I recently got the chance to talk to Lincoln Hoppe about his involvement in ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’. Here, Lincoln talks about his role in the movie as both screen-writer and actor and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Lincoln. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’ is set in German occupied France in World War II. American paratroopers jump in behind enemy lines during Operation Dragoon. Three of the paratroopers from the 517th get completely cut off from their units and find each other and try to make their way back to friendly lines. They meet up with a group of French resistance and things get spicy.
As well as acting in the film, you also wrote the screenplay to it – how did the idea come about in the first place?
The idea came from a lot of places. Most people don’t know this, but many of the characters in the film were based on real people and some of their experiences during the war. The character Curtis was loosely based on Harland “Bud” Curtis, a paratrooper in WWII. There’s a book about his experiences that just came out called ‘Letters Home: A Paratrooper’s Story’. Also, I wrote some of my German grandfather’s experiences into the film. He was a translator in a Prisoner Of War camp because he spoke five languages. There will be more stories about that on the ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’ DVD when that comes out. The USA version will contain a short documentary with a few of my grandfather’s experiences as told by my father. I hope they include it in the UK DVD as well.
We also used actual pictures of my grandfather and my father in the film. The picture of my brother in the film is my grandfather, and the picture of my son in the movie is a picture of my father. So the plotline itself is fictional, but we used as much real life experience as we could. We really wanted ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’ to resonate on a level beyond just a cool war film. We wanted to tell the story about the real people inside the uniforms. Many people who have seen the first ‘Saints And Soldiers’ movie ask if it’s a sequel, but it’s not. ‘Airborne Creed’ tells the story of completely new characters. I guess you could call it a franchise extension in that part of the name and the historical setting is the same, but everything else is new.
In 1999, I acted in a short film called with ‘The Last Good War’, which was directed by Ryan Little. So when Ryan approached me about doing another film set during World War II, I jumped at the opportunity. When I researched my German ancestry in 1998 for ‘The Last Good War’, I was haunted, and amazed. I interviewed my Great Uncle who had fought in WWII. Even though he fought on the German side, he was just an ordinary solider, put in extraordinary circumstances. I discovered that a very small percentage of German soldiers were NAZI’s. In fact, it was illegal to be a NAZI and part of the Wehrmacht (German Army). That’s why the S.S. units were created, to sidestep that rule so they could still have NAZI units functioning in key positions. Both my Great Uncle and Grandfather refused to join the NAZI party on several occasions. They knew it wasn’t in line with their core beliefs. This really opened my eyes to seeing this kind of soldier as human.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a German Lieutenant named Erich Neumann. I guess you could say he’s come to a crossroads in his life. In the line of duty, he’s done things he’s not proud of, and he’s tormented by it. Especially since he has a young family. These things just don’t sit right with him. My grandfather was killed in action in Russia. He was trying to obtain medical supplies to treat a fellow soldier who had been wounded and was shot by a sniper. I drew from his war experience as I wrote and acted the role of Erich Neumann.
How would you say this film is different and unique to most war films?
Although there’s a lot of good action, it’s not the thematic focus of the film. The action and battles are important because they underscore and drive the real theme of the film: the need for people to rise above themselves and be good to each other, even under the most terrible circumstances. The action and plot also go to places that most other war films do go. But I don’t want to spoil anything.
The film stars Corbin Allred, David Nibley, Jasen Wade, your good self and Nichelle Aiden – with Ryan Little onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Corbin Allred and I also perform in a comedy troupe together called “The Society” – http://www.jointhesociety.com. We’ve known each other for years, and done so much comedy together, but we’ve never done anything really serious or dramatic together. I know Corbin wasn’t sure what to expect. But I think it turned out well. We also shot some comedy shorts while on the set which can be seen at www.kerBLINK.com. I’ve worked with Ryan Little several times over the years. It’s always a great experience. He loves to kill me in his movies. I’m not sure what that’s about. I’m afraid to ask him.
Let’s talk a bit about you Lincoln. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
When I was in college I auditioned for a comedy troupe and somehow got in. We did improvisational comedy, like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ as well as sketch comedy. I felt driven to improve my abilities on stage so I wasn’t so terrified each time I had to make stuff up in front of hundreds of people. So I took acting classes and found it difficult. But it was the drive to improve what I enjoyed doing that kept me training. And I got better and better. And then realized I wanted to do movies too. So I auditioned for student films, was cast in several, which led to working on ‘The Last Good War’ with Ryan Little, which led to ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
If you love it, do it. But you have to work really hard. A lot of people think that acting and writing is easy because it looks on the surface like “anyone can do that…”. But it takes a lot of hard work under a lot of different pressures and circumstances to become skilled. So work hard, and never let ‘good’ be enough. Keep pushing for better and greater. Some people may be more naturally gifted at certain things, but it’s the work — the training, the practice, the dedication, and desire that tend to make people rise to the top. Also, you need to start somewhere. So start with student film or theater in your area. Get experience and training and feedback before you make a move to a big industry town, unless you already live there. I did dozens of short films and television shows in my town before I felt I was ready to pick up and move to Los Angeles . So start where you are. Work on it everyday. Write something. Act by yourself in your room with the door closed if you have to. Hahahaha. That’s still what I do. I try to work everyday on my craft whether I’ve got a film coming up right away or not. Take a class. Read a book. And live your life. You have to have an outside life to fuel your screen acting and writing life. You’ve heard ‘write what you know’. Well, you can’t do that unless you know something about life.
You’ve been in a number of films – which actors/actresses have been your favorites to work with so far and why? Any good stories?
I loved working with Marcia Cross from ‘Desperate Housewives’. We worked together on ‘Everwood’. She called me ‘adorable’. Yup, she called me ‘adorable’. I don’t think she meant it as a compliment exactly, but she was being honest. I was being quite dorky. That was the role I was playing. Aldo, kind of a grown-up man child loser living with his mother, and it was fun to play that. So I think she was saying that I was adorable in my grown up, but child-like enthusiasm. Or maybe not. Maybe she just thought I was adorable. The cast of ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’ was amazing to work with. Corbin and I have always found ways to laugh at things, it was nice to do something completely different together. I think he was afraid I couldn’t be serious for more than 30 seconds, and we had a ten minute scene together. He later told me he was concerned going into that scene at 1:15am. Yup. We started the day on set at 8am and didn’t get to that scene until 1:15 am. Long day. We finished around 3:30am. Pretty much one take through that whole long scene for each camera setup.
Corbin’s just so good, he was able to use his real tiredness in the scene, instead of letting it cloud his mind or judgement. And I think the finished scene is wonderful. One of my favorites that I’ve ever acted in. I’ve also always loved working with Kirby Heyborne from the first ‘Saints And Soldiers’. He and I started an improvisation comedy troupe together called “The Society” – www.jointhesociety.com. We also do comedy shorts together online. Clean comedy. It’s kerBLINK.com and that’s where we’ve got some of the behind the scenes footage from ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
Hahaha! No-one’s ever asked me that before. I love it. Mostly I’m listening to audiobooks, ‘This American Life’, and folk/pop songs that I have written, which I may never release. But to be honest, I listen to my own stuff a lot, wondering if I dare inflict it on the world. But several of my songs can be found on kerBLINK.com during the comedy videos. Perhaps one day the world will hear more of these songs. I narrate audiobooks as part of my acting work. So I’m always listening to other narrators like Scott Brick to improve myself. I narrated a great book called ‘Okay For Now’ which has won a lot of awards. I’m about to start listening to the next audiobook in the Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell. Genius. Just genius. Yes, ‘This American Life’. I just found it. I’ve never listened to it much before, and so I’ve got all of these back episodes to listen to. I guess that’s very ‘American’ of me.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Anthony Hopkins. because he’s one of my all-time favourite actors, and one of the ones that I’d most like to work with. Abraham Lincoln. because of his principled courage and willingness to do the right thing, even though many people hated him for it at the time, and because I’m related to him. That’s right. I’m a descendant of Abraham Lincoln. That’s why my parents named me Lincoln. To prove it was true. That proves it, right? And Darth Vader. Because I’d say something snarky about how I didn’t like him much as young Anakin, and then he’d Force choke me, and I could try out my Force choking counter measure that I’ve been working on for several years. I think it works.
You’re stuck on a desert island, you’re only allowed three personal things with you – what would you choose and why?
- First, I would bring a time machine, so that I could go back in time and shrink my wife and kids and put them in my backpack so I could bring them with me.
- Second, I suppose I need to count my wife and kids as ‘one of the personal things’.
- Third, I’d bring small red backpack to put them in so as not to raise suspicions from the indigenous people of the desert island. Dang! I should have brought drinking water too! Too late, I guess. The time machine only works once before it destroys the space/time continuum.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’m directing a documentary about World War II. It’s an extension of the ‘Familienbande: Family Ties’ short that’s on the ‘Saints And Soldiers: Airborne Creed’ DVD. And it’s been a really wonderful experience so far. I’m narrating several audiobooks this month for audible.com. I’ve also been working on several short films, feature films: ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Channeling’ come out this year and next, and I’ve been working on a project that I’m very excited about but can’t talk about much…but it’s got kids and cuddly monsters. And mostly, I’m going to be spending as much time as I can with my family. Because they’re awesome.
Thanks for the interview!