Making a war movie is hard work with long hours and tough conditions. According to 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi star Pablo Schreiber making a war movie with Michael Bay is extra difficult.
“Everyone who has worked with Michael Bay has told me the set can be a challenging place to work,” he says of the Transformers director. “I got all these stories to prepare but ultimately nothing anybody says can prepare you for that experience. He works faster than any director working. We do about 75 set ups a day, which is massive especially when each of them is like its own action sequence. It’s an insane amount of work. He demands a lot from you. It’s very necessary that you come prepared, that you are ready to perform any piece of the movie at any given time.”
The Canadian born actor and winner of the We Love to Hate You Award at the 2014 Young Hollywood Awards for his work as George “Pornstache” Mendez on Orange Is the New Black, says Bay took him by surprise during the 2015 shoot in Malta.
“There’s a scene at the end where a convoy is rolling in and we don’t know if they are friendly or bad,” he says, “and it is one of the emotional peaks of the movie. For me it was a scene I had checked off as an actor as one I had to be ready and prepared for. Then he shot it a week before we were supposed to shoot it. I had about five minutes to prepare. He said, ‘Let’s go on the roof and get that last sequence.’ He started setting up cranes. To be ready at any moment for whatever he’s going to throw at you is very important. As actors all six of us ended leaving there feeling like if we had gotten through that experience we could deal with anything.”
When I ask if the chaotic set conditions were Bay’s way of not so subtly exposing his actors to the same kind of unpredictable situations their characters were dealing with, he laughed.
“I’m not sure how much forethought was put into that vibe, but it was definitely effective and it works. As actors we were constantly disoriented and didn’t quite know where we were and didn’t know where we were going to be on any given day.”
Schreiber plays Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a former U.S. Army Ranger who was one of six CIA security contractors working in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 when when well-armed Libyan militants—using weapons pilfered from former Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi’s abandoned arsenals—invaded the American embassy. Their attempt to rescue ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Information officer Sean Smith led to a harrowing thirteen-hour battle.
The thirty-seven year old actor met Tanto and says he felt a great responsibility in playing a real person who was on set and would eventually see the film but adds that director Bay tried to keep show the humanity of the story’s heroes.
“Michael Bay made this movie and he normally make these big extravaganzas but this is not a superhero movie,” he says. “This is a movie about very, very real human beings who behaved extraordinarily under the most difficult circumstances.”