Dimitri Leonidas talks his latest film Renegades, being trained by the German Special Forces, and his hopes for the future
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This month saw the release of Renegades, the latest work of Director Steven Quale and Luc Besson. In this heist/action genre mashup, a team of Navy SEALs learn of a forgotten Nazi treasure at the bottom of a Bosnian lake, and attempt to recover it before their unit is reassigned. The National Student spoke with Dimitri Leonidas (Monuments Men, Centurion), who stars as Jack Porter, one of five SEALs at the core of the story in 1995 Bosnia, about acting in his first military-action movie, his experience of the film industry and his hopes for the future. Despite the role that saw him brush shoulders with industry legends like Bill Murray, George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, Leonidas considers Renegades to be his first military movie. “I’d never done a military movie in that sense, since this is a different kind of film and is more action-orientated”, he explains. The training undergone by the cast prior to shooting attests to this: “It was a little intimidating… and as intense as I’d imagined” he says of his military training in Berlin. “They had these German Special Forces guys teaching us to do it all, so I was a little apprehensive, because it was quite a tough start to a job. But it was a lot of fun!”. With Director Steven Quale’s experience working with James Cameron on The Abyss and Aliens of the Deep, it should come as no surprise that a significant part of Renegades is filmed underwater, during which our protagonists attempt to retrieve the sunken Nazi loot. Leonidas explains that with the extensive training involved for the underwater shoot, “we got our Advanced Open Water certificates”, which was a bonus to the experience, but for him “the lessons I learned transcended the job itself, the self-discipline and that kind of stuff”. “If as a young kid someone had said to me then that I’d be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed them. It was like fulfilling a boyhood dream to do all that stuff, with the security of it being on a film set and not in real life,” he laughs. “It’s the joy of my job that you have different challenges every time, and this was quite a physical one”, Leonidas explained when asked about Renegades' use of action. “We were in the gym every day… I think I put on a stone and a half in muscle. I turned up as this skinny actor that had never been to the gym before, and Luc Besson and Steven had only actually seen me on the self-tape, they hadn’t yet met me in person.” He laughs again, “And I’d intentionally filmed the self-tape to make me look a bit more muscular than I was, so when I turned up they were like ‘Oh wow, this guy needs to hit the gym like, tomorrow’”.
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