The Vietnam War is widely remembered as a distinctly American affair, though some people might not realize just how many nations were roped into conflict in the country that had formerly been part of French Indochina. Indeed, Australia took part in the war, and the 1966 Battle of Long Tan marked a turning point for the young soldiers who had been sent to a foreign country without understanding why there were there, or who, exactly they had been sent to fight.
Danger Close tells the story of these real life warriors, young Australian and New Zealand men who, regardless of political identity or social sympathies, found themselves in a battle for their lives in the jungles of Vietnam. They killed and died, and since both sides claimed victory following the battle, it all seemed to be for nothing by the time the smoke cleared. Danger Close serves as a tribute to the sacrifice of these men, as well as a remorseful lament on the lives they could have lived. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Luke Bracey, and Daniel Webber.
While promoting the release of Danger Close, Daniel Webber spoke to Screen Rant about his work on the film, from going through boot camp with his fellow actors, to using real life references to get to know his character, Paul Large, who was only 21 when he fought at Long Tan.
Danger Close releases November 8 in theaters, Digital, and VOD.
I saw the movie last night, and I thought it was great, and you in particular, were just fantastic.
Oh, thanks, man! That’s nice of you to say. We’re very proud of this film and telling that story.
In telling that story, tell me, how does one prepare to play a soldier? Do you have any family or friends who served?
I don’t… I had distant relatives in the Crimean War, but my father and my grandfather missed out on going to Vietnam. Nobody directly. But there was training and learning. I have a lot of friends now who have served. Veterans. But I don’t know how to train to be a soldier, per se. But they did put us through a boot camp, which was learning a lot of tactical things, how to move like a soldier, how to work like a soldier. I think it was really important to develop their mentality, developing relationships you have to have with your brothers, since you’re fighting with them, looking out for them, and spending a long time away from home with them. Those were the main… Gun training, and all of that stuff.
Kinda building on that brotherhood, did you have time to build bonds on set? Did you have an extended rehearsal process?
Yeah, of course. Like I said, they put us through boot camp for a week, so I got to meet everybody. They put us up in hotels, so we were kinda living together. Also, we shot out on location, in a couple of small towns in Northern Queensland in Australia. There’s no one else to talk to. It was just the locals and the castmates. And there were only a couple hundred people in town. You spend a lot of time with the guys that you’re with, and you bond that way. And it’s all young guys, we’re young actors, and I’d met a lot of them in the last ten years of working in Australia and America. And I’m friends with a lot of them. So I had those friendships already. And these actors are all so absolutely genuine, wonderful, very talented people. So it was a very easy experience. I think everybody’s come away from this film with a lot of lifelong friends. We still have group chats. We still hang out.
That’s really cool. Did you have any primary sources on Paul? Everyone is playing a real person in the movie, so I imagine that added to your responsibility, right?
Yeah. It was definitely… I felt total responsibility on this. I got to talk to family members. It definitely feels very real. As far as the primary sources go, I was lucky enough that one of the producers gave me… There’s not a lot online about Paul, but he gave me the letters that Paul had written in Vietnam, and some that had been given to him. The letters were so wonderful. You could truly make a film about him. It’s such a colorful way of looking at things. He had a clear sense of humor and a point of view, a takeaway of the war. He was definitely a rebel. He had his own thoughts, and he kinda did a lot of what he wanted to do. He was getting in trouble quite a bit (Laughs). I don’t know, he’s just a fascinating guy, with a beautiful sensitivity, and a real Australian. He had a very Australian quality about him. It reminded me a lot of young guys I’ve grown up with who worked farms. He had that very earthy “home” feel. I wanted to bring that, bring whatever I had read in the letters out onto the screen to help push him up on the screen as much as possible.
That’s what the movie is all about. I’ve heard some talk, some discourse online, that the movie is “not political enough,” because once the battle starts, it’s just a non-stop barrage of young people killing and dying in a battle that nobody won in the end. I don’t see how you can get much more political than that.
Do you pay attention to the discourse surrounding your projects, or do you just focus on your art and leave it to other people to interpret or misinterpret?
It’s always interesting, seeing what people’s takeaway from films are. They’re not… For me, as the actor, it’s about telling the story. I’m always interested in being surprised by the discourse. Some of it you agree with, some of it you don’t. But we’re making it and telling a story, putting it out there. What people do with it, they do with it. I guess the good thing is that people are talking about it. We’re having that discourse. I love that part of it. It’s always fascinating.
I thought you were amazing in The Punisher.
You played a different generation of soldier, someone who slipped through the cracks and didn’t get the mental health attention he so badly needed. Was there anything you learned in that role that you found yourself drawing on for this?
Hmm, not really. They’re both wars, but they were different wars. The guy I played in The Punisher was somebody who came back from the Gulf War and it was a very different experience. One’s about a guy coming back from the war, and retrospective. This one is very immediate. The story of Paul Large is in the moment, in the heat of battle. You get to see what things are going to affect his life. They’re very different. The Punisher connected me to the veteran culture in a really profound way. That is maybe the only real connection that helped in any way. I have a lot of respect, a lot of love for those guys.
Can you talk a bit about the difference between working in Australia and how it compares to Hollywood? Is there anything in particular that stands out to you?
To me, I love going home and shooting in Australia. It’s a different sensibility on set. It’s probably just because I grew up in Australia. The sleight of hand is just different, our way of being. It’s very comfortable. It’s always so comfortable going home and working with the people that I have that kinship with. But I don’t know if there’s any real difference.
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