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Young Hollywood needs to go to boot camp

Barry Koltnow
The Orange County Register (MCT)

Jim Dever is a Hollywood tough guy who is not a Hollywood tough guy.

The former Pendleton-based Marine, who now runs a company called 1 Force Inc. out of El Cajon, is a real-life tough guy who teaches Hollywood actors how to act like tough guys.

Dever, 52, has worked as a military adviser on at least 19 films, including Clint Eastwood's twin masterpieces "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima." His latest is the Kimberly Peirce-directed "Stop-Loss," which opens Friday.

The movie stars Ryan Phillippe as a fiercely patriotic Army sergeant who looks forward to some peace after returning from his tour in Iraq, only to discover that his government is using a contract loophole to force him to re-enlist and return to the war.

Before Phillippe and his four male co-stars began filming the drama, however, their director had a little surprise for them.

The film's young actors were sent to a weeklong "boot camp" run by Sgt. Major Dever, a Persian Gulf War veteran who retired in 1998 after 25 years in the Marine Corps.

Dever's boot camp was set up near San Antonio on the former set of John Wayne's 1960 film "The Alamo."

I tried to get Dever to admit that his young recruits cried like babies under his intense drilling, but he wouldn't fall for the bait. I'm not positive, but I suspect that he thought I might be projecting my own fears on the actors.

According to Dever, the actors performed admirably under adverse conditions. And "adverse" is being kind. Anyone familiar with a Texas summer knows that daytime temperatures regularly hit three digits, and nighttime temperatures rarely dip below the mid 90s with an oppressive humidity that resembles a health club steam room.

I sometimes cry if it gets too hot in a steam room.

"Man, it was brutal," said Victor Rasuk, who plays a soldier crippled during a firefight. "It was like real boot camp, with shooting, drilling, running and sleeping on cots. I'm a New Yorker; I don't like the wilderness."

But it seemed to work. The actors did a good job of pretending to be tough in the movie, and even the no-nonsense Dever gave them a thumbs-up.

"They were hurting," he said with a sadistic chuckle, "but they did great."

And that gave me an idea. So many young actors and actresses seem to wilt under the pressure of sudden wealth and fame that maybe they would all benefit from a mandatory boot camp. Before they could get their Screen Actors Guild card, they would be required to fulfill their boot camp obligation.

I'm not saying that it should be a boot camp that is anything like Dever's. I don't think learning how to load and shoot a weapon is going to help anyone - particularly those of us who occasionally criticize the work of actors.

My boot camp, which could run one or two weeks, would be taught by former child stars who imploded before coming back to life on a cheesy reality show.

Calisthenics would be optional - most of young Hollywood is in pretty good shape already - and classes would be mostly academic in nature and be structured to prepare actors for the rigors of stardom. At the very least, such boot camps could significantly reduce the kind of erratic behavior that we read about every day in the tabloids and on TMZ.com.

I think we're all looking for the same thing here - some semblance of rational behavior from young Hollywood.

And that's just what we'll get as the next generation of recruits graduates from classes such as:

"How to attract media attention when you're unknown."

"How to deflect media attention when you no longer need it."

"How to avoid looking like an ingrate for shunning the very media that you courted so enthusiastically before you got famous."

"How to find a designated driver."

"How to locate the secret movie-star entrance to restaurants."

"How to get paid just to show up at the opening of a Las Vegas nightclub."

"How to differentiate between a genuine fan seeking an autograph and a memorabilia hustler who plans to sell the autograph."

"How to tell a fan politely that you're having dinner with your family and don't want to be bothered without winding up on the nightly news."

"How to persuade your latest co-star to sign a prenup."

"How to make unreasonable contract demands from movie studios."

"How to keep your balance when dancing on a table."

"How to look your best in a sex video."

"How to turn a substance-abuse scandal into a positive experience."

"How to reinvigorate your sagging film career through pregnancy."

"How to lose a lot of weight and end up on a magazine cover."

"How to be more famous for your acting than your acting out."

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