March 13 (UPI) -- Charlie Hunnam said he sees a parallel between a veteran returning home from war and an actor finishing an intense role.
"Reintegration is always very, very difficult," the 35-year-old British actor told UPI during a recent cast roundtable interview with reporters in New York.
Hunnam's new action-adventure movie, Triple Frontier, debuts on Netflix on Wednesday.
Co-starring Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, the film is about five cash-strapped U.S. veterans in need of a mission. They rob a South American drug lord, but quickly realize that transporting millions of dollars via helicopter and mule through jungles and over mountains isn't as easy as they thought it would be.
Reading filmmaker and journalist Sebastian Junger's book Tribe before making Triple Frontier helped Hunnam understand that post-traumatic stress disorder isn't the only issue veterans face.
"That sort of one-all explanation of the difficulty of reintegration into modern life really doesn't do justice to the difficulty that people face in being removed from a very, very deep and specific purpose and belonging to a community," he said.
Hunnam could relate to this in a "diluted form" since he feels useful when he is making movies, and misses this sense of direction and interreliance when he's not working
"There's this hole because this nourishing, exciting, vital experience that has been the center of all of my mental and emotional capacity is finished," he said.
The intelligent and resourceful characters in the movie, who still are in the prime of their lives, wrestle with how the skills they acquired in the military have no place in civilian life.
"These guys are just at a loss as to what to do. The money was sort of a secondary importance. It was about getting the band back together," Hunnam said.
"It was a lot of competing motivations," Affleck countered.
"Obviously, a big deal of it was greed and money and that temptation, but there are a lot of pressures that are being exerted on this group of friends and that is what made it fun."
Affleck credited writer-director J.C. Chandor with crafting an entertaining story that makes audiences "root for the characters to pull off this heist, even though, on reflection, it's sort of morally dubious."
The 46-year-old actor hopes the movie inspires audiences to look at veterans in a different light.
"If we paint a picture that is accurate, people will have a greater understanding of what it means to live this life very intensely and then have to go from fifth gear to first gear pretty abruptly," Affleck said.
"They want to be acknowledged, seen, respected. They want fairness, and that demands that we appreciate and respect what people [go through] in the military -- in particular in the Special Forces branches -- who are just endlessly and repetitively redeploying and going into combat."
Training with the experts
The actors trained extensively with Navy Seals and a Delta Force member to prepare for the movie, which was filmed in Hawaii and Colombia.
"We tried to learn how to emulate them," Affleck said. "There were stuntmen, but the idea was to have us do as much as we could."
Hunnam said the myth that film acting is physically demanding and unpleasant is "all utter BS."
"There is a whole army of people making sure that it is as safe and easy for us as possible," he laughed.
Training with the Special Forces advisers significantly helped get the actors in the right mindset, they said.
"Building our confidence, helping us take these things seriously and focus on what really matters, which wasn't really necessarily how many push-ups we could do, but how to think in a tactical way," Isaac said in a separate, joint interview alongside Pascal and Hedlund.
The men also praised the crew members, who lugged heavy equipment in high altitudes and then found themselves at the mercy of the weather and daylight to get what they needed on camera.
Swimming with the mules
Hedlund said the biggest challenge he had with Hunnam, who plays his brother, was a scene in which they walked their mules through muddy, chin-high water.
Affleck, Pascal and Isaac previously refused to appear in the scene because they knew the animals would defecate in the water once they were submerged.
"When a mule enters the water, he definitely doesn't want to be there and swims as fast as he can to get to the other side," Hedlund said.
"I jumped in first with my mule and Charlie's mule is trying to keep up to my mule. And watching Charlie trying to keep up to his mule was one of the funniest things I've ever seen."
Hedlund hesitated to take the role until Isaac, a longtime pal, called him and said: "Come on. You going to jump on this mission, buddy?"
"I said: 'You don't understand. I did Four Brothers [in 2005] and now I'm 34 and I'm still playing the younger brother,'" Hedlund recalled, adding that he eventually signed on because he trusted Chandor and wanted to work with the rest of the guys.
Pascal -- who has known Isaac forever and met Affleck through working with his best friend Matt Damon on The Great Wall -- said the previous ties between the actors gave the project an air of serendipity.
"All of these kinds of connections put us into an ensemble cast on the mountains, in the jungle in the water," the 43-year-old Chilean actor said.
"Every job has its own thing to show you and teach you, and then you kind of have to find your entryway through that in terms of opening our souls to the character, which is something you just hope that happens."
"We all knew the movie would fall apart without some sense of history between these people, so I think everyone was kind of invested in that," Affleck said earlier in the day.
Hunnam joked that the cast's first deep bonding experience when they arrived in Hawaii was well documented by the paparazzi.
"Which found us all roaming around a beach in our Speedos. Garrett and I were wrestling," he said. "I thought what happens in Hawaii stayed in Hawaii."
The film's ending is ambiguous, suggesting there could be more story to tell.
Isaac is up for a sequel.
"Let's see how it goes with the streaming," the 39-year-old Guatemalan actor said.
"We'll see if there are any memes. What did they start doing with Bird Box? The Bird Box Challenge? The mule challenge! Swimming with the mules," Pascal said.