From director Todd Phillips comes War Dogs, a comedic drama based on true events, starring Oscar nominee Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.
Based on the Rolling Stone article titled Arms and Dudes by Guy Lawson, War Dogs follows two friends in their early 20s (Hill and Teller) living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploited a little-known government initiative that allows smaller businesses to bid on US Military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in the cash and lived the life they could only dream of. But like all good things involving greed, the pair got in over their heads when they landed a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan military — a deal that connected them with shady people, not the least of which turned out to be the US Government.
In celebration, Warner Bros. held a press conference featuring cast members: Jonah Hill and Miles Teller; alongside crew members: Todd Phillips (Director/Screenwriter) and Guy Lawson (journalist).
One of the unifying themes of filmmaker Todd Phillips’ movies is people making bad decisions. Whether it’s a few post-college guys starting their own frat house or four friends planning on an ill-fated bachelor party in Vegas, there’s always repercussions that are outrageous and completely unexpected. Bad decisions are again at the center of War Dogs, but there’s an edge to the humor, born of the fact the film is based on a true story.
Director/screenwriter Todd Phillips explains his attraction to the project.
I always think movies have a little more gravity to them when you can take real events and build on them. It’s a movie about the rise and fall of two young guys, chasing their image of the “American Dream,” who got a little too greedy. And, you know, a little bit of greed gets in the way of good decision making.
Bradley Cooper, who serves as a producer and also appears in the film, adds,
War Dogs feels very much like a natural progression in Todd’s evolution as a filmmaker because you have male characters that don’t feel so far away from his wheelhouse, yet there’s an edginess that takes it to the next level. The great thing about Todd is he’s always had his finger on the pulse of what’s cool. He can take a story with a dark texture and give it a patina that makes it humorous and exciting. [And the] one thing the movie shows is how susceptible someone can be when everything is put in front of him on a silver platter and how people deal with excess differently.
The tale was chronicled in a 2011 Rolling Stone article called “Arms and the Dudes,” by Guy Lawson.
The Bush administration was trying to to favor small businesses and no business was smaller than these dudes, sitting in a studio apartment in Miami Beach with nothing but a bong on the table, a laptop and a cell phone.
Producer Mark Gordon recounts,
I was on a plane when I first read the story in Rolling Stone, and I couldn’t believe it was true. Everything about it cried to be made into a movie. I’ve always found that audiences love films about characters who beat the system, even if they ultimately get their comeuppance, one way or another. Add in the fact that these two seemed the most unlikely people to pull off this kind of hustle, and you have something really special.
Jonah Hill and Miles Teller star, respectively, in the central roles of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, and both say they were intrigued by these characters who jumped at the opportunity to reap huge rewards without giving much thought to what they were sowing. Hill remarks:
There’s definitely something enticing about watching people make it rich without following the rules. It’s why I’ve always loved gangster movies… movies where the guys with swagger win. Until they don’t.
It’s a cool story. You have respect what they were able to do. At one point they had a $300 million lead going. That’s an insane amount of money for a couple of guys in their early 20s who were just fakin’ it till they made it. It’s fascinating how these things can kind of snowball and you can get in way over your head.
The real Packouz admits,
I won’t lie, it was pretty awesome for a while. We would go to parties and people would go to parties and people would introduce themselves: “I’m a stockbroker or I’m in real estate… So what do you do?’ ‘We’re international arms dealers.’ The initial reaction went from ‘You’re kidding, right?’ to ‘You’re full of shit,’ but once they realized we were not joking, they were blown away. One reason the story is so crazy is that very few people make it big in the arms business, especially at our age. The fact that we won a contract to supply the entire Afghan army was totally bizarre.
Phillips confirms the driving force was always money.
It’s very clear in the movie: they are not necessarily pro-war. It’s not about who’s fighting or why they’re fighting, it’s about how much product can they move. So war is really just an opportunity for them. And that’s the true thing. War is an economy. There is an underbelly to it where a lot of people make a lot of money and these two guys are just trying to get in on that.
Despite the humor and utter ridiculous of the true events, Cooper hopes the subject matter results in various discussions.
Our goal was to tell a compelling story in an entertaining way, but you never know the kinds of conversations it might spark. It’s a movie people could be talking about and debating long after they leave the theater because the story has so many layers and is still very much in step with the times in which we live. I think people will find it especially interesting that the program that started it all is still very much in effect.
Phillips concludes with,
It is still incredible to think what these kids managed to pull off during those years. But I was most astounded by the government — that this could happen with no real system of checks and balances. Some might call what they were able to achieve a story of the American Dream, but I think we all have different ideas of what that is. This may not be mine… but it certainly could be somebody’s.
War Dogs will release in theaters on August 19th.