There’s something about a true story being played out on the big screen that heightens a film, as if the audience is experiencing the drama through the real life characters and, if done properly, feel everything that they feel too – from fear and panic, to love and bravery.
To celebrate the release of Patriots Day, a poignant telling of the devastating 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, we take a look at the inspiring heroes of the event and the great actors who played them on screen. This is alongside interesting facts about the real-life heroes and how the actors who portrayed them prepared for their roles.
Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, portrayed by John Goodman
Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis played a large role in the film’s development, and Davis is a main character in the film. To play him, director Peter Berg turned immediately to John Goodman, not only because of his versatility as a performer but because “there’s no actor who looks more like Ed Davis. They’re both tall, larger than life men.”
Honoured to be part of a project that would commemorate the city of Boston, after meeting the former police commissioner, Goodman was humbled. “His shoes are impossible to fill,” the actor says. “He’s such a generous, decent guy, and so committed to his job. But he always took the time to pay it down to every officer he came across.”
FBI Agent Richard DesLauriers, portrayed by Kevin Bacon
Another figure at the centre of the manhunt was FBI Special Agent, Boston Division, Richard DesLauriers. Kevin Bacon didn’t have to be asked twice when approached for the role. It’s not often a project comes along that is a significant piece of our recent history and resonates on such a personal level,” says Bacon, who not that long ago was indelible in another Boston-based drama, Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River.”
The actor threw himself into researching the role, which included some face time with DesLauriers. “It became immediately clear that he was a man of tremendous integrity, someone who cares deeply about his work and his life in law enforcement,” Bacon remarks. Among DesLauriers’ other noteworthy cases was the capture of mobster Whitey Bulger, the object of a 16-year manhunt. Coincidentally, Bacon recently appeared in the fictionalized account of that story, “Black Mass.”
Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese, portrayed by J.K. Simmons
J.K Simmons plays Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese, a police sergeant involved with the takedown of one of the bombers. During the shootout, which took place between the Tsarnaev brothers and the Watertown police force in a sleepy suburban street, Pugliese tackled one of the attackers to the ground, saving the lives of those around him.
Pugliese never saw himself as a hero. A career police officer with thirty-four years on the force, his main job was keeping the peace in the quiet little community of Watertown. He had a daily routine, grabbing his wife a coffee from the local Dunkin’ Donuts before heading off to work each day.
In April 2013, Pugliese played a significant role in the apprehension of one of the two suspects, engaging the older Tsarnaev brother in gunfire and, subsequently, wrestling him to the ground. “The audience doesn’t really know Jeffrey Pugliese’s story,” notes Berg. “He was not the likeliest guy to be a hero in a gunfight, but all those years of training and experience kicked in. He saved lives and took down the bad guy.”
Officer Sean Collier, portrayed by Jake Picking
MIT Officer Sean Collier was working on campus during the search for the bombers. Sitting in his patrol car, he was shot and killed by the terrorists. Jake Picking took on the role of Collier and was moved by the experience noting, “Sean’s courage and empathy for others inspired people around him to find the same character within themselves. Sean was a hero and will forever be a part of the heart and soul Boston, and myself as well.”
Dun (Danny) Meng, portrayed by Jimmy O. Yang
Another one of the film’s heroes is Dun “Danny” Meng, the 26-year-old Chinese emigre and tech entrepreneur who had a frightening encounter with the Tsarnaev brothers when they carjacked his black 11 Mercedes-Benz SUV minutes after murdering Officer Sean Collier. Through bravery and quick thinking, Meng managed to escape and alert the police, saving other lives in the process. Meng confesses, “before that night, I’d never even seen a gun before. When they pointed it at me, I figured it was a fake gun. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me.”
“Danny’s story is probably my favourite story of the whole film, because it’s such an American story” says Berg. “Danny told me about coming here from China, his relationship with his parents, how proud he was of his new car and, eventually, about his moment of truth after being held hostage.”
Actor-comedian Jimmy O. Yang, best known as Jian-Yang on the HBO series “Silicon Valley,” appears as Meng. When Yang had heard the details of Meng’s escape, he says, “I was absolutely amazed by what he’d accomplished. If it wasn’t for Danny, the brothers might have reached Times Square in Manhattan where they planned to inflict even more damage.
Patriots Day comes to Blu-ray and DVD on June 26.