Remarkable True Story Behind Clint Eastwood’s Latest Film

'Dirty Harry' star and 'American Sniper' director chose to cast real-life heroes in '15:17 to Paris,' about the thwarting of a terrorist attack on a train

There has been a running theme of highlighting real-life American heroes in Clint Eastwood’s most recent work.

“American Sniper” told the story of one of our nation’s greatest military heroes, the late Chris Kyle.

“Sully” showed what was behind the saving of over 150 souls by pilot Chesley Sullenberger in 2009.

Eastwood has now turned his directorial eye to the 2015 thwarting of what could have been a devastating terror attack. He has also uniquely chosen to have his three lead actors be the actual men who lived the day in question at the center of the film.

“15:17 to Paris” follows the story of three friends — Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler — as they stopped a potential terror attack on a train bound for Paris.

The story swept the globe when it occurred. At a time that many citizens today live in fear of terrorism, three civilians took it upon themselves to prevent the kind of danger that was slowly becoming just another routine event in our news cycle.

Afterward, the three men made the television news circuit, and one even competed on “Dancing with the Stars.” They disappeared into their everyday lives after committing their story to the pages of a book.

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Eastwood decided to make that book his next project. In trying to cast the parts of the young men, he had the inspired idea to simply let the guys play themselves.

“I just thought, ‘I wonder if they could do it?’ I think there are some wonderful actors around that could’ve played this, but there’s something about this particular project and the heroism that was involved and the way they handled the thing that is just kind of unique, so I thought I’d try that here. And I just said, ‘I think I’ll take a shot at it,'” Eastwood told The Hollywood Reporter about his casting decision.

To help the young men feel more at ease, Eastwood revealed he would sometimes simply tell them to start talking and interacting — and he would then move in with the camera.

The three were a bit hesitant about the idea of starring in the film at first — but it’s undoubtedly tough to say no to Dirty Harry.

“It was something that I never thought about even in my head, even as family and friends were like, ‘Who’s going to play you in the movie? Are you going to play yourself?’ And I was like, ‘C’mon. Of course we’re not. That’s stupid.’ When Clint asked us, we were just so taken aback,” Stone told The Hollywood Reporter about Eastwood’s casting proposal.

Related: Veteran on Thwarting Terror Train Attack: It Was ‘Gut Response’

Eastwood, now 87 years old, didn’t worry too much about pushback from the producers.

“There might’ve been a little discussion as to whether they thought it was a good idea, but nobody expressed it to me,” said Eastwood. “I guess they felt I’d been doing this for 60-something-odd years, and I could maybe make a decision.”

There is more entertainment content made today than ever and Eastwood, after decades in the business, has chosen in these oversaturated times to turn his eye not just to true stories — but to true stories that remind us of the goodness integral to the human spirit. It’s a message we can’t hear enough in these culturally divided days.

He’s showing us the beating heart of the human race and of America.

With “15:17 to Paris,” the director is continuing to use his refined storytelling skills to show us the beating heart of the human race and of America.

And this time, he’s doing so in a more inspired and unique way than ever.

“15:17 to Paris” hits theaters this Friday.

PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter

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PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected].