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THE HISTORY OF FORGOTTEN HEROES

"IN an age when heroism and patriotism have been consumed by guilt and shame, "FORGOTTEN HEROES" offers a welcome and inspirational antidote. A heartfelt tribute to the young men who lived, served, fought and died in the jungles of Vietnam. Forgotten Heroes is a throwback to the great films of the World War II era, when traits like courage, camaraderie and conviction were revered and rewarded-no matter who won.

-Wade Major Associate Editor- Entertainment Today

An Actor Becomes a Filmmaker

 
My career as a filmmaker began out of the American Film Market during the Reagan era of the 1980s.  For me this was like a gladiatorial arena of making low budget independent films and learning how to swim with the sharks in this distribution world of legalize gangsters.   It was a wild and exciting time for all of us who were young filmmakers with a future wide open. Most of us had no idea of this wild and wonderful world we all found ourselves running in. 
 
We were all young, with the swagger of young men, idealist without illusions, wide-eyed kids drinking life like wine; rising money to shoot 35mm films from ideas we created!  Shooting films anywhere we could under the worst conditions and delivering a finished product. We did this off credit cards or any investor who had the guts to back us.  We were getting the biggest bang for the buck on film as we could.  We couldn’t make these films fast enough as the video market was exploding all around us.  Like mad obsessed painters we were painting pictures on celluloid that moved, determined to make our mark at this level of filmmaking, in order to create some form of immortality.
 
We were a Brotherhood of Warrior Filmmakers and tying to survive in this arena, for one had to have the heart and soul of a warrior poet.  As the years that followed and more films were being made reality began to set in.  The money was coming in to the distributor we all had to fight them in order to get paid in order to take control of our income stream.  Then things slowly began to go sour, this suicidal mentality most filmmakers catch as greed, jealousy and the advancement through assassinations by bad mouthing each other begins to set in.   The abandonment of partners and friends to chase better deals and not caring if the previous investors get a return on their investment.  It was as if we were all living in the world of “I Claudius”, you couldn’t trust the people you were in business with and the distributors would exploit this division in order to destroy as many of these filmmakers as they could.
 
Film investors are like your own private bank, they allow you the privilege to go out there and play Andy Hardy with a movie camera.  As an entrepreneur and filmmaker you must protect your investors no matter what the cost.  There were hundreds of us filmmakers making films in that twenty-year run and most if not all burned all their investors. Then one day, the money just dried up and it all ended. Today there are only a handful of us left, scared, bloodied but still determined never to quit, never sell out to burn your investors or allow the system to destroy you. 
 
The last ten years have been difficult during and after the Bush era. I find myself in a whole different world of film and politics, with its own set of rules and people decide if you work or eat base upon the fact if you support George Bush, conservative values or you’re against them.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and we conservatives find ways to survive in this land of the intolerant.
 
By the summer if 1986, I was alone, just as I was when I started out but I felt as free as Papillion on that sack of coconuts heading out to sea.  Now, I had lots of ideas to make into feature films.  I made a promise to myself that I would never be in partnership with another filmmaker ever again.  I would seek out an entrepreneur who I would make an equal partner in my film company. He would handle the business side of things while I handle the production side.  Where do you find a guy that is honest, loyal, has the business experience, doesn’t know the meaning of giving up and will work with you no matter what to achieve a common goal, while having fun in the process!
 
First, I needed to find an entertainment attorney, who would put together a full blown limited partnership, allow me unlimited access to him, phone calls and letters. I needed to find this person who would to do all this for free because I had no money.   Everyone thought I was out of my mind and everyone told me this was impossible attorneys don’t work for free, even for their mothers.  So I took out the Los Angeles phone book and I started to call attorneys all over LA telling them my story.  It took me a few days of calling all day long but I found a guy that was very interested in my deal. He knew the owners of the distributor that I had made money for.  He made some inquires and I was in his office making a deal. He was to provide all this work for free and I was to teach him how to make low budget films. 
 
The project I was about to embark one was a major production more money that I had ever raise in the past.  It was my intention that this film was to be my ticket out of the American Film Market level of filmmaking and to get a deal with a major studio.  
 
I hired a writer name Larry Duhart to write the first few drafts. This script was called FORGOTTEN HEROES.  I had just seen Platoon that summer and I felt this was the final straw for me, as American and a filmmaker to sit in a theater and watch Oliver Stone spit on a generation of Vietnam Veterans.  I felt I had to do something. This had been going on since John Wayne’s Green Beret.  Once the Duke came out with his film the entire establishment of malcontents in the pop culture attack him and never let up until the day he died.  Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon and started to make every film that came out of Hollywood attacking the Vietnam fighting soldier.  All through the 70s and 80s film after film they portrayed these heroes are rapist, murderers, psychos, drunks, losers, this nation didn’t even treat the Confederate soldiers to the extent the Vietnam Veterans were treated in the media.  After all these years, I have yet to meet a Vietnam Vet that likes Platoon or Oliver Stone.
 
I decided to make a film to honor and pay tribute to my generation who went into that meat grinder while the malcontents that crawled out of the mud in Woodstock stayed home and gave aid and comfort to the enemies of liberty.
 
I needed to find someone who had clients and could raise venture capital for this project. My projected budget was probably the combine salaries of the three leads in Platoon.   I have always felt that God has carried me throughout this entire odyssey like that famous poem ‘Footprints’ talks about.
 
In the fall of 1986 through another writer friend of mine Bud Fleisher who I wanted to do a final rewrite and polish on my script, had introduced me to the only guy on this entire planet to give Jack Marino the break I was looking for.  
 
I met John R. Lebert; he was exactly the kind of entrepreneur I was looking for.  We had a lot in common in our background. He was a Navy veteran during the Cuban Missile era.  He loved the title FORGOTTEN HEROES and the story. He loved that fact the film had no F-bombs in it and he was impress with my first two films and how I had protected all my investors and recouped their original investment before I took any funds for myself.  
 
John comes from Utica NY and he is an old movie buff.  John isn’t afraid to take risk; I never met a guy who has no fear about anything he gets involved in.  Through the years he has given me a real education of being in business in the real world out there.  He is a self-made successful businessman and he is one of the most generous guys I ever met.  Besides, when he says he is going to do something he does it and nothing can stop it, change it or alter it. I came to him to find a business partner and I ended up with the older brother I never had.
 
What a complete new world I found myself in, working with a partner who sole interest was to allow me to succeed or fail.  There was none of the egos or problems that I had experienced in the past.  John was going to be there to act as a defensive line backer and make sure that we were both a success.
 
I gave John a copy of the limited partnership that my attorney had done.  John felt it just didn’t fit exactly what he had in mind for his and my investors.  So he began to re-write this partnership so it would fit the project like a glove. When my attorney read it, he thought it was the best partnership he had ever seen and he kept a copy for himself. Which I am sure became his boilerplate partnership.
 
John had prestige offices on mid Wilshire where we would always meet to discuss our plans or have lunch downstairs in the building restaurant. The fun part for me was when John told me to go find an office put the name of the company out there and get the phones hooked up.  We were going to be in business and one has to look as if you are in business.  That was July of 1987 and I had my first legit production company in an office.  The days of making films out of our apartments were now over.
 
PRE-PRODUCTION
 

Marino Film Group, Inc’s office was in Toluca Lake and it was on the property of an older couple on the side of their home.  In 1941 the owner have purchase three adjoining dressing rooms from the old Jesse Lasky Players Studio.  These were old silent movie star dressing rooms that were move and set on the foundation there.   One can only imagine if Valentino or any of those great films stars ever used these bungalows.   They all had a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen.  The ironic thing about this place was that in 1982 I worked in these exact buildings when a video-shipping company rented it. The shipping room where I worked, I would use their phone to raise the funding for my first film KILLZONE.  Now, that very room was going to be the editing room for the Marino Film Group’s production of FORGOTTEN HEROES. For the next seven years I rented that place. I use that old phone and when I left, I asked if I could have that phone that I raise my first $100,000 on.
 
From July of 1988 until the first day for shooting Sept 10, 1988 I was handling all pre-production all by myself.  We only had enough funds for the office and myself.  So I had to do it all.  I locked down all the locations, rent all the equipment, find all the uniforms, weapons, film stock and then hire the crew and finally cast the film all by myself.  I was working from 6am until midnight or later.  I’d go home catnap, wake up as if I had sleep for 10 hours.  I would head back to my office and blink my eyes and that day would be over, this went on until the first day of the shoot.   I was in my element and I loved it, every minute of it.  I only put a small production notice in the Variety and never promoted the film or me.  I wanted to keep a low profile out there to keep all negativity away from this production.  Shakespeare said it best. "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!  It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.  There were a lot of green-eye monsters out there.
 
I hire my Director of Photography/cameraman his name is Peter Wolf.  Peter and I have known each other since I made KILLONE.  Peter is profoundly deaf and he can’t talk.  I had to learn to use sign language in order to talk to Peter.  His girlfriend at the time Margaret Sych, who later went on to marry Peter was brought on board to be my interpreter.  Peter is a dear friend, one who’s opinion I trust and who’s talent I admire.  The cast and crew must have thought me insane to hire a deaf/mute DP on my very first directing effort.  I am sure that Peter and I looked like Harpo and Chico out there when we were discussing a shot.
 
This was my very first time as a director.  I never went to film school nor did I read books on directing.  I would read biographies of directors; actors and I spent my life in a movie theater.   I didn’t have any working knowledge of cameras, lens, lighting, editing, and I didn’t have a shot list because at that time I didn’t know what one was.  I always wondered why my AD’s look at me as if I was insane, but the first time I heard the term ‘shot list’ was when I was in my editing room with my editor. He asked me for it and I said, “What’s a shot list?”  He couldn’t believe I had shot my first film without a shot list. The thing was that it was all in my minds eye; I had lived with this story and idea for years.
 
I hire an editor Alan C. Marks A.C.E who was retired from editing and he walked into my office and told me, ‘I hear you need an editor and I am tired of playing golf” I told him I would love to have him and his title on my film, but I didn’t have in my budget the rate that he would normally get.  He told me to call him once I wrapped the shoot.
 
I have always tried to hire people that I have worked with in the past.  My plan is to have my own stock players within my production company; the way John Ford and Orson Wells had as well as a lot of other great directors who had some longevity. 
 
I did all the casting myself since I had no funds to hire a casting director.  My first and only choice for the lead character of General Zelenkov was veteran character William Smith.  Bill had played in hundreds of films and TV shows.  He was known all over the world as a great actor and the best villain in Hollywood.  I wanted Bill to play against type.  When I gave him the script he went home and read it three times and call me up and said, ‘I’ll do this role for free’ I have never played a character like this and you made him a Russian to boot.  He was so moved by some of the dialogue in the script.  When we have finished the film he thanked me and said ‘I was the only director that had ever written a script with him in mind” he went on to say that if a major Studio was to make this film they would have cast Christopher Plumber.  I told him, “that I came up with this entire story so I could work with Joe Riley who I admired since I was a kid watching Laredo.”  Bill has the heart of a poet; he is a gentle giant of a guy and the great actor to work with.  I always told him that he help me become a better director.  He was great with all the other actors too; just to hear some of his stories of the films and people he has worked with and known all his life was just remarkable.
 
The rest of the cast was all unknown actors who had worked in a few low budget films. Two of the actors had been in a few studio films with a substantial part.  Joel Weiss who plays ‘Leo Rossetti’ had started in films as one of the gang leaders in the film THE WARRIORS.  Bob Orwig who plays ‘Cowboy’ had played Gardner in Platoon; he is the FNG who get’s killed on the night of the first ambush.
 
I will say that I was really pleased with my cast of actors, for me they all looked the part and I made sure that none of them would play a stereotype.  I wanted them to be themselves as if they were really in on this mission.  I didn’t want Rambo’s out there; I was looking for the kids next door who find themselves in unpredictable sitituations.  This would allow me to capture the comaradiere and their conviction to each other.  Which you never saw coming out of Hollywood.  My goal was to create a look and feel as best as I could to show that bond between men in combat that only a veteran sitting in a theater could relate too.
 
From July to September I had to put most of this together alone.  In August I was allowed to hire my UPM who was a graduate from Columbia Film School.   He helped take a lot of the workload off my shoulders, so I could concentrate on being a producer/director.  He hires the rest of the crew that I haven’t filled with people that I had worked with before.  During the shoot I had around 106 people on payroll for a six-week shoot.  A lot of my friends on the crew like Deirdre Flynn who my wardrobe mistress; she was the oldest daughter of screen legend Errol Flynn.   Two of my actors, who I had, know since college days and one since my first film had invested in the film while we were shooting. I was always proud of the fact that these guys I knew for years always believed in me and when they were part of this massive shoot and they were seeing all the production value and the fun we were all having, they all decided to invest in the project. 
 
There were a couple of friends that flew out from Everett on their own expense to work on the film for free for a couple of weeks.  I was in Boy Scouts as a kid and my best friend  at the time was Ralph Brogna, he came out to shoot video of  behind the scenes so we could have a ‘making of’ documentary.  The thing with Ralph was that he was so excited for me and that I had asked him to come out and work on a Hollywood film, that he had paid to have 300 Forgotten Heroes hats made for everyone in the cast and crew.  At the same time Ralph’s cousin John Brogna was playing Major Leary in the film and they hadn’t seen each other in many years.
 
My parents came out to see their son make a real Hollywood film. I put my Dad to work as one of the still photographers on the shoot for three weeks.   My father had no idea what he was watching as this mass confusing was coming together.  We had long days and nights shooting and he was taking candid shots of behind the scenes.   The funny thing about having the man who sparked the interest in me to get into films and have him watch me direct this war movie was a dream come true for both of us. 
 
A few years later in 1990 at the Boston Film Festival we had a midnight screening in downtown Boston.  My Dad was sitting in the theater off to the side all alone to watch his son’s film that he had no idea how it was going to come out.  My Mother was with her sisters and sister in laws at the time and she was a nervous wreck hoping that it would be a ‘real’ movie.
I had named my company to honor my father and his father so he would one day sit in a darken theater and see his name Marino Film Group, Inc fade in as the first credit.  After the festival was over and I was leaving Boston to go back to Los Angeles, he pulled me aside and I will never forget this,  ‘ I don’t care how many films you ever make or how famous you might become or if you even win an Oscar. I will never be as proud of you as I was the night I saw Forgotten Heroes.”  This is one of a few reasons why I never give up on this film.
 
By mid August time was passing me by so fast and you realize just how much we haven’t locked down.  John had called me to his office and you must remember at this point in our business relationship we really don’t know each other and how we would both react under extreme pressure if this project begins to unravel.   At this time we only had enough money to shoot maybe four of the six weeks and that is if everything goes perfect.  Anyone that has worked on a film knows that there is only one law and that is Murphy’s Law.  In the meantime I had just locked down the location to the Newhall Ranch up in Valencia.  This was a huge film location where they had shot many studio films, such as The Twilight Zone, China Beach, HBO Vietnam War stories and 84 Charlie Mopic.  Forgotten Heroes was to be the last production to shoot on that location.  The ink on my contract wasn’t even dried when I get a call for me to move my entire shoot up three weeks and if I did this I would get the locating for free.  The TV show Tour of Duty wanted the entire place and they couldn’t throw me off.
 
This cause me two big problems that most first time directors never encounter.  In those three weeks we were expecting more investment checks so we could shoot the film, get it in the can and begin to edit the picture.  I was planning on using these three weeks to have a few readings with my actors and rehearsals.  A decision had to be made by John and I and we spent almost 20 hours in his office going over each minute and cost of the shoot to see if I could get all the coverage we needed to finish the picture.  I was being forced to move my entire production up three weeks and people were flying out in three weeks to be in the film.  I had to reorganized the entire shooting schedule that took me two months to create I had to redesign it in 24 hours. 

John was convinced that if I weren’t shooting the new start date, this film would never happen.  This is when I learned and witness what real commitment was.  We are both responsible for a lot of investment money and we needed more in order to complete this project.  There wasn’t any room for mistakes or this all could come crashing down.   Most people would have cancelled the shoot, but not John Lebert; he has this love of great impossible challenges since his whole life has been made up of these experiences.  So he told me, “lets make a movie, Jack” we don’t worry about bridges we can’t see yet”.   So I was never able to even sit down with my actors to even hear their inflection until I was rolling film.
 
At the same time John had been doing business with a gentleman who was from England.  He title the “Prince De La Pallavicini from the House of Budapest and a retired British General who can trace his bloodline to Henry the II   Mr. John Graham was to be brought in to this production because it was his families’ trust that funded most of all the films that came out of EMI, Janis and Rank.  He was a big player in feature films in the 50s to 70s.  His family funded the Lion In Winter, Romeo & Juliet, all the Sergio Leone westerns, Fellini Films now he was going to help this first time director from Everett Mass.

To be continued 
 



Biography


Jack Marino is originally from Everett Massachusetts.  This typical working class city at that time was made up of mostly Sicilians, Irish Roman Catholic Democrats, who by the way - were all conservatives.  He and all his friends were the children of World War II veterans; it is from this world that shapes his political, religious and patriotic ideals.
 
As a young boy his Father  took him to see all those great films of the mid 50s and 60s.  It was in those darkened temples that he dreamed of being in the picture business.  His inspiration for being an actor was reading "The Films of Errol Flynn" and "My Wicked, Wicked Ways".   Other great actors he would read and follow their films, John Barrymore, James Cagney, Bogey, Ronald Coleman, Orson Wells, Richard Burton, Charlton Heston, the Duke and Robert Mitchum, the list is endless.  Warner Bros of the 30s & 40s was the favorite of all the studios with contract directors like Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh and Vincent Sherman, a dear friend and mentor.
 
A student of the Boston Catholic school system his early life, he eventually went to Northeastern University in Boston and graduated with a BA in Criminal Justice.  This was his first massive exposure to the 60s radical malcontent mindset.  It was at Northeastern that he started doing theater in the round.  His first Shakespearean role was Ross in Macbeth.  After two years of fencing and acting in plays he wanted to get into Repertory Theater.  Once he was out of Northeastern, his former teacher/director cast him as Cyrano de Bergerac in that ambitious play she was directing.  Four weeks into rehearsal the play was shut down for lack of funds. Sounds familiar? This would be a way of life in the world of independent filmmaking once he got to Hollywood.
 
After the play shut down he got into his 1971 Dodge Charger and headed for Hollywood for six months.  While out here he met a lot of film stars, old prize fighters who knew everyone from the old days of Hollywood.  His plan was to get a feel for the place. He worked in a couple of films and then returned home to marry his high school sweetheart. Back in Everett, they both worked for another two years. By mid '80 they were back living in Los Angeles.
 
During the next four years he formed two production companies, had a couple of scripts and was taking them around to all the studios.  In '83 he raised private funds to produce his first independent film "KILLZONE". It was one of the biggest hits of the 1985AFM and it changed the entire film market to low budget action films.  In Jan. of '86 he was asked by his DP on KILLZONE to put together the film, "Hell’s Outlaw" and borrowing a friend’s credit card he made the film. By the fall of '86 he began putting together the film project called "FORGOTTEN HEROES". Little would he know that this film would end up becoming his Calypso in this twenty-year odyssey.  
 
Jack has been married now for thirty-two years to a green-eyed Irish girl he met in 1969.  Their daughter, now married, recently gave birth to "Identical twin girls". Their son is in the Army and recently finished his tour of duty with the 25th INF DIV in a Striker Brigade in Baghdad, Iraq and is now with the Army Reserves here in Los Angeles.
 
By the way, he still has that '71 Dodge Charger,  still has that same girl, and when the world was young, they went everywhere in that car.  He would tell her of his dreams, making films in Hollywood, living up on Mulholland Farm, having fat kids and watching their vineyards grow!  Now that their kids are out on their own, he is with his girl again, only he can remember when.
 
 

If you have any questions about "FORGOTTEN HEROES"

Contact :jackmarino@warriorfilmmakers.com