Steven Luke and Hiram A. Murray talk ‘Operation Seawolf’

(L-R) Edgar Damatian as Captain Ron Haskell and Frank Grillo as Commander Race Ingram in the action/drama, OPERATION SEAWOLF, Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.

Fandomize Media got to chat with Operation Seawolf writer and director Steven Luke (The Great War) and one of the film’s stars, Hiram A. Murray (“The Terminal List”).

In the last days of WWII, Germany, desperate for any last grasp to defeat the allied powers, looked to their last remaining weapons and soldiers. The German Navy and the last remaining U-Boats formed together for one last mission to attack the United States Homeland. Captain Hans Kessler (Lundgren) a grizzled submarine commander from both world wars, is called into service to help turn the tide of the war. The mission was soon to be known as Operation Seawolf.

The film also stars Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV), Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Andrew Stecker (The Last Son) and Apostolos Gliarmis (War Pigs).

Check out our interview with Hiram and Steven!

Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.
Steven, what is Operation Seawolf? And is this story based on an inspired story, basically, from World War Two? Is there a historical truth to this story?

Steven: So, Operation Seawolf is set during the last days of World War Two, it follows a submarine captain who has been tasked on this last mission to take one of Germany’s kind of last ditch weapons to attack the United States coast. We follow his journey, you know, obviously, through the ocean, and we have the US Navy, hunting him to prevent his mission from success. And what kind of follows is a kind of cat and mouse game throughout the whole film. And then the answer, yes, the mission itself, Operation Seawolf, is based on very true historical operations that the Germans took place throughout the war, and also towards the end of the war. And then it’s also based off of the response of the Americans, the US Navy, which was called Operation Teardrop. And their mission is to try to bring, you know, the submarines to heal.

Hiram: How did you become a part of this film? And what is it about the script that sold you on joining this project?

Hiram: I became a part of this project, because of Luke, he brought it to my attention. We’ve worked together in the past and have a long history of working together. What sold me on this is that my character is based off of a real captain in the Navy, Captain Samuel L Gravely, Jr., who is actually a real person. He is the first African American commissioned officer in the Navy. And he is also the first African American to become an Admiral in the Navy. So, portraying him was an honor, especially because I, myself am a captain in the Marine Corps in real life. So for me, this was like a proud honor, you know, this guy paved the way for me to actually be in the military and other African Americans. So just paying homage to him and doing my due diligence, you know, it was truly an honor to be a part of this project.

Did you feel any pressure doing that as a result?

Hiram: No, no pressure, it was just, it was just all just excitement and honor. The cast and crew, especially the crew, like I said, this is not my first project with them, so we’ve all become a family over our various projects together. So it’s just like, you know, getting together with your family and doing what you love doing and just making films, you know, and entertaining people and also educating them at the same time.

Steven: I want to jump in and give one follow up answer to Hiram’s answer. So, to say that there was pressure. So the Navy ship that we ended up shooting on, shooting the scenes on was the USS Iowa, which is docked as a museum off the port [San Pedro]. Go visit it. And the commander that he portrays, or had represented, was actually the commander of that boat… I mean, we knew that when we got there, kind of as we were planning that, but it was kind of a unique, fun experience, but also  all the museum staff and crew were just like, ‘oh, well, you know, he’s pretty famous around here.’ So they made sure we did a good job representing.

Oh, that’s a good tidbit as well. So, Hiram, as Captain, what was your role and what was your mission?

Hiram: So I’m the captain of the USS PC-1264. PC stands for patrol class. It’s a sub, we hunt subs. And so we’re tasked by the US Navy to basically hunt down Hans Kessler, which is Dolph Lundgren’s character. So we basically chase them throughout the film. And spoiler alert, well, not even a spoiler because it’s US history, obviously, America won. But we chase them down and ultimately he meets his end at the hands of the US Navy. But yeah, we’re just chasing him down and sticking in a fight and showing the US Navy what African American soldiers can do.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Hiram: My biggest challenge was at all times, just maintaining that level of command and always showing that myself, as an African American naval commander and my troops, that we were always at the tip of that spear, you know, never being afraid, never being afraid of battle, always maintaining that composure and showing what we can do in battle. Historically speaking, we were giving that position as an experiment to see how we can do. So I wanted to portray that light in the film that, you know, let’s show them that we can handle this fight, let’s show them that we can do good in battle. And so I just wanted to always, with every scene, maintain that composure, and let them know that, hey, they want to let us in that fight, let’s show them that this is the best course of action, that we can do this. So for future generations, it’s a good choice.

Steven: Yeah, so, you know, obviously, some of the challenges that are involved when you’re making a historical film is to balance that aspect of the past history of the real life men, women and their situations that had happened and also, you know, obviously, telling a story and making sure to bring these characters to life in their own unique way, but also keeping an eye on that past history and making sure that you’re paying respect and honor to the men and women they actually lived it. So I think for me, that’s always kind of, um, it’s always a challenge. It’s always a fun challenge to have. But I do think it’s very important that you do keep that aspect of the history always in the forefront while you’re making a movie. So, yeah, that’s probably always kind of like the biggest challenge in terms of the story, you know, the actual making of the movie and shooting it and all the bells and whistles and the gears that it takes to make a movie. That’s just, you know, that’s its own set of work, but it’s also the fun.

In your director statement, you mentioned that you’ve always feared the ocean, what is it about the story that inspired you to face that fear?

Steven: So yes, one of the things that scares the heck out of me about the ocean is sharks. And it’s not so much like the sharks itself, per se, but it’s, you know, at several times, and it never ceases to amaze me, when I go to the ocean, I see, even if it’s like a reef shark, I see some sort of shark in the shallows. And so that freaks me out so much that these things can like be at your ankles, and you don’t even necessarily see them. And so that’s what led to that fear. And, you know, as I was kind of doing my research for the story, I mean, these guys would get in a submarine, usually volunteers, and purposely go, you know, several 1000 meters, yards, miles under the ocean and enclose themselves in a tight space. I just found that so heroic and challenging how these guys must have had to overcome their own natural fears of several different factors in order to get that job done. So that kind of, you know, kind of fear of my own, you know, not wanting to be in the water really drew me to try to learn a little bit more about what it would take for these guys to be able to conquer that aspect.

Dolph Lundgren as Captain Hans Kessler in the action/drama, OPERATION SEAWOLF, a Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.
Which leads to the next question, for you Steven, did you get to film on location? Was this all studio? And how did you approach filming inside the submarine to create the tight, claustrophobic feel?

Steven: Yeah, sure. So, we shot in three locations, but two primary locations to portray the Navy ship. We shot inside the USS Iowa, which is out there in Los Angeles, and then we shot, yeah, on location on a real vintage World War Two submarine called the USS Cod that’s out in Cleveland, Ohio. And yeah, I mean, there’s only a handful of the submarines that are still left in the world and, you know, the great people at the Cod have done a fantastic job of keeping it kind of in its original condition. So we kind of, for the week or so that we were there shooting, you know, we kind of dressed it up to appear  more German. And we nicknamed it “The Das Cod”, and it became our German submarine. And yeah, the tight spaces, I mean, there’d be times where it’s like, alright, well, we’ve got our scene, and we got our shot here today, you know, usually you’d have maybe six or seven angles that you’d want to try to capture the scene from, and we’re like, ‘Okay, well, we’ve got one. So make sure to nail it in one take and do it a couple times,’ because there’s no other way to get a camera anywhere else. So that was kind of a fun, but also a unique set of challenges.

So, Hiram, for you, what was it like working with your castmates?

Hiram: It was great. It was great. They’re very knowledgeable. Being veterans, they have more experience in the industry than I have. Dolph is great. Frank is great. I spent more time with Frank than I did with Dolph, because the majority of Dolph’s scenes were shot in Cleveland, whereas mine was shot in LA, due to my ship being in San Pedro. So I got to spend more time with Frank, during those scenes, and we spoke a lot. A fun fact is, thanks to Luke, my son actually played one of the sailors in the scenes, so I got to work with my son. So that was cool.

What was that like working with your own son?

Hiram: That was cool. That was the first time that he got to be in his dad’s world. He’s a photographer, so he got to take some pictures on set and whatnot. And he had like, one or two lines in the film, you know, just before battle you’ll see that there’s one of the sailors that brings me my helmet, that’s my son. It’s exciting when you can include your own children in your world, you know, and they get to see what dad does.

Perfect. Last question. Either one of you can answer, what do you guys want the audience to take away from this film?

Hiram: Well, I’ll jump on that. In a lot of war films, you know, people just focus on like, just the action scenes and stuff like that, but this film, I personally would like the audience to see, you know, that in war, there are different aspects to it, there’s a mental aspect to it. And for Kessler, you know, he’s worrying about, you know, duty and well, it’s primarily about duty and his duty, not only to Germany, but his duty to his men on the ship. It’s not so much about, you know, the German propaganda or his Nazi propaganda, you know, it, he’s worrying about completing his mission and his duty to his men. And that’s the same thing, you know, from my own military experience. When we’re out there doing a mission, you know, we’re worrying about our men, you know, the soldiers to the left and right of us, that’s what we’re caring about.

Steven: Yeah, I mean, I really would want the audience to really focus in on the characters. I mean, this is a very character driven story. And I try to give the characters a chance to kind of have the similar type of circumstances happen to them, where they’re all having to make, you know, different decisions or similar decisions, and then waiting to see how the outcomes play out. So, you know, obviously, it’s a you know, war flick, we got plenty of action in it, but we you know, it’s real characters and I’m really hoping that they, you know, fall in love with all of these guys and you know want to see them all survived at the end of the movie.

Dolph Lundgren as Captain Hans Kessler in the action/drama, OPERATION SEAWOLF, a Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.
Operation Seawolf is now in theaters and on Demand and will be on Digital Oct. 25