Interviews

Robert Port on His WWII Film Recon

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Robert Port on His WWII Film <i>Recon</i>

by Paul Hansen 05 November, 2020

The tension and uncertainty of military conflict are vividly on display in the new film Recon.

An adaption of the novel Peace by Richard Bausch, the highly atmospheric film centers on a group of American soldiers on a reconnaissance mission in mountainous terrain in Italy during World War II. The mission is complicated by an enemy sniper, land mines, ethical dilemmas, and a local guide whose loyalties are uncertain.    

Recon stars Alexander Ludwig (Bad Boys for Life, The Hunger Games, Vikings), Sam Keeley (Burnt, 68 Whiskey), Chris Brochu (Dynasty, Shameless) and veteran Italian actor Franco Nero (Django Unchained, John Wick: Chapter 2). Maury Povich served as executive producer.

The film is directed and co-written by Robert Port and is his feature directorial debut. ScreenPicks posed some questions to him about the movie.

Q. How was the script for Recon developed and what issues is the film exploring?

A. Recon is based on an incredible novel, Peace written by the award-winning writer Richard Bausch.  I first came across the book in the NYT Book Review of May 11th, 2008 — here is the opening paragraph of the review: "Of all the grim theaters of conflict in World War II, none were more dismal and murderous than Italy in the winter of 1944. As American forces slogged and scrambled their way north, the Germans gave way with brutal reluctance, while Italian partisans fought Fascists, and others welcomed the ‘liberators’ or just sullenly watched. The war took place in a world of ambush, treachery and uncertainty. This is the setting for Richard Bausch’s 11th novel, a short, bleakly brilliant one-act drama depicting the futility and moral complexity of combat.”  I stopped reading there, called my agent and pestered him every day for the next eight weeks until I got the rights to the book.  Through my brother (a doctor) I met my producing partner Rick Dugdale who has become family.

From there it was a ten year odyssey of ups and downs. Like any filmmaker who tries to get his passion project made I sold my soul, bought it back and eventually through the generosity of my number one patron, fan and all around world’s greatest mensch, Maury Povich, secured the financing to make the film. 

Q.  How does Recon differ from other films about World War II?  Do you think the film is dealing with themes that surpass any one particular military conflict?

A. As a kid I grew up a huge fan of the World War II genre — The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, Bridge on the River Kwai, and later as an adult of course Schindler’s List, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, and every great film in between. Regardless of the year they were made all these films have one thing going for them, World War II had clear lines of morality, black and white, good v. bad.  It is the last time our entire country supported a war in such mass — so my film shares the commonality of the American G.I. in 1945, an undisputed hero.  

Where I’d like to think I steered the film to make my imprint is the importance of the theme of the “individual” - by that I mean the power of each person to make a difference with his actions.  This is true to any individual military or law enforcement personnel who holds the ability to take or spare a life or more often than not, put their life in danger in order to save an innocent stranger.

Q. Was there anything particularly unusual or memorable that occurred during the course of filming that you could share with us?

A. Ha - great question - you are putting a big smile on my face thinking about this! The actors Alexander, Sam, Chris, R.J. [Fetherstonhaugh], Tyler [Hynes] - we all became so close which is such a cliche on a movie set. We were in the middle of nowhere fighting freezing temperatures every day, shooting an indie film and the dedication and love show through every cast and crew member.  

But if I had to pick, as a cinephile - getting to have dinner every night with Franco Nero, a man who has appeared in over 300 films, and has worked with everyone from Laurence Olivier to Robert Pattinson — was the highlight.  Franco is an amazing human, the spirit of a 20-year-old, and hands down the greatest raconteur on planet Earth.  I love the man. We speak almost every day.   

Q. The cinematography is very distinctive and seemed appropriately very gray, wintery and ominous. Can you describe your collaboration with cinematographer Edd Lukas?

A. Yes this gets back to your earlier question when I mentioned all the great World War II films of the ’60s, '70s… I grew up watching. Edd was the backbone of this film. As a first-time feature director, he 100% embraced my vision which quickly became “our” vision — to pay homage to David Lean, John Sturges and Steven Spielberg. Which is why we ended up shooting with vintage anamorphic lenses, not to get all film geeky on you. Edd is such a talent, full of grace and is a strong triathlete which is handy when it comes to catching his director when he slips on ice and snow which I did 100 times during prep.   

Q. Is there anything, in general, you would like to tell audiences about Recon?

A. It’s my love letter to the films that made me want to come to Hollywood and make a life.  It’s a tribute to my grandfather and all the men and women of the Greatest Generation who fought bravely for freedom so the rest of us wouldn’t have to.  It’s a simple story of morality. Hopefully, if I did my job correctly it’ll make audiences check in on their own sense of values.   

Q. Would you like to share with us what your future projects are?  

A. Right now I’m working on a horror film which is something I never thought I’d write — in addition to another one of Richard Bausch’s incredible novels.

RECON is opening as a Fathom event the day before Veterans Day on November 10th followed by a limited theatrical release on November 13th.  The film is being released by Brainstorm Media.