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Production notes, photos and promotional video © 2007 Paramount Pictures.
production notes
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Production Information

WAHLBERG GOES TO SNIPER SCHOOL:
ABOUT TRAINING AS A SHOOTER

Key to the suspense of “Shooter” is the most true-tolife, painstakingly accurate portrayal of a military sniper yet seen on film. To achieve this, Mark Wahlberg had to commit himself to an intensive “boot camp,” learning and carefully cultivating some of the extraordinary skills that set the very best shooters, like Bob Lee Swagger, apart, including a Zen-like ability to control one’s emotions, fears and nerves while dialing in a laser-like focus that allows for near-impossible shots to hit their marks dead-on. Wahlberg came to the production with the advantage of already being a highly trained athlete with exceptional physical strength, endurance and coordination. But to hone him into a seasoned shootist – the kind who could hit a target 1,000 meters away with dead aim – the production recruited one of the nation’s true elite in the field: U.S. Marine scout sniper Patrick Garrity, who has served both in vital deployments overseas and as a specialized trainer for snipers.


FBI agent Nick Memphis (MICHAEL PEÑA, left) sets his sights as Bob Lee Swagger (MARK WAHLBERG) helps him find the target

Jumping into the task with a typical gung ho spirit, Garrity constructed a not-so-basic training in field skills for Wahlberg that put even the famously tough actor through his paces. The idea was to not only teach Walhberg to shoot well but to give him a sense of the kind of mental and physical commitment, not to mention heart, the extremely dangerous missions of a sniper scout require. His boot camp began at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute near Las Vegas, Nevada, where Wahlberg followed a nerve-testing training protocol that included jumping off the largest zip line tower in America. For Wahlberg, the training was revelatory.

“Front Sight is basically the most elaborate weapons training facility that I’ve ever seen,” says Wahlberg. “At one point, I had on 130 pounds of equipment, was carrying this huge sniper rifle and had to walk out on this little thin beam a couple of hundred feet in the air. A few years ago, these are things that I would have loved to have done, but now I’m a parent and have a lot more to live for!”

He adds: “The training definitely opened my eyes to the importance of being safe and smart as opposed to being reckless like I once was.”

As a battle-tested Marine, Patrick Garrity isn’t easily impressed but Wahlberg quickly won his respect with his hard work and tenacity. “I think Mark is a very good fit for this role,” says the experienced scout sniper. “He’s even got the young military look with the chiseled face and the right attitude. When he first showed up, he was a little loose, maybe not knowing what to expect. But I set up a two-day training course for him and he came ready with a great work ethic. He picks up everything extremely fast and it made my job a lot easier.”


Mark Wahlberg, right, confers with director Antoine Fuqua on the set of Paramount Pictures' thriller "Shooter."

Watching the training, director Antoine Fuqua was equally awed by Wahlberg’s natural talent and unusual level of commitment. “It was amazing to watch Mark go through the training and, especially, to do such accurate shooting,” recalls Fuqua. “He has so much natural ability. At first, there was some concern because Mark is a left-hander and, since most weapons aren’t made for a left-handed shooter, he had to learn how to shoot right-handed for the movie – which is tough – and also switch between right-handed shooting and left-handing shooting. But Mark was amazing. He hit a few bull's-eyes right away the first day.”

Knowing that Wahlberg could handle it, Garrity designed training as intensive as anything undertaken before by an actor preparing for such a role. He started by giving Wahlberg a basic history lesson about Marine scout snipers – who have made a difference in many American battles by providing precision fire on selected targets. Garrity then quickly moved into the nitty-gritty, teaching Wahlberg the use of different shooting positions, how to manipulate the prismatic scope for extreme long-range shooting, how to judge the effects of the wind on a shot and all the many vital factors that go into producing keen marksmanship.

One area on which Garrity focused with Wahlberg is what’s known as “rapid bolt manipulation.” He explains: “That’s one thing that Marine scout snipers have to do – they take their shot, rapidly manipulate the bolt and get right back on target. It was important for Mark to be able to portray Swagger’s proficiency with weapons systems by getting that right.”

The two men also worked on another shooting essential: breathing skills. “I basically took him through my routine of getting down behind the rifle, getting a good position, going through your breathing cycle, relaxing your eye and starting the trigger press,” comments Garrity. “Once that trigger press is released – racking the bolt, chambering another round and getting right back on target – it’s almost like a dance step or art. You can really tell when somebody knows what they’re doing with how they get set up for their shot.

One of the key factors that happens before a sniper takes a shot is getting into the breathing cycle. The more you breathe, the more oxygen you’re putting into your blood cells, which allows you to relax and slows your heart rate down.”

Garrity further worked on extreme distance shooting with Wahlberg, which is one of Bob Lee Swagger’s specialized skills. “I took him to an unknown distance range in the middle of the desert – we call it Sniper’s Point – and started him at close targets. Finally, we walked out to 900 yards. I think he missed the first one and after the first miss, made contact on the next one. Same thing at 1,100 yards, which is about ten football fields. I was pretty excited that I could get somebody, in two days, to be able to hit an 1,100-yard man-sized target. Mark got on the phone and started calling all of his friends,” laughs Garrity, “to tell them, ‘You won’t believe what I just did. I shot something a thousand yards away!’”

Leaving no stone unturned, Garrity also educated Wahlberg about the so-called ghillie suits used by pro snipers to mimic the natural vegetation for camouflage. “When you become a scout sniper,” explains Garrity, “the first thing you do is learn to make a ghillie suit.”

Ultimately, Garrity would use his intimate personal knowledge of ghillie suits to help accurately construct some of the suits used in the film.

While training at Front Sight, Wahlberg realized that Garrity’s continued input would be invaluable during production of “Shooter,” and convinced the producers to hire the Marine in a bigger capacity as the film’s military technical advisor. By closely modeling Bob Lee Swagger on Garrity’s knowledge and comportment, Wahlberg would lend an even deeper authenticity to the role.

Garrity was quick to accept the challenge. “It was my chance to show on film what scout snipers really do. There’s been a lot of myth and lore that go along with what people think about scout snipers, so I hope that what people see in ‘Shooter’ is a lot more accurate.”

NEXT
HUNTING THE SHOOTER:
ABOUT THE SUPPORTING CAST

Joining Mark Wahlberg in “Shooter” is a supporting cast of beloved veteran actors and promising newcomers – in roles ranging from those who are hunting Bob Lee Swagger to those few who come to help him on his journey to find the truth about why he was set up as an assassin.

 
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