Apparently having to wear a temporary tattoo on your head to the Oscars isn't considered much of a sacrifice.
"[Jamie Foxx] has got a good gig on this movie," the Oscar winner's current co-star Peter Sarsgaard joked recently. "He gets to come in, do a couple of days and fly out. The rest of us are stuck down there, crawling through the mud and a lot of rain. And it's cold in the desert at night."
"Down there" is El Centro, California, where Foxx, Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal are shooting "Jarhead," a comedic drama based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best-selling 2003 book of the same name about his Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Gyllenhaal plays Swofford, Sarsgaard plays his best friend, and Foxx plays the sergeant of their sniper platoon.
"Jarhead is what some Marines call themselves," explained Sarsgaard, who is coming off "Kinsey" and "Garden State." "It's about this elite group of Marines who are very specially trained. 'One shot, one kill' is their motto. And they're really taught to do this very specific kind of killing. And they get there and they have nothing to do. And it's about being trained to do, being ready to do and just having to sit on it."
That boredom is the source of both the movie's comedy and drama.
"We're blowing up sh-- houses in the base, 'cause we're losing it. We're shooting camels. You start to see us really unravel," Sarsgaard, sporting a buzz cut for the movie, said. "A lot of our military [in the Middle East] has not fired their weapons. And I think you certainly understand the experience of all the guys who are in there actually fighting, but what about the guys who are there sitting there, thinking that anything can happen at any moment, and the anxiety that just that experience produces?"
Sam Mendes ("American Beauty," "Road to Perdition") is directing the movie, due November 11.
"The first thing that you notice that Sam has done with the movie is he's really assembled an amazing team," Sarsgaard said. "He has [cinematographer] Roger Deakins ('The Shawshank Redemption,') shooting the movie. The most famous editor of practically all time, Walter Murch ('The English Patient'), editing it. The cast is incredible. Chris Cooper is playing a small role, Sam Rockwell is playing a small role."
Lucas Black of "Friday Night Lights" and Dennis Haysbert of "24" also have small roles in the movie, which William Broyles Jr. ("Apollo 13," "Castaway") adapted from Swofford's book.
As with most military movies, the cast was sent through boot camp to prepare for "Jarhead."
"I would actually say, though, that the process of making the film has been way more of a boot camp than the boot camp was," Sarsgaard said. "We've really had some tough days, but it's good because they catch it on film. And also, guys are over there right now fighting, big real Marines, so it's tough to talk about playing a Marine in that context. Sure it's a pain in the ass, but I've got it good. I'll sit in my trailer. But compared to other acting experiences, it's a difficult one."
Maybe for some, but not Travis Aaron Wade, who plays a supply sergeant named Payne. Though an actor for the past several years, Wade was actually in the Marine unit on which "Jarhead" is based.
"Every actor has a story, and that's mine," Wade said. "I walked in the casting room and said, 'I can either act or tell you what it is.' They said, 'Well, tell us what it is.' And that's what we did."
Wade, who is also a writer and producer, not only earned a role, but the opportunity to write a few scenes.
"I told Sam Mendes a few personal stories of what I went through and he said, 'Well, I'm going to use it,' " Wade recalled. "And he used it. It's such a blessing."
Along with "Jarhead," Sarsgaard will star this year in "The Skeleton Key" with Kate Hudson and "Flight Plan" with Jodie Foster. Wade has a small part alongside Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds," opening June 29.
"I'm a lieutenant chasing Cruise down," Wade said. "We think he's a bad guy and he's not. We don't have much information about the script because we get it the day we get to set. They are very secretive."
Check out everything we've got on "Jarhead."
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