Chad Michael Collins is literally locked and reloaded for Sniper: Ghost Shooter. Available today on DVD and Blu-ray, the sixth installment in the popular franchise finds Collins reprising his role as Sgt. Brandon Beckett, an infantry grunt reluctant to follow in his father’s, played by Tom Berenger, elite sniper footsteps until forced into the profession.
This time around, a ghost shooter targets Brandon and his team of snipers during a covert mission. Following a suspected security breach, Brandon must trust his instincts and skills to take the enemy down.
Best known for movies including Lake Placid 2, Company of Heroes, Sniper: Reloaded and Sniper: Legacy, as well as such TV credits as Once Upon A Time, Castle, 2 Broke Girls and NCIS: New Orleans, Collins also has the upcoming show Freakish and werewolf flick Howlers in the pipeline. Collins recently spoke to The GATE about the action-packed Sniper: Ghost Shooter, his character Brandon’s evolution, and being put through the wringer on set.This is your third go as Brandon Beckett. How did this role initially come about?
Chad Michael Collins: “Mostly what appealed to me about the role was the fact I was exploring the acting thing in general. Sony called and asked me to be a part of it. At that stage in my career, they could have asked me to do whatever and I would have jumped at the chance. In a fun about way, I had worked with Sony on Lake Placid 2. They had wanted to get that Sniper franchise back off the ground, possibly reboot it and possibly tell an origin story. The producer had these ideas about getting the franchise going again. He called and luckily for me, I looked similar enough to Tom Berenger and they thought of me right away. The rest is history.”
“These movies are great because I grew up on G.I. Joe. Band of Brothers is one of my all-time favourite series. I’ve had family members in the military. There’s always been a weird fascination with this stuff. Luckily, I look the type. The soldier stuff is something I get to play a lot. It just happens to be the beautiful, perfect merger of all things, so I couldn’t have had more fun doing it.”
In what ways has Brandon grown since Reloaded?
Collins: “It’s been an interesting journey for this character. He started out being a boots-on-the-ground marine, an infantry grunt in the first movie that I did. Daddy was never around, so I went against the current and decided to be infantry and not live under the shadow of my father’s elite sniper legacy. However, coming to Sniper: Reloaded, I’m forced to learn the ways of the long gun and find I have a knack for it.”
By Sniper: Legacy, the second movie, I’ve fully embraced this new style of fighting. I’ve become very skilled at it. Daddy comes back around and we’re a father/son elite sniper team. Now, in Sniper: Ghost Shooter, it’s to the point where he’s grown, where he’s not just an elite sniper. He’s the squad leader of other elite snipers. He’s climbing the ranks and being deployed for special missions and sensitive missions around the world.”
“This movie deals specifically with the difference between pulling the trigger and the human decisions–the ethical decisions or the moral decisions–that come with pulling that trigger, as opposed to a drone pilot sitting in an armchair and dropping a bomb on something. There’s always that moral line you have to cross. You can’t make on-the-spot decisions in the moment when you are watching from a computer screen.”
“It’s something Brandon struggles with because, in this movie, it also comes around where, ‘What if someone else takes control of this technology and uses it for ill gains?’ It’s not so black and white for Brandon. It’s very gray every time he has to step up and pull the trigger. There’s an honour about him where he still feels conflicted. These people don’t even see it coming, so it takes a psychological toll on the character where he’s still not completely at peace with this style of fighting. There’s an old-school samurai in him where he’s used to face-to-face confrontation and the better man wins.”
Moviegoers expect sequels to pull out all the stops and go big or go home. How does Ghost Shooter achieve that?
Collins: “These movies do get bigger and better, and they do improve. Don Michael Paul, the director, is back in the saddle again for this one. He did Sniper: Legacy, which turned out really well. These are low-budget action films. However, we shot this for 25 days. We had about seven or eight different travel destinations. We were in Bulgaria. We were on the Black Sea. You have your sand. You have your ocean and the sweeping epic feel. We’ve got your desert. Another part of the storyline takes me literally on top of a 10,000-foot mountain. It was brutal and very cold, but beautiful snow and scenery everywhere. Then we finished the movie in Turkey, so you’ve got the crush of people and the mass of that culture and the ancient buildings. Ghost Shooter has a very big epic feel to it in terms of the locations.”
“Also, the story keeps current with these issues of hacking and drones. You have Billy Zane back. This is arguably the most we are going to see of Billy in one of these Sniper movies since the original. He has a much bigger part. He’s much more boots-on-the-ground, day-to-day operations right next to me. Obviously, getting more Billy Zane is always going to lend you a better everything. I think the cast itself was really great. There are some awesome actors and they all give some really great performances.”
Soldiers frequently follow orders blindly. How much does Brandon challenge the system?
Collins: “Brandon, much like his dad, as much as he’s entrenched in the Marine way-of-life and the hierarchy chain-of-command, there’s a bit of a cowboy in him. If he goes with his gut and sniffs something out, or something is wrong, he has a hard time shutting his mouth. He has an even harder time not going against orders. We’re going to see more of that here, where he goes on a hunch. Sometimes those hunches pay off and sometimes they don’t.”
How does filming on location enhance your performance?
Collins: “The locations are incredible. If you’re on a 10,000-foot mountain, it’s snowing and all of a sudden, there’s this beautiful sunlight. Then, out of nowhere, there’s this maelstrom of sleet and snow. You’re soaking wet and the wind is whipping. It’s hard not to feel that and own it in your bones. You can feel what these guys are going for. You are in the sniper position and you are holding it for a long time. You are sweating and you are uncomfortable. These are action films and while we don’t do what the real soldiers and heroes do, there is an awesome grounding element.”
Brandon frequently gets beat up. How exhausted were you by the end of production?
Collins: “I always joke with Don. Whatever budget he’s got, he’s a master of making things look big and epic, and heavy, heavy on the action. Every single movie, Don likes to put the actors in the make-up chair and then say, ‘Throw a bunch of dirt on his face and rub it in.’ Or, ‘I want more blood. I want more dirt.’ He is not afraid to make his actors sweat, bleed and crawl in a very loving way. He knows I’m more than game. We have this joke. I say, ‘Don, you can’t kill me. I know you’re trying, but you can’t kill me.’ He has a good laugh about that because he will make me swim through ice water or sprint up mountaintops. I’m happy to do it, but at the end of the shoot, a vacation is always nice.”
What kind of conversations have you had with Sony or Don about where the Sniper franchise could go next?
Collins: “With the movies, they do a great job of keeping things current and keeping things relevant and exploring issues. There’s child soldiers in this movie. There are drones. These are all current issues that on one hand, seem like big breakthroughs. On the other, they are a bit of a double-edged sword with how things could go sideways. They always do a good job with that. A lot of this movie takes place in Syria, which is a hot bed for all sorts of nastiness going on.”
“When they call me for another one of these movies, I’m not involved in the creative process. I’m literally the gun for hire. I always find they do keep with the times, they do keep it relevant. It’s really a pleasure to get that script for the first time. ‘Okay, we’re going there.’ It’s on point. At the end of the day, we are making an action film, but nobody is getting in gunfights and shooting people for nothing. There is a story and some questions are raised. I always appreciate that about these films.”