Stranger than Fiction: The Amazing Story of Triple Frontier

Hollywood actors Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund gathered at the Digital Light Canvas at Marina Bay Sands on the evening of Friday, March 8, drawing hordes of screaming fans. The stars were in town as part of a publicity tour for Triple Frontier, a gritty flick about Special Forces veterans who reunite to carry out a heist on a drug lord’s residence in a multi-border zone of South America. Here are some facts about the movie that are as intriguing as any Hollywood script.

The film was stuck in development hell for 10 years

Triple Frontier was germinated as a Paramount production with a US$60 million production budget in 2009. A revolving door of A-list Hollywood talent was rumoured to be attached to the film at various points over the years, but nothing ever panned out. The first director, Kathryn Bigelow, and screenwriter Mark Boal suddenly left the project in 2014. After eight years in preproduction, Paramount washed its hands of the movie. By March 2017, a deal was negotiated for the studio to sell all Triple Frontier distribution rights to Netflix. The principal cast started to come together, and on March 19, 2018, more than a decade after Boal’s first script delivery, principal photography kicked off in Hawaii.

Johnny Depp, Will Smith and even Tom Hanks were rumoured to star

The names of various Hollywood heavyweights were linked to the sputtering project. Tom Hanks officially signed on to act in the film in November 2010. Paramount was also eager to cast Will Smith, but as first director Bigelow wasn’t big on the idea, nothing came out of it. There were also reports that Johnny Depp had entered early talks to sign on at the beginning of 2016, which eventually came to naught. Hanks and Smith were reportedly still keen on roles in the film even after new director J.C. Chandor came on board in 2017, but nothing ever came to fruition.

Leading man Ben Affleck himself left the film for a while

Arguably the biggest name on the casting sheet, the Justice League star announced in mid-2017 that he was dropping out of Triple Frontier to “take some time to focus on his wellness and his family” as he completed a stay at a rehab clinic and worked with a sober coach to overcome alcoholism. Affleck, of course, returned to the set once he found his feet and was ready to work again.

The actors trained with real bullets instead of blanks

It was believed being in actual live-fire scenarios would make a difference in how the stars behaved while filming their action scenes. Special Forces advisors Nick John and Kevin Vance were brought on board to train the actors during a two-week stint in California’s Simi Valley. The actors practised covering fire movements, ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and other military manoeuvres. “If you train for two weeks with live ammunition, if you put that (gun) anywhere near your leg, you’re gonna know it because you don’t want a bullet in your leg,” said director J.C. Chandor.