Kevin Bacon and Lt. Col. Mike Strobl talk ‘Taking Chance’ for HBO

HBO’s “Taking Chance” is based on the experiences of Marine Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who kept a personal journal on each trip he took with a fallen soldier’s remains.

It was Stobl’s detailed notes and recollections in his journal, sent to his military colleagues, that inspired the Marines’ public affairs offices to make Stobl’s personal account public record.

The HBO movie, which premiered at 8 p.m. Saturday, explained how the military treats war dead with great care and respect.

The film also reveals how the American public often responds to military sacrifices.

Kevin Bacon plays Lt. Col. Strobl in the film.

Bacon was joined by writer, director and executive producer Ross Katz and Lt. Col. Michael Stobl USMC (Ret.) at the recent winter TCA junket (television critics’ association) at the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles.

Katz was asked by the TV critics including Monsters and Critics how he intended to market the HBO project.

“I think the more difficult job was to get people to understand it’s not an Iraq war movie per se.  It’s a very personal story.  But also beyond that, it’s something we’ve literally never seen before in any film.  This depiction of what goes on, what it takes to take one fallen Marine, Airman, Soldier home is something that none of us knows.  So I think it is a revelation in that way, hopefully.”

Bacon and Strobl were asked why the film should be watched by viewers.

“Were you aware that the remains of our service members travel from Dover to their final resting place with an escort every step of the way,” said Lt. Stobl.  “I think that’s something most people aren’t aware of and may find very compelling.”

The men answered the critics’ questions on why this procession is never seen so much in the media or real life.  Katz noted, “To my knowledge, there would be two reasons.  The first is that these men and women, like Lt. Col. Stobl and Kevin, who portrays him, this isn’t something that they really talk much about.  It’s very painful, and it feels somewhat not dignified.  In the context of having delivered remains to a family member, their pain seems to be secondary.  Also I think it’s pretty clear not a lot of images like this were made available to us. So even that’s gone on so many times it just hasn’t been seen.”

Kevin Bacon spoke to a critic’s question that wondered why there was a difference in US coverage of bodies being returned versus the graphic news coverage of war dead in the middle-east.

Bacon said, “We saw a lot of it during the Vietnam war, and the images were there all the time.  I think that probably there was some kind of message that came down from somewhere… someplace in the government… I doubt if it was actually from the military, that says ‘we don’t want to repeat this kind of situation in the media of being exposed to caskets that are covered with flags.’

Bacon continued: “One of the things that is really interesting to me about the film is that you really get back to the fact that what you read in the paper all the time about war and you can kind of read an article and say a certain amount of Marines were killed in this city, or when you see the body count coming up, it doesn’t really hit home in the same kind of way as it does when you actually see what happens to the actual remains; you see the preparation; you see the respect, and you see the tradition and honor that is involved with actually returning them to their final resting place.”

“The story is really a very simple one in that it’s really just the story of this man and this person Chance that he is returning.  It is almost completely unembellished with anything to make it more cinematic or dramatic or to somehow force us to feel one way or another based on what our preconceived notions are about Iraq and whether or not we should be in there, or whatever.”  Bacon added, “It is just the simple telling of what this process is like and, in it’s simplicity, I think, becomes a profound comment on the casualties of war.”

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