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Clint Eastwood Says The 15:17 To Paris Is 'A Tribute To The Common Man'

Clint Eastwood has often taken inspiration for his movies from real-life stories, but next year, the prolific director is taking this approach to the next level, casting the real people who were involved in the thwarting of a terrorist incident to play themselves in his newest film.

Eastwood's next movie, The 15:17 to Paris, was previously announced back in April, and will tell the story of an August 2015 incident in which a group of passengers attacked and subdued a gunman onboard a train in France intent on committing mass murder. 

Several of the bystanders suffered injuries in their attempt to stop the gunman, with one being shot and another nearly having his thumb cut off—but as a result of their heroism, nobody died.

The intervention of the bystanders received widespread attention and praise for the heroic actions of the people involved, two of whom were off-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Entertainment Weekly spoke with the director about the movie, and he discussed his motivations for taking on the project, as well as his inspired decision to cast the real-life people involved with the incident to play themselves.

"It was a tribute to the common man," Eastwood said of his attraction to the story. "These were just young men going on a trip, and when this terrorist got on the train, they jumped into action and potentially saved a lot of lives. The terrorist happened to have two guns, an AK-47 with almost 300 rounds of ammunition, and a Luger. He obviously wasn't up to any good."

Eastwood said his decision to cast untrained actors to play themselves was met with resistance by his peers and collaborators, and he understood the risks inherent in taking that approach.  

"It just struck me that it would be an interesting experiment," he said. "It could be bold or reckless, depending on how it comes out."

The people themselves, Eastwood said, were enthusiastic about revisiting the incident in a movie.

Initially, Eastwood wanted to focus on three Americans who became the focal point of the story in the United States for their involvement—Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone. But as development on the movie continued, he found himself wondering how many people would come back if asked—and many of them did, even the ones who suffered the most grievous injuries.

"One thing led to another," Eastwood said.

The production shot at the real locations where the incident happened, with some of the performers having nearly died during the original events.

"I think it was a catharsis to come back and revisit it with all the people," Eastwood said of their involvement. "It probably was a catharsis for everybody."

The gunman, who has since been found to have involvement with an organized terrorist group, will remain an enigma in Eastwood's movie, which the director says is intentional. "You don't find out anything about him," Eastwood said. "It wasn't his story."

The 15:17 to Paris will arrive in theaters on February 9, 2018.