Luke Bracey (The November Man, Hacksaw Ridge) stars in Danger Close as Sergeant Bob Buick, an Australian soldier in The Vietnam War who takes part in The Battle of Long Tan. During our interview, Bracey talked about how signing onto Danger Close was a “no-brainer” and why Saving Private Ryan is one of his all time favorite films.
Directed by Kriv Stenders, Danger Close centers on how 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought for their lives at The Battle of Long Tan. Along with Bracey, the feature also stars Travis Fimmel (Finding Steve McQueen, Lean on Pete) as Major Harry Smith and Daniel Webber (The Dirt) as Private Paul Large.
The feature, which comes out November 8 in theaters, on Digital, and On Demand, places viewers inside the battle for most of the narrative. It’s an entirely immersive experience that is seamlessly shot by Stenders, and thanks to an engaged ensemble Danger Close is an insightful and riveting look at a battle that has never been covered on a cinematic level.
Really loved Danger Close. Was working with director Kriv Stenders (Kill Me Three Times) as well as exploring this true story the main reasons why choosing the film was essentially a no-brainer for you?
Kriv was a huge part of wanting to do (Danger Close). Basically everything about this film I really was drawn to. First of all, I read the script straight away and as you see in the film – it’s non-stop.
This story is harrowing and the fact that it’s an action movie where ordinary men are doing extraordinary things was poignant to me. My father was the same age as the average age of everyone in this and he was just lucky that his name didn’t get called out for the draft to go over there.
He has a lot of friends that were in Vietnam that he was close with and it was all of it. This is my first Australian movie that I made. It was the perfect storm of things. There’s Kriv who’s an amazing director. There’s Stuart Beattie who’s one of our best writers, the cast we had were all these great committed young, up and coming Australian actors. Every part of it – it was just a no-brainer for me.
I felt a real kind of privilege and honor to be a small part of this really important tale for Australian culture and in general. It was a mix of all those things. You’re trying to make this puzzle out of all these different pieces, and then pieces line up perfectly. It was really an instantaneous reaction for me to say “yes” and to undertake this journey.
Can you talk about your own acting path? Your range of work is pretty diverse.
I try to look into all the factors when choosing a movie and also there is a lot that is out of your hands when it comes to choosing a job so I feel I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to explore a range of different films and genres and characters. That’s part of the thing that excites me about my job; I can explore so many different areas and aspects of filmmaking,
It’s what I like about films. They are all so different. As well for me, it has been a bit of a conscious effort, in a way, to try and get experience doing as many different things as I can because I know all of these different genres of film and characters I have played are only going to help me in the future characters I play. Things I’ve learned from one movie come up in another movie and I can kind of meld all those things I’ve learned into my next role. It’s one of the most exciting things about my job is that I’ll never perfect it. I will only strive to get better at it. By doing one thing over and over, that could maybe just stymie my development as an actor.
I’m just really open to things. I love all kinds of movies really. That’s what it comes down to. I love action movies. I love comedy. I love dramas. That’s the exciting thing about being an actor in feature films – just the diversity and the range I can explore and the challenges really. It’s always terrifying when I take on a job and I really enjoy that kind of fear. It’s a great motivator, you know? (laughs)
I’ve been really fortunate with the range of things I’ve been able to do.
As a film watcher, Danger Close is an immersive experience. Was this a life changing experience for you in the sense of the challenges of making the film as well as honoring the military veterans in the process?
You’re absolutely right. I was portraying a real person who is still alive and who has family and their own personal history. It’s a daunting task, for sure. But I think for me being able to meet men that were at the battle – and one thing that helped during the film was all of our extras were Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Australia. Men that came and helped build the sets. They helped as extras in the background. To be able to converse and talk to them and become mates with them – I’m still friends and I still stay in contact with a number of those boys. That was a really interesting part for me was getting their nod of approval to say ‘yes, thank you so much for doing this’ and ‘don’t feel silly being an actor, we really appreciate you doing this.’
Being an actor, pretending to be a tough guy, surrounded by actual real life heroes – it’s a little embarrassing but to have them (say) ‘thank you so much, you’re doing a great job’ and all of that stuff, it took that pressure off. But certainly there was a huge element of ‘we want to do this well for the guys.’ Not just the Vietnam Veterans but all of the Australian veterans. There’s kind of few movies that Australia makes about our experiences in wars. It was a really poignant thing for me to try and make an Australian story that resonated with our veterans and the young men that sacrificed so much for our country.
Lastly, can you name one of your favorite films and what makes it still resonate with you today?
One of my favorite movies? That’s a great question. It always depends on what mood I’m in and now that I’m in Danger Close mood, when I think of fantastic war films, Saving Private Ryan is quite an obvious one for me.
When it comes to immersion and suspension and being able to live inside a universe, that’s one of the best movies – that movie still captivates me every time I watch it. It’s everything – the acting, the directing, the cinematography. I was lucky once upon a time I was able to work with Janusz Kaminski (the film’s DOP) and I chatted with him a little bit about (Saving Private Ryan). (note – Bracey worked on the Kaminski directed American Dream).
(Saving Private Ryan) is a tremendous movie in terms of mixing horror, brotherhood, and love. I think all war movies are anti-war movies. That is a great example of that as well. At the end of the day, it’s about humans coming to terms with the dark parts in us and overcoming those things and seeing real beauty and love in the most strange and awkward places.
Danger Close hits theaters, On Demand, and Digital on November 8.