Peter Berg parlayed successful acting work on TV shows like medical drama “Chicago Hope” to an even greater directing career of movies such as Friday Night Lights, which later became a TV series, and the Will Smith action flick Hancock.
Today, Berg’s latest film, alien-invasion actioner Battleship, steams into theatres. It takes its title from the Hasbro board game in which two players engage in a guessing game to see who can sink the other’s naval ships.
The film uses the board game as a jumping off point to tell of two brothers (Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgard), both Navy officers, whose ships must battle aliens invading Earth.
Berg spoke with Reuters about the film, his own memories playing the board game and why he cast pop star Rihanna in her first acting major movie role as a petty officer.
Were you given any particular instructions from Hasbro when trying to adapt the board game to the big screen?
Battleship was a great creative exercise. I was under no mandate to do anything but make an entertaining and compelling film.
You cast many real-life war veterans. Their wars were real, in Battleship its aliens. Why mix reality and fantasy?
It was an opportunity for me to pay respect to veterans. That is a group I think we can all pay respect to, whether we serve or we don’t. The alien component was brought in to help soften the reality of the war that we’re all living with today. I wanted this to be a fun summer movie, not a bloody war about America and China killing each other. I wanted to make a film that was as escapist as anything else.
Why do you think a film about American soldiers is playing so well internationally?
At the end of the day, the movie is about people. You stop thinking about these sailors as representatives of an army. They’re young people trying to survive. I felt that if we could accomplish that, the jingoistic aspects of the film could be diminished and people would get on the ride and go with it.
This is singer Rihanna’s big screen debut. Were you confident she could act?
I had success with (country singer) Tim McGraw in Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom. In the case of Rihanna, I always felt she had such tremendous presence and charisma. When I met with her, it was apparent to me that she had everything it took for this role. I felt very confident I could get the performance out of her.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.
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