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Marine vet dishes Hollywood and military scenes in movies

James Denver Marine
Photo: USMC

When James Dever first saw the John Wayne movie “Sands of Iwo Jima” as a kid, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the military. And after 25 years in the Marines — including training in Virginia Beach — he now works in film.

His job: to make military movies more realistic.

Dever, a technical adviser and owner of consulting company 1 Force Inc., has racked up more than 80 TV and film credits, including work on “Jarhead,” “American Sniper” and “Call of Duty” video games. He talked shop with The Virginian-Pilot.

How does your job work?

There’s a lot of research involved. I read the script, talk with the director, give notes and answer questions. I also work with the prop master and art department to make sure everything is correct as possible. When you get closer to filming, I make sure wardrobes and vehicles and weapons are correct. I also work with actors, answering any questions they might have. But I’m only an adviser, so I can’t demand to change anything. It’s at the discretion of the producers.

What are some mistakes you’ve seen in military films?

It might be a period piece, and I’ll say that didn’t happen there, like units that were not stationed there, or this was definitely located here and not there, or these are the people involved, if it’s based on a true story. You put in different dialogue if you have to, so characters communicate how they would have in a certain period.

Any specific examples?

“Kong: Skull Island.” That takes place in 1973, and they were carrying their weapons of 2017. And the characters were acting more modern than they would have in that period, carrying their weapons at “low and ready,” when that didn’t happen until the late ’80s and ’90s. The same problem in “Hacksaw Ridge” — never would have happened in World War II.

How do you fact-check scripts?

I read a lot of books for period pieces. You’ve got to keep updated on how they carry weapons and that sort of thing. I also have a lot of friends in the , so I can ask them about any changes in how things work.

How did you help Bradley Cooper prepare for his role as Chris Kyle in “American Sniper?”

We had a lot of training on tactics and dialogue. We called it boot camp. We did a week of training before we even went to Morocco to shoot the film. As Bradley was getting in shape, he was absorbing everything. It was challenging to him.

You’ve also had credits as an actor and stunt double. What was that like?

It was different. But all my life, I’d been doing stunts in the Marines — running, jumping, hitting the deck, jumping out of airplanes. But acting, it’s not the easiest thing.

What should audiences keep in mind when they see your films?

Just enjoy yourself, and put yourself in the characters’ place.


(c)2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) — pilotonline.com

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