Benjamin Bratt is relieved that his World War 2 drama, The Great Raid, is finally getting the theatrical release it deserves. “I’m so proud of it, but yeah, it was a bit frustrating to know that it was sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust and all the more frustrating to understand that potentially people’s perception of that wait means that something’s wrong with it,” says the actor, casually attired in jeans and feeling relaxed.
“There’s nothing wrong with this wonderful and inspiring film. I think there are a lot of different guesses as to why it was delayed for so long. One – and I think it was the most obvious – is that we made this film, before the whole Iraq situation came to light, so rather smartly, I think they understood that it doesn’t make much sense to release a film about war during certainly the initially stages of a real war. But I think we have enough perspective on what the temperament of the country is that I think it kind of reflects a readiness to see something heroic.”
Set in the Philippines in 1945, The Great Raid tells the true story of the 6th Ranger Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Bratt) who undertake a daring rescue mission against all odds. Travelling thirty miles behind enemy lines, the 6th Ranger Battalion aims to liberate over 500 American prisoners-of-war from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in the most audacious rescue ever. Though it seems this film has little in common with the Iraqi war, Bratt does concede there are still parallels between the two conflicts. “I think there are definite parallels between what is going on in Iraq and World War II, when we’re talking about the life and the acts of a soldier. I don’t care what your politics are or what your opinion about the current administration’s foreign policy is, you can have a strong opinion on either side of what’s going on, but when at issue are the lives of soldiers, men and women who are basically making the ultimate sacrifice to accomplish something, you can’t help but feel somehow inspired by the choices that they make. In the film we’re talking about 120 men led by Lt Colonel Henry Mucci, the man I play, who are willing to put their own lives on the line for the sake of their fellow soldiers.”
Bratt says that Mucci was a rare character with whom he could identify. “To be really frank with you, there are a lot of roles that I could just show up and kind of walk through, but this wasn’t one of them because, while I consider myself skilled I had no idea how to be a leader of 120 men and there was no way I was going to be able to fake that onscreen without the audience calling bullshit on me,” he says, laughingly.
Bratt will have little time to enjoy the fruits of his labour, as he begins the new TV series E-Ring, which he agreed to do so as to spend more time with his family. “It was a major component that went into the decision to go back to television,” Bratt says, but is also a realist, he concedes, when it comes to deciding where and when to work. “The other reality is that, and it’s a sad one, that fewer films are being made, both in the studio system and in the independent film world and, the other sad reality – even though I’ve lived with it for a long time – is that there are only a certain handful of actors that can greenlight a project of their choice and I’m not one of them. So my life is that of a hired gun as I sit around waiting for the phone to ring. So I got tired of waiting and wanted to work.”
Even if his new TV series fails, Bratt is deeply involved in an added production far closer to home – the impending birth of his second child, which he says is a tad easier than first time around. “With the second one on the way, I think we’re both much more relaxed. We wanted everything to be ‘just right’ with the first one, you know, wash your hands, and make sure everything’s picked up off the floor. It’s just an amazing transformation that we’ve gone through. My wife and I were having a gas before we had a child, but we were still living the lives of teenagers as it were, or certainly gypsies travelling around or whatnot. But, having the addition of two children changes that considerably, and mostly for the good. I mean I can’t tell you the last date I’ve been on but I’m hurting for sleep.”
Bratt says that creating a balance between family and work, is not so much a struggle, but it’s “that balance needs constant attention.” And if E-Ring fails to take off, “that’s part of the joy, and excitement of being an actor, in that you never really know what’s around the corner.” There’s always Catwoman 2, of course!.