In addition to having one of the greatest names ever, actor Max Martini happens to have one of the greatest faces—handsome, strong, and the kind that can easily disappear into almost any role. He’s made a name for himself playing tough guys, notably in Saving Private Ryan and Pacific Rim, and now he continues the streak with Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. In the movie, Martini portrays Mark “Oz” Geist, one of the security contractors who risked his life defending the diplomatic compound in Libya. “Most men fantasize about being heroic,” the actor says. “I know Hollywood paints me to be a badass, but Mark is the real deal. His bullets were real—mine aren’t.”
How did you first get involved in 13 Hours?
I was very familiar with the events of September 11, 2012. On that day, militants attacked the U.S. Special Mission Compound and a CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, and a handful of American private security operators engaged in a lengthy battle with them. The American security contractors that either lost or risked their lives on the day of that attack are true American heroes who represent the embodiment of valor and service to their country. It is very important to share their stories, as they are now a part of American history. To be asked to join in that process is an honor. Even before reading the script, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I think there is tremendous value in making a movie for the sole purpose of entertaining, but making a movie that entertains and educates is even better.
You’re playing Mark “Oz” Geist in the film. Did you meet with him?
Mark’s arm was blown up at the forearm and eventually saved. He graciously talked me through that. Mark was absolutely incredible and so generous in working with me. Right away he made it clear that no questions were out of bounds. Eventually, he arrived in Malta, and we met in person in the lobby of our hotel. Ironically, we look like brothers. At one point during filming we actually put Mark in my wardrobe and threw him into a scene to fuck with Bay. Bay and I kept those games going right up to the end of the shoot. He had the final laugh, though, when he made me do a pickup shot that we had missed during our scheduled shoot days—at the wrap party! He shot it on his iPhone! I was a couple of Crowns in. But Mark and I had a great time, and the face-to-face was priceless. Movies aside, the newly found friendship was the best part of the whole deal.
Michael Bay is known for his ability to orchestrate action sequences and construct amazing visuals for the screen. How was the experience of working with him?
What have been some of your craziest on-set moments as an actor—the kinds of moments when you look around and think, I can’t believe this is my real job?
The cast were in “trenches” under a fake statue screaming for our lives, looking up at the sky pretending to see deadly alien spirits, sucking in black fumes that were pumped through industrial fans—and above us, small Hungarian crewmen scooped shovel-loads of dark-brown mystery debris out of burlap sacks and dumped it on our heads as if we were under attack by an unknown enemy force of pure satanic evil. And at that moment, completely covered from head to toe with soot and ash, I thought to myself either I can’t believe this is my real job or I gotta get a rom-com. One of the two.
Are there people whose work has been a constant source of inspiration or a kind of guiding light, as you made your way in this industry?