People across the nation will honor military veterans for their brave and honorable service to the country Friday, including some of the top actors in Hollywood who have taken on movie roles that have portrayed military figures.
Bradley Cooper portrayed late U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in “American Sniper.” The actor revealed he “had an appreciation for veterans” before he filmed the movie but was unaware of the toll it took on the servicemen and women’s families. Mark Wahlberg had been a longtime supporter of military veterans before his 2013 role in “Lone Survivor.”
Here is a look at other Hollywood stars who have portrayed both fictional and non-fictional military figures.
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Tom Cruise, ‘Top Gun’ franchise
Tom Cruise portrayed fighter pilot Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the original “Top Gun” film released in 1986 and its sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” in 2022.
Cruise earned the biggest movie launch of his career with “Top Gun: Maverick,” bringing in an estimated $151 million at the box office during Memorial Day weekend.
Cruise first starred “Maverick,” a young naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, in 1986. He worked with Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Anthony Edwards.
Bradley Cooper, ‘American Sniper’
Bradley Cooper portrayed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in “American Sniper.” Chris’ 2012 autobiography “American Sniper” detailed how he became the most prolific marksman in the U.S. during the Iraq War. Kyle died in 2013 after he was fatally shot at a Texas shooting range.
In 2015, Cooper shared in an interview with People magazine that he is a longtime supporter of military veterans.
“I’ve always been interested on a personal level in helping our vets. I’ve been a part of USO [United Service Organizations] on tours for over eight years,” he shared. “”I had an appreciation for veterans before this, but what I definitely did not know is the toll that it takes on the family,” Cooper added.
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After the film was released in 2014, the actor hosted private movie screenings, inviting military veterans. He also visited several hospitals to show his gratitude to those who served.
“People were willing to express themselves in a format that they would never do normally,” Cooper shared. “But because they saw Chris’s story, they were willing to say, ‘Thank you for putting a guy I can relate to up there and have it be something right away that I know is accurate.’”
Cooper noted that taking on the role of Chris Kyle was “life-changing.”
Brad Pitt, ‘Fury’
Brad Pitt starred in “Fury,” the World War II film based in 1945 about the strike against Nazi Germany. Pitt portrayed the role of a commander, Don Collier as he led his five-man crew into enemy territory.
The movie’s producer, David Ayer, is a Navy veteran.
In 2014, the Newseum in Washington, D.C., hosted a gala for the film where the U.S. Color Guard presented the American flag and the national anthem was performed, the Hollywood Reporter reported.
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Three World War II veterans — Amy Pascal, Doug Belgrad and Michael De Luca — accompanied Pitt on the red carpet.
There was also an opportunity for guests to write personalized letters to active military members, and Pitt reportedly wrote his own message thanking them for their service.
Chris Pratt, ‘The Terminal List’
One of the more recent TV war series, “The Terminal List,” stars Chris Pratt as James Reece, a Navy SEAL commander.
The series, which aired on Prime Video in July, showcased Reece’s ability to bounce back from the loss of his entire team to pinpoint the target and execute the mission at hand.
Ahead of the series premiere, Pratt spoke to The Associated Press about the importance of having military veterans be a part of Hollywood’s production teams for war movies.
“Action films over time have turned Navy SEALs into superheroes. I think when actual SEALs watch that stuff, they’re like, ‘Nah, that’s Hollywood,’” Pratt shared.
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The actor shared that the goal was “to try to honor that community and make this for that community, So they’d watch us and go, ‘Wow. That’s actually very accurate.”’
Pratt shared that it made a lot of sense to employ military veterans in Hollywood.
“I love that transition for people getting out of the service and joining the film and television industry,” he shared.
“It’s a really great place for them. It’s very similar in a chain of command. You have departments, and you have initiatives that come down from the top. We had props department people, we had wardrobe people, we had hair and makeup people, we had extras, location people, we had actors, writers, producers who were former military.”
Tom Hanks, ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Twenty-four years ago, Tom Hanks took on the role of Captain John Miller in “Saving Private Ryan.”
Captain Miller led his team behind enemy lines to save Private James Ryan, who was played by Matt Damon. The movie was nominated for several Academy Awards and took home a Golden Globe Award for best motion picture in 1999.
Last year, on Veterans Day, Hanks teamed up with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in a video “virtual parade” that honored those who served.
“Let’s raise our voices and thank these heroes for their service and their sacrifice,” Hanks said in the clip.
Mark Wahlberg, ‘Lone Survivor’
In “Lone Survivor,” Mark Wahlberg portrayed Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. The star-studded cast also included Dan Bilzerian, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Alexander Ludwig in a movie based in 2005 Afghanistan.
The team’s mission was to kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.
In a 2016 interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Wahlberg admitted his role in “Lone Survivor” was “more difficult and more meaningful” than other acting roles in his career.
He shared that while watching the movie, which is based on a true story, alongside Marcus Luttrell, all he could think about was “what he went through.”
Earlier this year, the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum opened in West Sayville, New York. It is the first military museum of its kind in the northeast. Murphy, portrayed by Kitsch in the film, was killed June 28, 2005, after his team was compromised and surrounded by Taliban forces. The battle, from which Luttrell was the only survivor, was memorialized in the 2013 movie.
John Krasinski, ’13 Hours’
John Krasinski portrayed Jack Silva in the 2016 film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” The film is about the events that unfolded Sept. 11, 2012. Four Americans were killed during the attack on an American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, triggering an intricate sequence of events that led to years of political debate.
In 2020, “The Office” star spoke to Esquire about his unwavering support for military veterans.
“I’ll always respect people who put their lives on the line for people like me,” he shared.
Speaking on criticism he’s faced for taking on military roles, Krasinski responded, “When people look for something that they want to see, I can’t stop them from a subjective belief in something.
“I have 11 aunts and uncles and cousins who have been in the military or still are in the military. So it was a big thing on my list to get to do a military movie or show or something.”
In 2018, the actor spoke to Fox News Digital about his time in the 2016 Michael Bay film.
He was unsure what he would come away with from his conversation with the CIA other than the sensationalized Hollywood account of what’s been shown.
“To be honest, I think I went in there very similar to ‘13 Hours.’ I think I went in there with a more Hollywood version of what I was expecting and what I wanted to get out of it,” he said.
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“So, for ’13 Hours,’ I went in there really wanting to learn about the warrior, and I think what I really ended up coming away with was being proud to get to know these men.
“And I think that’s how I feel about going to the CIA. I went in there wanting to meet spies and wanting to meet officers, and instead I met incredibly dedicated people and very honorable people and people who are putting their lives in the line in a whole different way. And, if chosen to do that selfishly – I don’t know, there’s nothing more heroic than that for me.”
Josh Hartnett, ‘Black Hawk Down’
In the 2002 movie, Josh Hartnett portrayed “Black Hawk Down” war hero and Ret. U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Matt Eversmann.
The movie tells the story of the harrowing 1993 battle of a United States special forces team, which included Eversmann, that was sent to Somalia via Black Hawk helicopters.
After two choppers went down, a horrifying battle ensued, with 18 U.S. soldiers losing their lives in the line of duty. It’s became known as the Battle of Mogadishu.
Eversmann was on location while the cast and crew filmed the movie.
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Andrew Garfield, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’
“Hacksaw Ridge” starred Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his time fighting in World War II despite never firing a shot during the Battle of Okinawa.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2017, Garfield broke down his experience filming the film and what persuaded him to take the role.
“The fact that it’s a story about a young man who, against all odds and a terrible tide of disapproval, sticks to himself and stays true to his inner values,” Garfield shared.
“I just longed to know this man deeper and to attempt to express his essence and share his story with as many people as possible,” he explained.