Zane Holtz is an actor on the rise who’s most known for his role as Richie Gecko on From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, and his part in films such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Most recently, he plays Martinelli, a Navy SEAL in the latest action thriller to hit theaters, Hunter Killer.
Starring Holtz, as well as others such as Gerard Butler, Common, Linda Cardellini, and Toby Stephens, Hunter Killer follows a team of people working together to prevent the start of World War III after discovering that there has been a Russian coup that poses a threat to the world. Ultimately, a group of SEALs is sent on a mission to rescue the Russian President, all while the U.S. President strategizes with her team stateside, and U.S. Captain Joe Glass (Butler) leads a submarine crew deep under Russian waters.
Hotlz recently sat down with us to talk a little bit about his experience on Hunter Killer, what it’s like to be in an action film with Gerard Butler, and the process of learning to portray a Navy SEAL.
To start off, what drew you to this role and this film?
It’s funny, I actually auditioned for this movie once in 2015 when it was set up with a different director and a different studio and I didn’t get the job. So I remembered it and I remember thinking it was a cool project, and it came back around a year later with a different director. Gerard [Butler] was always attached and I think Common was always attached as well. They’ve been developing that movie since 2011. It came around and I was eager to do a big action movie and I think Gerard is awesome. And I wanted the opportunity to play a Navy SEAL. You know, I’ve done some smaller dramas where the entire film is just about the character and the actor, but movies like this that have so much physicality, and so much grand-scale action, are fun to be a part of. I just wanted to try my hand and see how I would do.
What were maybe some of the challenges of doing such a large-scale film?
Well for the production it was almost like three different films, three different stories. You’ve got Gary Oldman and Common and Linda Cardellini in the war room back stateside, and then Gerry and the submarine crew are in that sort of claustrophobic submarine set. And then we did all of our stuff in Bulgaria. For the SEALs, it was like we were making our own film because we were in a completely different country. So it was fun to do all that heavy-duty, special ops actions. You know, we’re sneaking around the woods and spying on the Russians, and then things go sideways and the guns come out and the action ramps up. It was amazing. We had to do a week of crash-course military boot-camp in Bulgaria before we started to shoot. So we worked with a military advisor. He got us comfortable with the weapons, comfortable wearing the gear, and moving like we knew what we were doing, and making sure that translates to the screen.
I was going to ask, what kind of prep work had to go into something like this because you’re handling these different things, doing all of these various actions and moving at a fast pace. I would imagine it would be a lot. And speaking of the three different stories, what theme or overlap maybe do you see that connects them all, and how do you see your character’s fitting into the larger narrative of all of this?
Aside from the physical aspect of the fact that we are the ones that are responsible for rescuing the Russian President and trying to avoid an international conflict and World-War III, my storyline is essentially a rookie trying to prove his worth to his Navy SEAL team. You see that Toby Stephens plays a character named Bill Beaman, and he’s kind of harping on me for the entire film. He’s not making it easy for me to transition into the team. There’s a bit of backstory that isn’t necessarily said on camera, but it’s something that we knew going into it, but my character is a replacement for the fourth member of their team who they lost on a previous mission. So there’s that element of me really trying to prove that I’m supposed to be there and I think Toby’s character is meant to sort of demand a lot out of me so that I rise to the occasion. And ultimately I am sort of integral to helping them and getting the president to safety.
At its core, the story is about the intersection of these two countries, more specifically these characters who are butting heads the entire time and then see something in each other that they maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. What do you personally see the message of this film as?
In the end, it’s meant to respect the soldiers as individuals. As you said, they have their counterparts that are on the other side, you know a part of a different military but essentially have similar jobs and probably similar lifestyles so it’s about realizing that though they may be at odds, there’s a lot that they have in common.
Is there anything about the film that appeals to you that you hope audiences take away from it as well when they go to watch the movie?
I think the film is a throwback in a way. It kinda reminds you of those classic action thrillers. You don’t see a lot of war films today that are fictional. A lot of it is usually based on a real event, and this is meant to be a fun, throwback action movie.
Hunter Killer is playing in theaters nationwide now.