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Miles Teller, Josh Brolin and Taylor Kitsch are Only the Brave

Oct 16, 2017

By: Lynn Barker

In Only the Brave, the Granite Mountain Hotshot team doesn’t fight fire with water but with fire. They confront towering flames to dig ditches and set backfires to contain wildfires before they destroy property and entire towns. This has been happening in real life in California this October, 2017 and in 2013, nineteen Prescott, Arizona hotshot firefighters lost their lives when the men were overcome by a wall of fire in a box canyon.

The Hotshot team including Brendan and MacKenzie wait for pick upThe Hotshot team including Brendan and MacKenzie wait for pick upCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Key members of the team are played in the film by Josh Brolin (Eric Marsh), Miles Teller (Brendan McDonough) and Taylor Kitsch (Christopher Alan MacKenzie). The actors went through intensive boot camp firefighter training and there was real fire on set so hot that it melted Josh Brolin’s backpack! The men lived the real hotshot life by sleeping tentless on the dirt in the woods for nights on end. Was it tough? Sure, but the actors say they really benefited by their experience and have all the respect in the world for real wildfire hotshots.

Miles and Taylor on set with another firefighter actorMiles and Taylor on set with another firefighter actorCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Q: How did the cast form a brotherhood like the real hotshots? How did you prepare? Was it really difficult?

  • Miles: I think I underestimated the physical aspect of the job. I knew it was going to be tough but I wasn’t versed on hotshot training before I showed up. I had seen some videos but it was tough, man. We were hiking and we shot in Santa Fe which I also didn’t know was the highest altitude capitol in the country. It’s like 7,500 feet above sea level. We were filming some locations that were 10,000 feet above sea level. Josh (Brolin) was giving everybody chlorophyll. I guess that was something that helps your blood oxygenate better. But it was tough. It was a kick in the gut.
  • As far as a cast rehearsal goes, the bootcamp, I don’t think anything brings you closer together than collective suffering. It didn’t matter if it was somebody’s first movie because they looked like the actual guy or you’re Josh. Josh had an open door policy and he really was the catalyst and energy behind this. He was our leader, top of the call sheet and he just carried that through the whole production. It was such a wonderful experience. I think anybody you talk to that was involved would echo that.

Brendan (Miles) and MacKenzie (Taylor) see the coming fireBrendan (Miles) and MacKenzie (Taylor) see the coming fireCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Q: So Josh, would you agree? How difficult was the training and filming?

  • Josh: it’s such a personal experience what we went through. To talk to (press) about it, we want you to think we went through hell, in order to become a hotshot but the truth of the matter is, it’s like what Dwayne Steinbrink said at the end, “You’ll never be a hot shot but we’re glad that you guys represented”. He made that very clear and it was nice to get that honesty from somebody who was there and trained these guys but I think, as actors, we put ourselves in a situation where there was no comfort. It was very uncomfortable and I made sure that it was as uncomfortable as possible. There were no lagers. There was no entitlement. Everybody had a lot of respect for the story so they were willing to give 150 percent and it was great.

Eric (Josh) bawls out rookie Brendan (Miles)Eric (Josh) bawls out rookie Brendan (Miles)Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Q: What was the one thing you wanted to make sure you captured about these real people?

  • Taylor: To go back to the training as well, to have (real wildland firefighters) there, it really is, to me, a small percentage of why we’re there. Serving MacKenzie and Steve and Marsh and McDonough and these guys, it’s a responsibility that I think all of us absolutely loved and were honored by. I think that’s where that communal thing comes in, where everybody goes through their own fear of wanting to make people watching MacKenzie or Marsh that didn’t know them, know who they are after this movie comes out. It’s our responsibility to show that story.
  • Yeah, there’s that responsibility and I think that’s what drives you as an actor, a storyteller with (director) Joe (Kosinski). Having this relationship with (the real) Brandon and having him with me talking about MacKenzie was invaluable and sharing laughs and going through that whole full spectrum of that as well is why you do it.

Brendan (Miles) in the embersBrendan (Miles) in the embersCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Q: Taylor what was your favorite part of working with this cast?

  • Taylor: To go off what Miles was saying earlier, we’re very lucky obviously to be in this craft and this job. I wasn’t exposed to these hot shots. I didn’t know. To have these opportunities to breathe life into (my character) MacKenzie and meet his dad and have that relationship that I have with him now but also to learn these trades, to go in and work with these guys that have real jobs and sacrifice on a real level, that was something that hit me over the head when I was doing this.
  • We had a great time going to work with these guys up in the mountains with Joe. We did have a lot of laughs and so did (the hot shots). You don’t want to forget about that either. In the worst of times, the worst scenario, these guys are literally laughing. That’s just how you deal with it sometimes. I’d say there’s a bunch of good memories.

Exhausted Brendan (Miles) drives through the fire zoneExhausted Brendan (Miles) drives through the fire zoneCourtesy of Sony Pictures

To help the families of the wildfire hotshots who lost their lives, the cast wants you to know about this website: https://www.granitemountainfund.org.

Only the Brave Movie PosterOnly the Brave PosterCourtesy of Sony Pictures

See Only the Brave in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Do you think the men and women who fight wildfires are heroes? Could you do it? Do you know someone who has lost a home or loved one in a fire? Leave a comment!