Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Eastwood Casts Real Heroes in '15:17 to Paris'; by Josh Rottenberg

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Eastwood Casts Real Heroes in '15:17 to Paris'; by Josh Rottenberg

Article excerpt

Byline: Tribune News Service

Grasping for a way to describe the indescribable, stunned survivors of terror attacks have often reached for the imagery of cinema: "It was like a movie." But that phrase has never taken on quite the same meaning as it has for Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler.

On Aug. 21, 2015, the three young American friends were on a backpacking trip through Europe when they thwarted a terror attack on a high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, tackling and subduing Moroccan-born Ayoub El Khazzani, who was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a 9mm pistol and other weapons.

Their bravery made headlines around the world and earned France's Legion of Honour, various military awards and a visit to the White House.

Now, in the latest improbable twist, the three are playing themselves in a Clint Eastwood-directed film about the event, "The 15:17 to Paris," opening Friday.

On a recent afternoon, Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler -- who are all 25 -- sat in a hotel lobby in Burbank after a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," trying to wrap their heads around this surreal turn of events. Childhood friends who grew up together in Sacramento, the three have never been in so much as a school play. Yet here they are starring in a major studio film directed by a genuine Hollywood legend.

"We were raised on Clint Eastwood's movies -- I still remember at Spencer's house he had Hang Em High,' The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,' " said Skarlatos, who was an Oregon Army National Guard specialist at the time of the attack, on holiday after a stint in Afghanistan. He shook his head. "To get to do all this with guys that you've been friends with for so long -- our whole lives have been like a movie. It's ridiculous."

Eastwood first met Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler when he presented them with the Hero Award at the 2016 Spike Guy's Choice Awards. Agreeing to direct "The 15:17 to Paris" -- which retraces the events leading up to the attack all the way back to the three men's childhoods -- he had spent weeks auditioning actors to play them. But in his mind, he kept circling back to the real-life guys. …

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