast an actor of Bacon's stature, Katz said, one who can convey emotion almost unconsciously.

"I could see from spending time with Mike that he had a tremendous amount of feeling around this experience," Bacon said. "He could communicate it, but it was being held inside. With a character like this, who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, it's important to trust that my interpretation of what he was feeling is going to read in my eyes, without having to say, 'I feel this.' "

Through the process of writing the script, which he coauthored with Strobl, Katz talked with numerous Marines, including a casualty notification officer from Philadelphia whose job it was to inform families that their loved ones had been killed in action. "He told me that what saved him from breaking down was the protocol, the needing to hold firm, to be a Marine," Katz said.

He also met with the general under whose command Chance Phelps had served, who told him how he would restore order after suffering a casualty.

"He said when you're in the field and someone goes down, he would tell his men, 'Take a minute. Everybody say something about him, and then we're going back to work.' You take that emotion, which is bursting inside of you, and you put it in your pouch. At some point, when you get home, way down the road, you open that thing up and there's a lot in there to deal with."

To convey that sense of discipline, the production had Marine advisers on set to ensure that even the smallest details were correct. Katz recalls one adviser berating a Marine extra for wearing his ribbon badge "literally one centimeter" to the side. But one crucial detail was fudged in the name of paying tribute to Katz's hometown. When Strobl, who lives in northern Virginia, bids goodbye to his children, he stuffs Tastykakes into their knapsacks.

"My prop master was, like, 'I can get clearance on Twinkies and Yodels,' " Katz said. "But I was like, 'No - Butterscotch Krimpets. Has to be.' "

Ellie

thedrifter
02-15-09, 10:14 AM
http://www.chancephelps.org/

Ellie

thedrifter
02-16-09, 08:08 AM
Film tells story of final journey for soldier
By Jeremy Goldmeier - Gillette (Wyo.) News-Record
Posted : Sunday Feb 15, 2009 17:49:46 EST

GILLETTE, Wyo. — It was just one soldier’s story. Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, 19, was killed in an ambush outside of Baghdad on Good Friday 2004. Within the next week, his body would be escorted from Iraq, across the Atlantic Ocean and across most of the United States to his hometown of Dubois in northwest Wyoming.

To national audiences, it was one more military casualty.

But like every soldier felled in battle, Chance left behind a world of connections: family, friends and a small Wyoming town devastated by his loss. The man who accompanied his casket from Philadelphia to Dubois, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, provided a glimpse into that world by journaling the cross-country trip.

He wrote of not just the mourners waiting for Chance back in Wyoming, but of all the people who helped the young soldier back home to his final rest. The construction workers who took off their hard hats as the hearse passed by. The pilots and flight attendants who offered condolences for the family. The cargo guys who bore Chance on and off each flight with the utmost solemnity and respect. Each of them became part of the young man’s world, of his story, and the words they passed on informed Strobl’s writing.

After Strobl’s account, entitled “Taking Chance,” gained national attention, HBO came calling. A film adaptation, starring Kevin Bacon in the role of Strobl, debuts Wednesday in Dubois. Residents of the town, understandably, go into the event with mixed feelings.

“We’d just as soon he was still here,” says Peter Chimenti, Dubois mayor pro tempore. “But it’s huge to have a movie about one of our kids, and also a hero.”

Just five years ago, they gathered en masse at the local high school to mourn his loss. On Wednesday, they will gather in the same place to take in the film.

For logistical reasons, production of the film’s Dubois scenes took place in Ennis, Mont. Michell Howard, film manager for the Wyoming Travel and Tourism Department, says the lack of a major airport near Dubois would have made it costly for the filmmakers to bring in crew and equipment.

Producers did, however, spend time scouting the town last year, looking to portray it as authentically as possible. Had the recreation of Chance’s funeral procession taken place in Dubois, Howard says the production might have hit too close to home.

“To film with the people who were actually in the funeral, they would have had to do eight or more different takes,” Howard said. “They’d have to recreate it over and over. They weren’t sure (Dubois) was the best place to do it.”

Sandy Dailey, a friend of Chance’s mother Gretchen Mack, has had a chance to see the film at a private screening with the family. She says the movie version of “Taking Chance” doesn’t attempt to politicize the simple human story at its heart. Although she did not live in Dubois during the events of 2004, Dailey says she quickly connected with Mack because her husband is a retired Marine Corps officer. The universality of the film made a distinct impression on her.

“It could be about anybody’s son or daughter or spouse,” Dailey said.

“Taking Chance” debuts nationally Saturday on HBO.

———

On the Net: Chance Phelps Foundation.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-16-09, 08:42 AM
February 16, 2009


New HBO film shows DAFB's reverence for fallen military

First person-account in 'Taking Chance' details bringing them home

By JAMES MERRIWEATHER
The News Journal

DOVER -- A new HBO movie promises insight into how the remains of fallen service men and women are prepared and shipped for funeral and burial from Dover Air Force Base to locations around the country.

"Taking Chance," which premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday, is based on the first-person account of Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who volunteered in April 2004 to escort a fallen Marine from DAFB to Dubois, Wyo.

Thanks to a partnership between USO Delaware and Comcast Cablevision, DAFB personnel will be treated to free screenings of the movie in the USO Delaware Lounge in the passenger terminal at DAFB.

USO Director Joan M. Cote could not be reached for comment but said in a news release that the movie -- which will feature actor Kevin Bacon as the lead character -- offers an opportunity for DAFB families "to watch a part of their history and legacy come to life.

"USO Delaware staff and volunteers have an almost 18-year history of supporting the families, escorts, honor guard teams and commanders who provide dignity, honor and respect during the dignified transfers of our fallen heroes 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Cote said.

"USO Delaware also maintains a lounge which provides comfort, recreation and nourishment to the staff inside the Dover [mortuary] who have the solemn mission of processing and preparing our fallen heroes for their final journey home."

Cote's statement comes on the heels of word from the Obama administration that it would reconsider a policy that bars news media from DAFB at times when the remains of slain troops arrive at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, the military's largest mortuary and the only one within the continental United States.

By his own account, Strobl, a Marine based at Quantico, Va., volunteered in April 2003 to escort the remains of Marines killed in Iraq when needed.

On the Monday after Easter in 2004, he was reviewing Pentagon press releases when he noticed that Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, 19, was killed in fighting outside Baghdad.

The release indicated that the two Marines shared a hometown, but Strobl would find out later that Phelps lived in his hometown only during his senior year of high school.

Phelps' remains arrived at Dover on a Tuesday night, but they were not ready and Strobl was told to come back on Thursday.

"Now, at Dover with nothing to do and a solemn mission ahead, I began to get depressed," said Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran who retired recently after 24 years as a Marine.

"I was wondering about Chance Phelps. I didn't know anything about him; not even what he looked like. I wondered about his family and what it would be like to meet them. I did push-ups in my room until I couldn't do any more," he said.

Strobl returned to the mortuary on Thursday, sharing briefings with a group of Army escorts and a couple of other Marines. He was the last escort to leave that day, meaning that he repeatedly participated in the "small ceremonies that mark all departures from the Dover AFB mortuary."

According to Strobl, most remains are taken from Dover to Philadelphia International Airport for transport to their final destination.

"When the remains of a service member are loaded onto a hearse and ready to leave the Dover mortuary," Strobl wrote in recollections posted at www.hbo.com, "there is an announcement made over the building's intercom system.

"With the announcement, all service members working at the mortuary, regardless of service branch, stop work and form up along the driveway to render a slow ceremonial salute as the hearse departs. Escorts also participated in each formation until it was their time to leave."

Strobl said he was taken aback when a Marine master gunnery sergeant passed along Phelps' personal effects -- a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain and a St. Christopher medal on a silver chain.

"Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps," he wrote.

And he would know him a lot better before he completed his mission.

"Chance Phelps was wearing his St. Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday," Strobl wrote.

"Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn't know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him."

Ellie

thedrifter
02-16-09, 09:11 AM
From Monsters and Critics.com

Smallscreen Features
Kevin Bacon and Lt. Col. Mike Strobl talk 'Taking Chance' for HBO
By April MacIntyre
Feb 15, 2009, 18:54 GMT


HBO’s "Taking Chance" is based on the experiences of Marine Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who kept a personal journal on each trip he took with a fallen soldier’s remains.


It was Stobl’s detailed notes and recollections in his journal, sent to his military colleagues, that inspired the Marines' public affairs offices to make Stobl’s personal account public record.

The HBO movie, which premiered at 8 p.m. Saturday, explained how the military treats war dead with great care and respect.

The film also reveals how the American public often responds to military sacrifices.

Kevin Bacon plays Lt. Col. Strobl in the film.

Bacon was joined by writer, director and executive producer Ross Katz and Lt. Col. Michael Stobl USMC (Ret.) at the recent winter TCA junket (television critics' association) at the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles.

Katz was asked by the TV critics including Monsters and Critics how he intended to market the HBO project.

“I think the more difficult job was to get people to understand it’s not an Iraq war movie per se. It’s a very personal story. But also beyond that, it’s something we’ve literally never seen before in any film. This depiction of what goes on, what it takes to take one fallen Marine, Airman, Soldier home is something that none of us knows. So I think it is a revelation in that way, hopefully.”

Bacon and Strobl were asked why the film should be watched by viewers.

“Were you aware that the remains of our service members travel from Dover to their final resting place with an escort every step of the way,” said Lt. Stobl. “I think that’s something most people aren’t aware of and may find very compelling.”

The men answered the critics’ questions on why this procession is never seen so much in the media or real life. Katz noted, “To my knowledge, there would be two reasons. The first is that these men and women, like Lt. Col. Stobl and Kevin, who portrays him, this isn’t something that they really talk much about. It’s very painful, and it feels somewhat not dignified. In the context of having delivered remains to a family member, their pain seems to be secondary. Also I think it’s pretty clear not a lot of images like this were made available to us. So even that’s gone on so many times it just hasn’t been seen.”

Kevin Bacon spoke to a critic’s question that wondered why there was a difference in US coverage of bodies being returned versus the graphic news coverage of war dead in the middle-east.

Bacon said, “We saw a lot of it during the Vietnam war, and the images were there all the time. I think that probably there was some kind of message that came down from somewhere... someplace in the government… I doubt if it was actually from the military, that says ‘we don’t want to repeat this kind of situation in the media of being exposed to caskets that are covered with flags.’

Bacon continued: "One of the things that is really interesting to me about the film is that you really get back to the fact that what you read in the paper all the time about war and you can kind of read an article and say a certain amount of Marines were killed in this city, or when you see the body count coming up, it doesn’t really hit home in the same kind of way as it does when you actually see what happens to the actual remains; you see the preparation; you see the respect, and you see the tradition and honor that is involved with actually returning them to their final resting place."

“The story is really a very simple one in that it’s really just the story of this man and this person Chance that he is returning. It is almost completely unembellished with anything to make it more cinematic or dramatic or to somehow force us to feel one way or another based on what our preconceived notions are about Iraq and whether or not we should be in there, or whatever.” Bacon added, “It is just the simple telling of what this process is like and, in it’s simplicity, I think, becomes a profound comment on the casualties of war.”

Taking Chance Trailer (HBO)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehWAxdLSoQM&eurl=http://www.monstersandcritics.com/smallscreen/features/printer_1459634.php

Ellie

thedrifter
02-16-09, 09:35 AM
Chance Phelps Last Stand - According to Major General Kelly <br />
Posted By Blackfive <br />
<br />
Corporal Seamus sends us this message from April 2004 about Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. It is the message that...

thedrifter
02-17-09, 07:17 AM
North Jersey|stands in for Delaware in Iraq war film
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
BY VIRGINIA ROHAN
NorthJersey.com
STAFF WRITER

8 p.m. Saturday

HBO

In the almost six years since the Iraq war began, news outlets have been banned by the Pentagon from taking pictures of flag-draped coffins of the military dead. As a consequence, the vast majority of the American public has been insulated from actually having to confront the war's casualties.

And so, it is startling to see a movie that not only shows, but follows one of those coffins — bearing the body of a 19-year-old Marine lance corporal named Chance Phelps — as it makes its long journey home from Iraq. Since Phelps was from Wyoming, it's also a little surprising to realize that North Jersey played a large role in the making of this film.

In "Taking Chance," an HBO film that debuts Saturday, the filmmakers re-created the deeply affecting scenes of Dover Port Mortuary in Delaware — where bodies are cleaned, prepared, dressed in uniform, casketed and placed into containers to go home — at Bergen Community College in Paramus, chief among the New Jersey locations used.

On a recent visit, Ed Pittarelli, director of technologies at the college, pointed out the areas of West Hall, the Arts and Communication Building, where the production shot for several weeks in August 2007.

"Where you see the recording studio back there, there were false walls up, and they turned this into a morgue," Pittarelli said. He pointed to a corner where students congregated. "See over here where these vending machines are? That was the commanding officer's office."

Spoke to the students

Susan Baechtel, the college's public-relations director, recalls how solicitous star Kevin Bacon was of the students who were able to observe production. Bacon plays Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, USMC, who escorted Phelps' body home.

"He was fantastic to the kids, engaging them, explaining how he was going into the character," she says. "The education was just phenomenal, from the director all the way to the gaffers to the actors."

Director Ross Katz and a few others were allowed to tour the Dover mortuary but could not film there. And so, the college was a "godsend," producer Lori Keith Douglas says. "The interesting thing about military bases is, they are very campus-like. … Bergen College had a really terrific space that worked beautifully for us."

She says that they shot a lot in New Jersey for "partly story and partly logistical" reasons.

"When you're dealing with any movie, but particularly this one — everyone was deeply affected by the making of this film — it made sense for us to try to figure out a way that we could all maintain our lives a bit … and have a sense of normalcy while dealing with pressures of filmmaking and the emotional aspect of the story," says Douglas, who lives in New York City, as do Bacon and Katz.

"Also, New Jersey, frankly, offers a lot to filmmakers. It's a very film-friendly place to work. There's a tax credit, which drew us on the financial end, and you have a terrific film commission [that was] extraordinarily helpful in finding what we needed."

Bacon also praises New Jersey's diversity of locales. "Pretty much all of the movie except for [what] we did in Montana was done in New Jersey," he said during a conference call with reporters, adding that it was a big plus to be able to "go to work and then sleep in my own bed."

Based on real journey

"Taking Chance" is based on the personal journal of Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran who, in the spring of 2004, was working a desk job in Quantico, Va., and regularly checking the Iraq casualty lists.

He came upon Phelps, who'd been killed in action, and, thinking the young Marine was from his own Colorado hometown, requested military escort duty to accompany the remains. As it turned out, Phelps was to be buried in Dubois, Wyo., where his family lived.

"When I spent the week with Chance and his family," Strobl, who co-wrote the screenplay, told reporters recently, "it was a reminder that we have 19-year-olds like him who aren't old enough to buy a beer in their hometown, but they're old enough to stand up in a turret and face an ambush and they all have vibrant lives and they all have families that love them."

Now retired from the Marines and working for the Department of Defense, Strobl said that since the abolition of the draft "an ever-decreasing slice of America has served" in the military.

"I think this movie will – and I hope it will — make people stop and think a little bit about the sacrifices that those families make."

E-mail: rohan@northjersey.com

Ellie

thedrifter
02-18-09, 09:12 AM
Bacon has solemn escort duty in `Taking Chance'
By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer
1 hr 41 mins ago

PARK CITY, Utah – First comes the bearer of bad news — that a loved one has died in combat. Then comes the bearer of the loved one — the military escort who brings the fallen home.

Kevin Bacon's HBO drama "Taking Chance" chronicles a home-front saga little-known to most Americans — the procedures and protocols followed in tending to our battle casualties and the honors paid them on their last journey.

Based on a true story, the film stars Bacon as Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a career officer who volunteered to escort the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps back to his family in Wyoming after the 19-year-old was killed in Iraq in April 2004.

Then based in Quantico, Va., Strobl traveled to the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where Phelps' body was prepared.

The film depicts the agonizing attention devoted to slain troops. Blood and grime scrubbed from dog tags, watches and other personal effects. Hands carefully cleaned, though they will be concealed by white gloves. Uniforms and medals meticulously arranged, even in cases of closed-casket funerals.

And that's just the beginning. Along the way, escorts and other military personnel must solemnly salute the dead each time their bodies are taken off a hearse or loaded onto a plane.

"It never occurred to me, the painstaking detail," Bacon said in an interview alongside Strobl at January's Sundance Film Festival, where "Taking Chance" premiered. (It will make its HBO debut Saturday.)

"The fact that the honors are rendered when the remains are moved from one place to another. I was like, you're kidding? I mean, wow. I was really stunned, and then I think that's in a way what the essence of the movie is. You tell this very, very simple, specific story about this guy and this kid and this one journey, then hopefully, people start to think about the bigger picture of the families and the loss of life and the sacrifice."

Along the way, Bacon's Strobl encounters little moments of compassion and communal grief with strangers who never catch a glimpse of Phelps but are moved by the young man's voyage home.

A civilian hearse driver explains he took the job partly in honor of friends wounded or killed in Iraq. An airline clerk upgrades Strobl to first-class with a somber thank you for his escort duty. A flight attendant gives him a gold crucifix. An airline pilot who — like Strobl, served in Desert Storm — joins in saluting Phelps.

"People you can presume represented the whole spectrum of views on our policies, they all, without exception, were grateful for Chance and saddened by the loss," said Strobl, who retired from the Marines in 2007 and now works a civilian job at the Pentagon.

Escorts are required to keep detailed factual records of their trips. As Strobl continued to meet people touched by Phelps, his record changed from by-the-numbers details to a personal journal.

Strobl shared it with colleagues, and the story eventually made its way to executive producer Brad Krevoy, who brought the project to HBO.

Ross Katz, a producer on such films as "Lost in Translation" and "In the Bedroom," collaborated with Strobl to write the screenplay and also made his directing debut on "Taking Chance."

Like Bacon, Katz initially hesitated, uncertain he wanted to take on an Iraq film, a sub-genre that generally has failed to find an audience among war-weary Americans.

The tipping point that convinced Katz to direct "Taking Chance" was when he caught a TV news item one night about the latest casualties from a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Normally very engaged with international news, Katz said he felt nothing, that he was completely desensitized by the onslaught of similar wartime tragedies.

"I remember going outside, walking down the street ... and everybody was running off to dinner, living their lives in busy Manhattan," Katz said. "I thought to myself, a parent right now is getting a knock on the door, and some Marine or airman or Army soldier is informing that parent that their child has died. Why is everything normal outside? Shouldn't the world stop for a second?"

While filming, Bacon found even his movie world stopped for a moment as the filmmakers re-created Strobl's journey with the box containing Phelps' coffin.

"There was this odd thing where the process of making the film, it's all pretend, and yet I sort of felt a similar kind of thing to what Mike has expressed going through," Bacon said. "Because we'd shoot these scenes, even though there was nothing in our box, just people watching it were really profoundly affected by it."

Strobl said he wants the film to leave a similar impression on audiences.

"Understandably but also regrettably, we all kind of get desensitized to the numbers," Strobl said. "If nothing else, I hope people walk away from this movie and kind of pause to remember the 4,000 names that they may have glanced at in the paper or seen on the news or even worse, may have just ignored because they've seen so many of them.

"If they just take a minute and think about those service members and their families, that would be gratifying."

___

HBO is owned by Time Warner Inc.

___

On the Net:

http://www.hbo.com/films/takingchance

Ellie

thedrifter
02-18-09, 09:57 AM
Posted on Wed, Feb. 18, 2009


Ellen Gray: The road home: Kevin Bacon makes a nonpolitical war movie


By Ellen Gray
Philadelphia Daily News

Daily News TV Critic
TAKING CHANCE. 9 p.m. Saturday, HBO.

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - Before he signed on to HBO's "Taking Chance," Kevin Bacon knew he wasn't interested in making a movie about the war in Iraq.

"I think that as an industry we kind of jumped the gun" on bringing the war to the screen, the Philadelphia-born actor said in an interview last month. "It reflects the time we live in, where things happen so immediately," he added, snapping his fingers.

Besides, "I was seeing one quote-unquote Iraq movie after another . . . come and go. I didn't want to join the list."

But, yes, that's the still-boyish 50-year-old, his rocker hair trimmed to Marine specifications, starring in "Taking Chance" Saturday as a lieutenant colonel who volunteers to escort the body of a 19-year-old soldier home to Wyoming for burial.

"Ultimately, I went back to thinking this really isn't" a movie about Iraq, Bacon said. "The thing about most of those but not all of those films, television shows, etc. - they were often comments from a political standpoint about whether we should've gone into the war or not."

That's not what "Taking Chance" is about, Bacon said.

"People die" in all wars, he said. And this story, based on a journal kept by Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl as he escorted the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps on its final journey, "could be Vietnam, it could be World War II, it could be Korea."

That's the way Ross Katz, who directed and produced the film and wrote the script with Strobl, sees it, too.

"I didn't feel like I had anything new to contribute to the dialogue about the war itself, in terms of how people feel about the war," said Katz, 37, a Havertown native who attended Temple and once worked as a DJ - under the name Ross Andrews - at WYSP-FM. (His producing credits include the Oscar-nominated films "In the Bedroom" and "Lost in Translation.")

"At this stage of the war, I think we all know how we feel about it. But what I didn't know was the level of sacrifice on a very, very personal, everyday level, and the things that go on, sort of under our nose, that we never see. And how it takes hundreds of people to bring one 19-year-old home."

One reason we don't see some of these things is that there's been a ban since 1991 on photographing or videotaping the ceremonies at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base in which the remains of fallen soldiers are returned to the U.S.

Given a Washington Post report yesterday that the Pentagon is rethinking that policy under the Obama administration, "Taking Chance" is both timeless and timely.

It might also be the most edge-free film in HBO history, recording Strobl's journey and his experiences with Phelps' family and the people he met along the way in a way that's both restrained and yet unafraid of emotion.

"It's very simple, and it's very true to the story," Bacon said. "He [Katz] just lets it happen the way it happens. It lets you kind of just come to the process . . . It ends up, in a way, with a much stronger kind of emotional punch because of that."

Not every aspect of that process is easy to watch, and though "Taking Chance" may spare viewers "CSI"-level detail, it doesn't obscure the facts of death.

In one early scene, bags of ice are packed inside a metal casket at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany before the flag-draped casket is carried to a waiting plane for its journey home.

"I still don't know why we got some of the access that we did," said Katz, who said that "out of respect," they never asked to film at the mortuary at Dover.

"But I think part of it was that I was able to consistently, over and over again, whenever anybody raised a concern - 'We don't want people to see this, we are worried about people seeing icebags' - [say] 'Tell me where I'm editorializing. And two, tell me what's not accurate.' And nobody could say, 'You're editorializing, or being heavy-handed, or pushing an agenda.' "

Instead, "you'd be amazed by the amount of Marines who said, 'You know what? I kind of think people maybe should know this.' Because it's like real easy to go on with your life and never have to see this," Katz said.

It didn't hurt, added Bacon, that "the original piece of material was generated by a Marine. It's not like he [Strobl] was a renegade."

Trust in Strobl appears to have run deep.

The family of Lance Cpl. Phelps, who was killed in action on April 9, 2004 - Good Friday - in action west of Baghdad, Iraq, had agreed to the publication of Strobl's journal and the screenplay that grew out of it. But Bacon said the retired lieutenant colonel had told him only that day "that they never read the report."

"I had no idea," Katz said.

"They never got through it. They never read the screenplay, obviously," Bacon said.

They have, however, seen the film.

"I told them I didn't think they would be able to get through it, but they did. And they are proud," Katz said.

"I was like sick to my stomach at the idea that they were going to watch the film and what had we gotten wrong, and all this, but in addition to this, now knowing they were watching a film based on something they hadn't read - "

His voice broke.

"We've had a lot of pretty emotional responses, but ultimately the thing I'm reminded about, talking to [the family] pretty regularly is, it's still a movie. And for them, every time I talk to them, there is something that happened that afternoon or something that they saw that reminds them of their son. It just doesn't go away." *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com or join the TV chat at noon Thursdays at philly.com.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 08:40 AM
'Taking Chance:' A tale not of war, but honor and goodness

Kevin Bacon stars as a Marine escorting the casket of a slain Marine across the U.S.
By Tony Perry

February 20, 2009

During the Persian Gulf war in 1991, Michael Strobl was a lieutenant in a Marine artillery unit in the thick of the action.

By the time the Marines led the U.S. assault into Iraq in 2003, Strobl had been promoted to lieutenant colonel and had a desk job crunching manpower numbers at Quantico, Va.

Nagged by a sense that he should be at the front rather than behind a desk, Strobl volunteered as a military escort for a Marine killed near Ramadi. Strobl's assignment was to accompany the casket of Pvt. Chance Phelps from the military mortuary at Dover, Del., to Phelps' hometown in Wyoming for burial.

Phelps, 19, assigned to the Twentynine Palms-based 3rd battalion, 11th Marine regiment, was killed when his convoy was attacked on Good Friday, 2004.

When his escort duty was finished, Strobl wrote about the emotionally powerful experience of acting as a one-man honor guard: of watching the reverential care taken by mortuary personnel in preparing the bodies, of the respect shown by average Americans for the fallen, and of the grief and courage of the Phelps' family.

From that essay has come "Taking Chance," an HBO movie Saturday starring Kevin Bacon as Strobl and directed by Ross Katz, whose credits include producing the 2003 film "Lost in Translation," with Bill Murray as a depressed movie star, and executive producing HBO's "The Laramie Project," about the homophobic murder of a gay college student.

"Taking Chance" is profoundly about the Iraq war and the young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. But yet it is not an "Iraq movie." The film neither supports nor opposes the foreign policy that sent Phelps to Iraq.

Katz said he initially was uninterested in making a movie about Iraq. Then he read Strobl's essay and realized it was more about universal topics than about a specific war at a specific time.

"When you're talking about the loss of someone's child, there nothing political about it," Katz said. "This is not a political film."

In his essay, Strobl marveled at the positive response of airline personnel and passengers and others when they learned he was on escort duty.

"I hope other people see that: the goodness that's out there," said Strobl, now retired from the Marine Corps and working at the Pentagon. "We all see that from time to time, but I experienced it in a concentrated, intense manner."

The movie, Strobl said, "is not about Iraq, it's about America."

Bacon, who has played military officers in "Apollo 13" and "A Few Good Men," said he was drawn to the story of Strobl as "a guy struggling with a lot of internal emotions." Much of the acting, Bacon said, is done with his eyes and not with dialogue.

The Department of Defense provided assistance so that the scenes at the Dover mortuary are accurate to the smallest detail: cleaning the bodies and possessions, finding the right dress uniform and medals, the honors rendered as the bodies depart for the airport.

"Taking Chance" may be the first glimpse most Americans have had of the process that has brought nearly 5,000 service personnel back from Iraq and Afghanistan. The military bans photography of the flag-draped caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base although Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that the policy, instituted in 1991, is being reviewed.

On this issue, the actor and the former Marine disagree. Bacon would like to see the Department of Defense drop the ban on photography. Strobl feels the privacy of the families needs to continue to be safeguarded.

The emotional high point of "Taking Chance" comes on the night before Phelps' funeral. Strobl goes to the local VFW hall and meets with Phelps' friends and a few former Marines, including a Korean war veteran played by Tom Aldredge.

The taciturn Strobl admits his feeling of guilt over staying safely in a stateside billet while Marines are fighting the nation's new enemy. Aldredge cuts him short.

"You brought Chance home," he says. "You're his witness now. Without a witness, they just disappear."

That, Katz said, is the point of "Taking Chance."

"We're all bearing witness now, for all of them," he said.

tony.perry@latimes.com

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 08:49 AM
Sepinwall on TV: 'Taking Chance' review

"Taking Chance" is a tearjerker, but it's the good kind. It is simple and honest, and any and all tears come from the story itself, not from the the spare telling of it.

The film is based on a journal kept by Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a Marine veteran who served in the first Gulf War but had worked a desk job throughout the current war in Iraq. Feeling guilty over being safe at home while so many servicemen were risking their lives in combat, he volunteered to escort the body of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps to his final resting place in a small Wyoming town.

"Taking Chance" is a road movie, of course, as Strobl (played by Kevin Bacon) makes the long, circuitous journey from Dover Air Force Base to Wyoming, with stops in Philadelphia and Minneapolis along the way. And everywhere he goes, there's elaborate military protocol to be observed, all of it designed to ensure that Chance's remains are treated with a level of respect commensurate with his sacrifice.

Throughout the film, which Strobl co-wrote with director Ross Katz, we're reminded that Chance's journey is not unique -- that every fallen serviceman and woman receives the same level of attention, the same rigorous protocol, on their own journeys home. There's an extended sequence at the Dover mortuary where we simply watch the attention to detail that goes cleaning, restoring (when possible) and dressing each body, then witness the solemn salutes given to each departing hearse, not just by the base personnel, but by any civilians who happen to be working there that day.

There are certain details specific to this trip, like a tearful flight attendant who thrusts a gold crucifix into the hands of a surprised Strobl, or the horse drawn carriage rigged up to carry Chance from the funeral to the cemetary, but more often than not, Chance and Strobl are standing in for the thousands of servicemen we've lost since the invasion began, and for the men and women who take on the duty of carrying them home.

Mindful of that responsibility, the film tries its best to stay out of its own way and just detail what happened. There's a scene near the end where Strobl gives a monologue about why he requested this duty, nicely played by Bacon, but this is Chance's story more than it is Strobl's, and the movie is at its best when it shows how people responded to crossing paths with his remains.

President Obama said recently that he's considering lifting the ban, in place since the first Gulf War, on photographing the arrival of flag-draped coffins at Dover. Proponents of the ban say photos and videos of those coffins exploit the memories of the soldiers who died. Opponents of it say that the ban disrespects their sacrifice by trying to act like their deaths didn't happen.

"Taking Chance" has no political agenda. No one in the film is for or against the war. But in presenting a slightly fictionalized account of what happens when each of the soldiers and Marines killed over there comes home, it serves as a powerful reminder that their deaths did take place, and that their lives mattered.

"Taking Chance" (Tomorrow at 8 p.m. on HBO) A Marine escorts the body of a fallen Marine home in a TV-movie starring Kevin Bacon.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at asepinwall@starledger.com, or by writing him at 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, N.J. 07102-1200. Please include your full name and hometown.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 09:09 AM
Marine colonel on burial detail in 'Taking Chance'
Friday, February 20, 2009
BY RICK BENTLEY
NorthJersey.com
MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS


8 p.m. Saturday

Kevin Bacon as Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl.

HBO

Movies are memorable because of mighty moments. These are the scenes that pull us so close to the story we feel as if we have crossed that invisible threshold from being mere observers.

Such a moment comes in the powerful HBO film "Taking Chance."

Kevin Bacon plays Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a career military man who volunteers to accompany the body of a dead Marine, 19-year-old Lance Corp. Chance Phelps, as he is returned to his family for burial.

This is a duty that is not taken lightly. Every inch of the journey is designed to pay the deepest respect to the fallen hero. For those who travel with the coffin, this is one of the most important missions of their military careers.

The screenplay was written by the real Strobl, who is a retired Marine, and Ross Katz. It is based on the journal Strobl penned. Because this movie is based on real events, each scene rings with a deep honesty. That's particularly true in the scene that is the defining moment of this journey.

As part of the transportation, Strobl stands vigil while the body is unloaded from an airplane. Slowly, civilians — from the passengers on the airplane to airport workers — stop. Nothing is said. The message comes through their faces: a look of respect and sadness.

It's the moment that keeps this from being just another war movie and burns a message deep into our hearts. "Taking Chance" is a story about the preciousness and fragile nature of life. It is about the honor and devotion a person can feel that is so electric they are willing to sacrifice that life.

Bacon turns in the performance of his career. His Strobl is a man who understands duty but must live with what he believes is a failing in his personality. He opts to accept a safe assignment on the home front rather than joining his fellow Marines in Iraq.

Strobl is such a stoic character, it would have been easy for Bacon to fall into the trap of playing him mechanically. But there is never any doubt how emotional this journey is to him.

Had this movie, filmed largely in Paramus and other areas of New Jersey, been released in theaters, it would have all but assured Bacon an Oscar nod. He will have to be content with knowing he is the early front-runner for an Emmy.

It doesn't matter what your views are about war. "Taking Chance" is the best story about the people who go to war since "The Best Years of Our Lives."

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 09:28 AM
'Taking Chance' follows a fallen Marine's journey home

By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY
There is a power and beauty to restraint that seldom finds its way onto TV.

A small, almost perfectly realized gem of a movie, Taking Chance is also precisely the kind of movie that TV should be making. Its story — a real-life example of the military's little-publicized policy of providing a uniformed escort for every fallen soldier — is too small for a wide-release feature film, even with star Kevin Bacon attached. And yet it's a story that should be seen in every American home, and one that, if you don't know it, will leave you wondering why you don't know it.

The man taking Chance home is Michael Strobl (Bacon), the Marine lieutenant colonel who co-wrote the film and wrote the journal on which it's based. A Desert Storm veteran turned stateside analyst, Strobl spends each night scrolling through the Iraq War casualty lists. He spots the name of Chance Phelps, 19, and even though he's considered too senior an officer to escort Chance's remains, he volunteers.

And so, as the body makes its way from Iraq to the Dover, Del., mortuary to Chance's tiny Wyoming hometown, we follow two journeys. One is that of a young man who died before his time; the other is of a middle-aged man seeking to honor the sacrifice of those he supervises while reconciling himself to his own service.

Yet there's also a larger tale being told here about the rituals we wrap around the random ugliness of war. Director Ross Katz, who co-wrote the film, traces each step without undue comment or sentiment — the soldiers loading ice into coffins and coffins into planes, the care shown to follow every one of the complicated guidelines that govern the process. And most movingly of all, he shows us the effect that the process has on most everyone it touches — the impromptu gestures of kindness, the signs of respect and remorse.

Despite its larger implications, this is a small, tightly contained movie, and Bacon anchors it with a properly contained performance. Mixing the gravity and regrets of age with a still-vital masculinity, Bacon projects a dignity and depth that allows him to convey both the pride this officer takes in his duty and his embarrassment at being praised for it.

It may strike some as affectless, but anyone familiar with Marines will likely recognize in Bacon the almost exaggerated courtesy officers use when officially out in public.

It is somewhat odd to see a story about war that is largely without conflict. (Was there no one Strobl met who was bitter over Chance's loss or saw it as a waste?) Still, this is an undeniably heart-rending film, never more so than at the end, when we're finally shown photos and home movies of the real Chance Phelps.

"I didn't know Chance Phelps before he died," Strobl says when his own mission is over. "But today, I miss him."

So will you.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 09:30 AM
Marine officer went the distance in 'Taking Chance'

By Gary Strauss, USA TODAY

More than 4,860 American soldiers and Marines have died in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, except for family, friends and comrades, their deaths are mostly statistics, repatriations shielded from public view and burials largely out of sight and mind.

Perceptions may change with HBO's heartbreaking Taking Chance, premiering Saturday (8 ET/PT). It's based on real events and the experiences of Marine Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who wrote Taking Chance as a powerful tribute not only to Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old Marine killed during a 2004 firefight, but to scores of fellow war victims.

The Defense Department has banned virtually all media coverage of deceased vets returning home since the 1991 Gulf War, a decision currently under Pentagon review. But the military offered advice and assistance, providing Taking Chance's film crew with a rarely viewed but painstakingly accurate account of the care and protocol bestowed upon the nation's fallen warriors.

"Average Americans don't know how we care for our dead or how they're given love, care and dignity," says first-time director Ross Katz, an Oscar-nominated producer for Lost in Translation and In the Bedroom. "It's awe-inspiring."

Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran, says he decided against another combat tour largely because of his young family. But he was conflicted, and joined the many military personnel who volunteered for escort duty as Iraqi war deaths escalated. Strobl's week-long trip accompanying Phelps' body from a Delaware military mortuary to burial in Wyoming provides Taking Chance's poignant emotional context.

Strobl shared his 20-page journal of the trip with friends and co-workers, and it eventually spread virally to military blogs and the media. It was quickly green-lit for filming after surfacing at HBO, which has become a major outlet for war-related programming both documentary and dramatized, with miniseries and films such as Generation Kill; Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq; Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery; and Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops From the Battlefields of Iraq.

Kevin Bacon, who plays Strobl, says he initially rejected the role because of the generally tepid viewer response to war-themed films. But Bacon says he realized that Taking Chance's underlying themes of honor, empathy and respect weren't unique to the Iraqi conflict.

"This was about casualties of war, not just Iraq. And what I was struck with was what Mike Strobl was struck with — the response from people he encountered," Bacon says. "Universally, people were moved and affected by the death of a Marine they never saw." Even during filming, an empty coffin elicited compassion, he says.

Though Taking Chance is viewed through Strobl's mostly stoic lens, the film's coda — a montage of photos and videos of Chance Phelps as a boy and fun-loving teen — may leave few viewers dry-eyed. And that's OK with Strobl.

"We're all probably guilty of becoming numb to the statistics of casualties," says Strobl, who retired in 2007 and currently works as a Pentagon economics analyst. "I hope this movie makes people realize that every one of (the dead) had vibrant lives, and to take a moment and think about them."

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 10:18 AM
HBO is 'Taking Chance'

By Scott D. Pierce

Deseret News
Published: February 20, 2009

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — HBO's "Taking Chance" isn't easy to describe.

At it's most simple, it's a fact-based telefilm about a Marine Corps officer who accompanies the body of a young Marine killed in Iraq to their mutual hometown in Wyoming. But it's so much more than that — a heart-rending, heartwarming journey that demonstrates the best of America.

"It's not an Iraq war movie per se," said director/co-writer Ross Katz. "It's a very personal story."

It's the very personal story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl (Kevin Bacon), who, in 2004, volunteered to accompany the body of 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Dubois, Wyo. Strobl kept a journal of that journey. He shared that with some of his friends, who shared it with other Marines — and it became the basis of the HBO film that premieres Saturday at 9 p.m.

Strobl said he began jotting things down when he saw a group of construction workers at the Dover mortuary.

"The two days I was at Dover, I think they had about a dozen departures of remains. And every time the remains would leave, these construction workers would stop their work, put their hard hats over their heart, and stand at their version of attention," he said. "And seeing that, I realized I want to remember this because there's really some goodness there."

He had a series of encounters with a hearse driver, flight attendants, baggage handlers, cargo people, "all of these people who you can presume covered the spectrum of political views. They all had this profound sense of gratitude and sorrow at Chance's loss.

"By the time I put it all together, I just thought if these people can react this way — people who didn't know Chance, didn't know the circumstances of his death, all they knew was he was a Marine who died in combat — they represented, to me, all that's good about America."

"Taking Chance" is not in any way a political statement — it's neither pro-war nor anti-war.

But it does come at a time when President Obama is evaluating the Bush administration policy that forbids press coverage of the flag-draped coffins of fallen service men and women returning to the United States.

Bacon said he believes the film puts a face on the statistics of how many Americans have been killed in Iraq.

"When you see a body count coming up, it doesn't really hit home in the same kind of way as it does if you actually see what happens to the actual remains — you see the preparation, you see the respect, and you see the tradition and the honor that is involved with actually returning them to their final resting place," he said. "And the story is really a very, very simple one. … It's almost completely unembellished with anything to make it more cinematic or dramatic or to somehow force us to feel one way or another based on what our preconceived notions are about Iraq and whether or not we should have been in there or whatever.

"It's just the simple telling of what this process is like and, in its simplicity, I think, becomes an extremely profound kind of comment on the casualties of war."

THREE MARINES: Kevin Bacon plays a Marine in "Taking Chance"; he plays a different Marine in the current theatrical release "Frost/Nixon." (He portrays Maj. Jack Brennan, a military aide to Richard Nixon who became Nixon's post-resignation chief of staff.)

But it's a coincidence, not a trend.

"Well, I guess I've played three Marines — (in) 'A Few Good Men,' 'Frost/Nixon' and 'Taking Chance,' " Bacon said, pointing out that after all the movies he's done, it's no different than having coincidentally played three cops or three killers.

"The one thing I will say is that there is no part of me that ever considered being a Marine (or) could make it in the Marine Corps. I am definitely not that guy," he said. "I'm not the guy to throw myself in harm's way. I would never make it through boot camp.

"It's all acting."

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 03:28 PM
Taking Chance Premieres Tomorrow at 8 PM
Today at 1:41pm

In April 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, USMC, came across the name of 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, a young Marine who had been killed by hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Strobl, a Desert Storm veteran with 17 years of military service, requested that he be assigned for military escort duty to accompany Chance's remains to his family in Dubois, Wyo.

Witnessing the spontaneous outpouring of support and respect for the fallen Marine - from the groundskeepers he passed along the road to the cargo handlers at the airport - Strobl was moved to capture the experience in his personal journal, writing Taking Chance.

Read the original article on which Taking Chance was based, and tune in for the film's premiere tomorrow night.

http://www.hbo.com/films/takingchance/article/index.html


The HBO Films premiere of Taking Chance

This event is planned to start at 8:00 pm on Feb 21, 2009 at Everywhere, USA.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-20-09, 04:46 PM
Airmen, Marines highlight missions in HBO movie

by Capt. Shannon Collins
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

2/20/2009 - SAN ANTONIO (AFNS) -- More than 35 Airmen and 50 Marines who served as extras and subject matter experts to showcase how the military and American community cares for servicemembers for HBO's "Taking Chance" will see their hard work pay off when the show airs Feb. 21.

"Taking Chance" is a movie based on the first-person narrative of retired Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl as he accompanies the body of 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps, killed in Iraq in April 2004, from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to his hometown and final resting place of Dubois, Wyo.

To assist HBO Executive Producer Brad Krevoy with the making of the movie, active-duty and Reserve Marines from New York, New Jersey, Utah and Montana, took leave to serve as extras. About 35 active-duty Airmen from McGuire AFB, N.J., took leave to serve as extras while director Ross Katz filmed scenes in and around a static C-17 Globemaster III at McGuire AFB. Civilian subject matter experts from the Charles Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, also called the Dover Port Mortuary at Dover AFB volunteered their expertise to make sure the movie was realistic and conveyed the sensitivity of their daily mission, respecting the fallen.

Ensuring respect is paid to the fallen servicemembers is a way of life for subject matter expert and movie technical advisor Bill Zwicharowski, who works for the Charles Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. Having served as a Marine and having worked with the Army for 10 years and with the Air Force for 10 years, he was familiar with Colonel Strobl's story.

"It was an amazing story of how pride and patriotism continued way beyond the journey to and through Dover Port Mortuary," the senior mortuary specialist said. "It seemed that every stop along the way, people cared as much as we do here at Dover -- that was so reassuring for us to know."

When he was asked to help with the movie, the licensed funeral director and embalmer said he was honored but slightly leery.

"I was certainly honored but I feared that the movie wouldn't portray the care given to our fallen," he said. "When I saw the trailer, I was especially impressed and relieved that HBO and everyone involved made every effort to ensure that the movie was realistic and that it conveyed the sensitivity of our mission. Every time I see the trailer, I still get goose bumps."

His mission, along with his co-workers, is to prepare and transport the fallen in the most timely, most sensitive, professional manner possible.

"Every fallen hero comes to Dover and is escorted home," Mr. Zwicharowski said. "Everyone along the way truly cares."

When Marine Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata, the Department of Defense Project Officer for the movie, read the script in 2007, he said, "This is a project the Marine Corps must be a part of."

"There's no hidden political agenda; it's just a true and honest story about a Marine taking one of our fallen home to his family," said the Public Affairs Chief with the Marine Corps Motion Picture and Television Liaison Office in Los Angeles.

For Sergeant Zapata, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"You could work here for 50 years and never have a project so powerful or so positive come through the office," he said. "I've worked on big blockbuster productions that were viewed throughout the world and brought in millions of dollars, but they didn't inspire the kind of pride and sense of accomplishment I feel about my involvement with 'Taking Chance.'"

During the filming, Marine Corps Burial Details conducted the fallen Marine's dignified transfer from the C-17 at McGuire AFB. These Marines perform this honorable duty in real life.

"They were amazing and left an indelible impression on the production crew," the sergeant said.

Sergeant Zapata has seen the movie twice to make sure uniforms were correct and the military was portrayed as realistically as possible. Even though he knew what to expect and had been present at the various filming projects, it still affected him.

"It's brought a lump to my throat every time," the Marine said.

Mr. Chuck Davis, chief, Air Force Motion Picture and Television Liaison, Air Force Office of Public Affairs, Entertainment Liaison Office, echoed his sentiment.

"Knowing that the story was based upon real events made this a very, very special project," he said. "Of all the movies and TV shows I have worked on here for the Air Force during the past 25 years, this is the one I am most proud of. It's an incredibly moving story."

Mr. Davis' and Sergeant Zapata's offices support various television and motion picture projects to give the American audience a greater awareness of the military and its missions.

"This movie offered us the opportunity to show the audience the importance of strategic airlift and the professionalism of our Airmen as they care for one another," Mr. Davis said. "For 'Taking Chance,' the audience will see that freedom is not free and that our young military men and women face inherent dangers every day in maintaining the freedoms they themselves inherited and are willing to sacrifice for."

The Air Force, Marine, Navy and Army liaison offices continue to support motion picture and TV productions to increase public awareness.

"It gives the DOD an opportunity to reach an incredibly large audience," Gunnery Sergeant Zapata said. "It's important for the American people to see what their military does. The more they understand our missions, capabilities and the honor, courage and commitment that go into our service, the better."

Ellie

thedrifter
02-21-09, 08:11 AM
Kevin Bacon plays against type, again, in solemn HBO film 'Taking Chance'
Posted by dawalker February 21, 2009 03:34AM

HBOIn HBO's Taking Chance,' Kevin Bacon portrays a Marine officer accompanying a young Marine's remains back to his hometown for burial.

Kevin Bacon is quick to admit that he's several degrees of separation from the character he plays in "Taking Chance," the new HBO movie debuting at 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 21).

Dating all the way back to his very brief role as an ROTC cadet in "Animal House," Bacon has portrayed several military men during his career, including memorable roles in "A Few Good Men" and "Frost/Nixon."

He's terrific in "Taking Chance," too, but none of the above roles were were type-casting.

"There is no part of me that ever considered being a Marine, could make it in the Marine Corps," he said during the January TV Tour in Los Angeles. "I am definitely not that guy. I'm not the guy to throw myself in harm's way. I would never make it through boot camp.

"It's all acting."

"Taking Chance" tells the the deeply moving story of a Marine officer accompanying the remains of a young Marine killed in Iraq back to the deceased's hometown. Developed by the real-life Marine on whom Bacon's character is based, and with the cooperation of the deceased's parents, it's a seemingly uncomplicated tale about a taciturn character that nonetheless flows with emotion.

"One of the things that's really interesting to me about the film is that you really get back to the fact that what you read in the paper all the time about war -- and you can kind of read an article and you can say, 'A certain amount of Marines were killed in this city,' or when you see a body count coming up -- it doesn't really hit home in the same kind of way as it does if you actually see what happens to the actual remains," Bacon said. "You see the preparation, you see the respect, and you see the tradition and the honor that is involved with actually returning them to their final resting place.

"The story is really a very, very simple one in that it's really just the story of this man and this person Chance that he's returning. And it's almost completely unembellished with anything to make it more cinematic or dramatic or to somehow force us to feel one way or another based on what our preconceived notions are about Iraq and whether or not we should have been in there or whatever. It's just the simple telling of what this process is like and, in its simplicity, I think, becomes an extremely profound kind of comment on the casualties of war."

Ellie

thedrifter
02-21-09, 08:15 AM
television
Military-escort role opened eyes of actor
Saturday, February 21, 2009 3:11 AM
By David Germain
ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARK CITY, Utah -- First comes the bearer of bad news: A loved one has died in combat. Then comes the bearer of the loved one: The military escort who brings the fallen home.


The HBO drama Taking Chance chronicles a home-front saga little-known to most Americans -- the procedures and protocols followed in tending to our battle casualties and the honors paid them on their last journey.

Based on a true story, the film stars Bacon as Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a career officer who volunteered to escort the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps back to his family in Wyoming after the 19-year-old was killed in Iraq in April 2004.

Based in Quantico, Va., Strobl traveled to the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where Phelps' body was prepared.

The film depicts the agonizing attention devoted to slain troops: blood and grime scrubbed from dog tags, watches and other personal effects; hands carefully cleaned, though they will be concealed by white gloves; uniforms and medals meticulously arranged.

And that's just the beginning. Along the way, escorts and other military personnel must solemnly salute the dead each time their bodies are taken off a hearse or loaded onto a plane.

"It never occurred to me, the painstaking detail," Bacon said in an interview alongside Strobl at the Sundance Film Festival last month, where Taking Chance premiered.

"The fact that the honors are rendered when the remains are moved from one place to another -- . . . I was really stunned, and then I think that's, in a way, what the essence of the movie is," Bacon said. "You tell this very, very simple, specific story about this guy and this kid and this one journey; then, hopefully, people start to think about the bigger picture of the families and the loss of life and the sacrifice."

Along the way, Bacon's Strobl encounters little moments of compassion and communal grief with strangers who are moved by the young man's voyage home.

A civilian hearse driver explains that he took the job partly in honor of friends wounded or killed in Iraq. An airline clerk upgrades Strobl to first-class with a somber thank you for his escort duty. A flight attendant gives him a gold crucifix. An airline pilot who -- like Strobl -- served in Desert Storm joins in saluting Phelps.

"People you can presume represented the whole spectrum of views on our policies, they all, without exception, were grateful for Chance and saddened by the loss," said Strobl, who retired from the Marines in 2007 and works in a civilian job at the Pentagon.

Escorts are required to keep detailed records of their trips. As Strobl continued to meet people touched by Phelps, his record changed from by-the-

numbers details to a personal

journal.

Strobl shared it with colleagues, and the story eventually made its way to executive producer Brad Krevoy, who took the project to HBO.

Ross Katz, a producer of Lost in Translation and In the Bedroom, collaborated with Strobl to write the screenplay and made his directing debut on Taking Chance.
• will premiere at 8 tonight on HBO.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-22-09, 08:29 AM
Dubois salutes 'Taking Chance' film

By Gazette News Services
DUBOIS - About 1,000 people watched a preview of an HBO film chronicling the return of a Marine's body to Wyoming for burial after he was killed in Iraq. "Taking Chance" was shown last week in the Dubois High School gymnasium. The film was created based on the writings of now-retired Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who escorted the body of Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps home to Dubois after the young Marine was killed on April 9, 2004, in Iraq.

Phelps had been serving as a member of Maj. Gen. John Kelly's personal security detachment when he was killed, and the general was present to speak about the events leading up to Phelps's death. He said his detachment had been traveling to a particularly dangerous part of Iraq when the convey came under fire. He said Phelps had been positioned on a turret gun atop one of the vehicles. "Out of the right corner of my eye (his) vehicle came up, with the turret gun going into the teeth of that fire to save Marines in pretty serious straits," Kelly said.

After the screen faded to black, there was a moment of stunned silence in the gymnasium. Then, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, giving a standing ovation. Whistles and shouts of "bravo!" rang through the air as the audience clapped.

Ellie

thedrifter
02-22-09, 09:05 AM
Chance Phelps Last Stand - According to Major General Kelly <br />
Posted By Blackfive <br />
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Update: For Steve Cochran's listeners on WGN Radio, here is the link to the original story now on HBO - &quot;Taking...