Issue Date: April 12, 2004

Lights, camera … OOH-RAH!
Filmmaker projects Marine experiences on the big screen

Reverge Anselmo is a novelist, screenwriter and director. He’s also a former Marine corporal who is about to release his third and most ambitious film — “Stateside,” starring Val Kilmer, Rachael Leigh Cook and Jonathan Tucker.
Anselmo was a Marine combat photographer from 1981 to 1984 and deployed with the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit to Beirut, Lebanon. He was just 20 yards away from the Marine barracks there, in an adjacent building, when a bomb-laden truck barreled into it Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 troops. It was an experience he first revisited in “The Cadillac of Six-By’s,” a 1997 novel about a group of Marines acting as peacekeepers in that chaotic city.

In his new film, most of the action is on the home front, about a privileged youth, Mark Deloach (Tucker), who gets into a serious drunken-driving accident — one Anselmo based on a real-life experience — that prompts a judge to offer him jail or the military. It’s off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., for Deloach, where he comes under the hard-core Marine tutelage of drill instructor Sgt. Skeer (Kilmer).

The movie, Anselmo said, “is about 80 to 85 percent the truth. I tried to be as honest as possible.”

Anselmo’s accident was nowhere near as serious as Deloach’s, he said, but he needed a mechanism for getting the character into the Corps that Hollywood could embrace.

“I had to find a ‘non-gungy,’ faultless pretext to get the guy into the military,” he said.