Now playing throughout Utah (and coming soon to other states), Saints and Soldiers-Airborne Creed is the second film in director Ryan Little’s critically-acclaimed series of inspiring World War II films (read my review and my interview with Little). With an emphasis on finding humanity and decency amidst the horrors of war, the Saints and Soldiers brand is also characterized by its fine acting. The new film has many excellent performances, including Nichelle Aiden’s romantic turn, VirginieFourtina Anderson’s fiery portrayal of a female French sharpshooter, and Lincoln Hoppe’s devastating turn as a German officer. I wish time and space permitted me to interview them all.
As it is, however, I invited the main trio portraying American soldiers to speak about their experiences, inspirations, and favorite films. In the process I hope you’ll come to appreciate and admire the good men that Corbin Allred (Saints and Soldiers, Take a Chance), David Nibley (The Best Two Years, Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration) and Jasen Wade (17 Miracles, Treasure in Heaven) clearly are.
CORBIN ALLRED (“ROSSI”)
Jonathan Decker: So how is it that you ended up in this film, playing a completely different character then you played in the first one?
Corbin Allred: Ryan approached me to do another WWII film last summer. After taking a 4 year hiatus from film to pursue my academic goals, I jumped at the chance to get in front of the camera again, especially for Ryan. The project actually began under a different working title so there was no issue with confusion at first, but about half way through the shoot whispers began about the possibility of placing the film under the Saints and Soldiers brand. The message of the film had the same power thematically as the original and seemed to be a good fit for a continuation of a series. Of course...there were great concerns about having the same actor portray a completely different character in the new installment (and I was no exception with regard to harboring that concern) but Ryan, Adam, and Gil were confident in my abilities to pull it off, and in the collective ability of the audience to separate the two entirely different films as separate pieces.
JD: Other than the mohawk (which I'm told is historically accurate), what would you say most differentiates Rossi, your character in the new film, from Deacon, the Mormon sharpshooter in the first Saints and Soldiers?
CA: Deacon and Rossi are vastly different people, coming from different places with regards to their faith or lack thereof, their principles, and their motivation to fight. Deacon harbored deep regret and guilt as he strived to reconcile and come to terms with his mistakes and his continued duty to fight and kill a people he grew to love. Rossi hates the people who took his friend from him, and in his perception, took his innocence. He, in error, blames the enemy for his own spiritual and emotional depression. Lacking the passion for the bigger cause, Rossi is more a vigilante, fighting for selfish reasons as he strives in vain to find justification for his lack of mercy. Deacon fought for his friends and for redemption for his mistakes; Rossi fought for himself until he was forced to find a cause outside his own despair. He found that kindness and mercy can overpower even the deepest hate.
JD: You had an intense and impressive fight scene in Airborne Creed, one that would not have been out of place in a Bourne film. Did you do all your own fighting and stuntwork? What can you tell us about preparing for that scene?
That's a great compliment! Thanks...not sure if it was on par with the Bourne films, but I definitely felt like I fought Jason Bourne after that day. I did have the good fortune of doing all my own fight and stunt work in [Airborne Creed] and was happy to have survived it with only a few punches to the face that actually connected (look close and you'll see them).Preparation was [in] the hard and physical work days leading up to the film. I rehearsed with John Lyde (the German I tussled with) in my off time. We wanted to make the experience as real as possible for us and for the audience, so we focused on realism, stretched, ate [our] Wheaties...and got into it!
JD: My favorite scene in the film, and I'll be careful to avoid spoilers here, but it's a conversation between you and another man that's very poignant and emotional. I've done some comedic acting before, but I have no idea how one would get into the mindset to deliver something that powerful. How did you prepare? Is it draining to go to such a heart-breaking place?
I know the scene, and yes...it was very draining. But we had a responsibility to take the audience there and the payoff was tremendous. I think [a] contributing factor to the power of the scene was the fact that we shot the scene at 2:00 a.m. at the end of an 18 hour shoot day. Additionally, the other actor and I are very close personal friends, making the emotion easy to reach.
JD: You've guest-starred on many popular television shows, including Touched by an Angel, JAG, Monk, NCIS, Bones, and CSI-Miami. What has been your favorite TV show to work on, both for experience and for the final product?
Teen Angel was a riot! Such a great experience for me at such a pivotal point in my life. However, my experience on CSI: Las Vegas was some of the most rewarding. The cast and crew were amazing, and the message of the episode was powerful...
JD: What are some of your favorite films?
Some of my favorite films (and I have many), include Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Dr Strangelove, Goonies, the Indiana Jones films, the Harry Potter films, Raising Arizona, Best in Show, the Sherlock Holmes films, anything war, anything scary, anything with good monsters…holy cow, dude. I could go on forever!
DAVID NIBLEY (“JONES”)
Jonathan Decker: You made a big splash in The Best Two Years, which in my opinion is one of the few LDS comedies that works. Why do you think that film has had such lasting appeal?
DN: It's a film about Mormon missionaries, but it's not preachy, doesn't hammer the viewer with a message. It's simply a well-told story that works so well, in my opinion, because of the basics — it's genuinely funny, has characters you can relate to and root for, and the storytelling is great. To me it was also an honest film — there were many elements of it that felt very familiar as I thought about my own mission in Italy.
JD: Do you have any favorite memories from that shoot?
DN: I have a lot of them, actually. It was my first feature film, so I really soaked up every moment. It was such a great experience that I remember feeling that if I never did another film again in my life, I'd be fine.