American Sniper actor Cory Hardrict spills on Bradley Cooper's "beautiful transformation," why it was a challenge to play his character, and the most difficult scene for him to shoot.
Cory Hardrict is no stranger to military roles, having played before in Battle Los Angeles, Warm Bodies, The Day, and the upcoming film Spectral, but the role of "D" in American Sniper was especially challenging for the experienced actor. The movie, which is currently showing in select theaters and will be released everywhere this Friday, January 16, centers on the real-life story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper. After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 2009, Kyle penned an autobiography, American Sniper, on which the movie is based. Kyle was tragically killed at a shooting range in 2013, four years after his release from the military. In the movie, Hardrict plays Deryck Dandridge, aka "D," one of Kyle's friends and a fellow Navy SEAL.
Hardrict took some time out of his busy schedule—which includes upcoming movies like Brotherly Love, Destined, and Spectral—to talk to us about working with Bradley Cooper, what it was like to play a real-life role, and why shooting scenes in a sandstorm was especially tough.
Tell us a little bit about your character in American Sniper.
CORY HARDRICT: Oh man. He is the meanest, toughest guy in the world—that’s who he is. [Laughs] This guy is a hard-nosed, brute, honest guy, who just loves everything about being a Navy SEAL and being in the military, he enjoyed it more sometimes than being home. He loved serving his country.
How did you prepare for this role?
CH: This was my fourth film where I was in the military. [So] I had some training already and some expertise, like going through different boot camps, weaponry training—I actually worked with the training technical advisor, and this was the third film we did together. I also watched a lot of my favorite war films, like Black Hawk Down, Hurt Locker, Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon. Then I read the book, I soaked it all in, and absorbed all of this material. And then I tried to create this real person.
Were you able to meet D in person?
CH: No, I did not meet him in person because he was actually overseas on another tour. We spoke, and we emailed and went back and forth. I was asking a lot of questions; he was giving me answers. We were in constant communication.
You said you’ve played military roles before. What was different about this role?
CH: This role was based on a true story so I was playing a guy who is a real human being. You tend to gravitate toward what is more personal. You don’t want to mess up, you know? And like I said, speaking of D, he was very menacing over the phone. He was just like, “If you mess this up, you know….” It was a joke but I didn’t know that. So, you just take it a little more personally and really pay attention to everything you are doing and saying.
Tell us what it was like to work alongside Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and Clint Eastwood.
CH: Oh man, okay—Bradley Cooper is amazing. He is a great, great guy. He has a heart of gold but he is also a professional. His method is being very serious about his profession. When he shows up to work he is really in it; he wasn’t Bradley anymore, he was Chris Kyle. His transformation was just a beautiful thing to watch. Just as an actor to sit back and learn from one of the best, it was great. Sienna is great, [she’s a] sweet person, funny [with a] great personality, [but] she can be serious as well.
And you know, I love Clint. This is my second film with him, since I did Gran Torino. So I kind of knew his approach and how he shoots sometimes, in rehearsals in one take. He doesn’t say action; he just says ‘go.’ Clint is my guy—he has a great personality, we have lots of inside jokes. He gave me an opportunity, and I [want to] make the most out of it. So I thank him for that.
What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot?
CH: I would say the sandstorm because you couldn’t see anything with the wind and the sand blowing. It was so crazy because we had to jump off a roof and go down a pole and run. A lot of times we would trip and fall and the weapons would just hit you in the face and your lip would get busted.
What do you hope audiences take away from this film?
CH: I hope they take away the story of Chris Kyle, the story of the great guy he was. Like they say, he is an American hero. He really speaks for the military, what the wives and families go through when the husbands take off and serve and the living situations that families have to go through. It is unfortunate how he lost his life, but I just want [everyone] to see that this guy is a great human being who served our country well.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BOBBY QUILLARD