Chad Michael Collins is best known for his recurring roles in the Sniper series playing Brandon Beckett. He first appeared in Sniper: Reloaded (2011), playing the son of Tom Berenger’s original legendary Marine sniper. The film co-starred Billy Zane, and Collins reprised his lead role in Sniper: Legacy (2014) alongside co-stars Tom Berenger and Dennis Haysbert.
In the newest entry entitled Sniper: Ghost Shooter with Beckett and Richard Miller (Billy Zane) tasked with protecting a gas pipeline from terrorists looking to make a statement.
Chad chats with The Action Elite about the movie and what keeps bringing him back to the series.
Sniper: Ghost Shooter is your third entry in the series, what keeps bringing you back?
This is the sixth movie in the series which has gone on for over 3 decades and is a great opportunity for any actor but for me in particular playing Brandon Beckett is a dream. I grew up with GI Joes, my favourite TV series is Band of Brothers and my favourite movie is Saving Private Ryan. So to be able to do this it’s like any time they call I will answer and get back to work.
What’s your favourite aspect of working on these movies?
What’s really fun is these moves all take place somewhere internationally; we shot the first one that I did in South Africa which was gorgeous as you can imagine. We had giraffes and zebras running around; Johannesburg itself too was amazing. The second one we did was in Bulgaria and Greece (Santorini Island) and this last one we were back in Bulgaria and we finished up in Istanbul Turkey. So for me growing up as a simple country boy in Upstate New York travelling is by far the best aspect; the people, the places and the culture and just seeing parts of the world that you would never get to see probably.
Istanbul looks stunning; that must have been very special…
Yeah, there is nothing like it in the world and that city has been around forever and is incredibly diverse.
What kind of training did you have to undergo for the Sniper movies?
These are lower budget action films obviously and we don’t get boot camp so we don’t get to come in early and get a few weeks to train beforehand. I’ve taken it upon myself over the years with Taran Butler who is an internationally recognized tactical shooter and trainer. I’ll go to ranges to get grounded in the guns and the feel of them. I also lean really heavily on the military technical adviser that’s gonna be on set; usually they are former military or are still on active duty. They are incredibly knowledgeable and we had a great one on this last movie called Pete Stone; he was a Marine and was fantastic not only with me but all the other cast members too. A lot of them had only been around guns for the first time when they showed up on set. So you can pick their brains and they can make sure you’re always doing a good job.
Do you like to do as many of your own stunts as possible?
I do! One stuntman told me a while back “look, I’m here if you need me and you’re not comfortable” but any time an actor can do his own stunts it’s always gonna look better. I enjoy the physical stuff quite honestly and seeing an actor who’s eager to do it the directors kinda let me go for it. I like to do about 90% of the stuff like hand to hand, obviously the gunplay, the tumbles, the falls, the running and sliding. I try to take on as much as they’ll comfortably let me.
What’s been the worst injury you’ve got so far?
(laughs) I did a World War 2 movie a few years ago; me and my co-lead Mr Tom Sizemore (who is fantastic) had a lot of fun making this movie but on day two were on an icy, slippery, freezing cold mountaintop in Bulgaria in late February. We had a botched take where we had to belly flop and slide down a snowy ridge and I went down first. He came down right after me and unfortunately my face met the back end of his gun which split my lip open on day two which got everybody a little bit nervous (laughs). But we made it through it and it wasn’t a big deal.
Is there any of your own personality in Brandon Beckett?
Yeah we just have similarities in the way that he’s written and the way that I am. He’s a bit of a Justice for All kinda guy, he’s got a lot of honour to him where he’s a bit of a samurai and a knight. But he’s also a cowboy where he’ll go off the reservation. He’ll follow his gut; he won’t take anyone else’s word for something if it doesn’t feel right to him so he’s not afraid to, I don’t want to say go full blown anarchist, but he’s not afraid to be a rebel as well. I can relate and I’ve had many phases of my life where I’ve kind of exemplified both.
What do you think the enduring appeal of this series is to audiences?
I think military movies are always appealing; for better or worse America is still kind of a young country that has been forged on by freedom, by independence and by flexing a little military might or even a revolutionary war. We were hiding and ducking behind trees; we were doing whatever we can to get the British out of there. I think there’s always been a fascinating thing tied to our culture; Civil War, World Ward 1, World War 2, Vietnam for better or worse whatever the reason is you’ve got so many active service members out there who really enjoy these movies who are former or current military. I think for America in general it’s just part of our national identity; something we’ve always been tied to so I think these movies hit on what it’s like for these characters, these soldiers to live this day to day. You either have done it, which is one core audience that we have with these movies or you just want a glimpse into what it’s like. I think we do a pretty good job of peeling back the curtain and letting people take a little look.
Do you think you could do the job in reality?
I should say “yes” right? (laughs). For Sniper: Legacy a few years ago we had another great military adviser whose name was Patrick Garrity and he was a legit Marine Sniper. The stories he would tell and the stuff these guys gotta do, it’s the reason the snipers in any of the armed forces are elite warriors because they’ve gotta know the guns and they have to be in incredible physical condition. He would tell me stories of hiking 50 miles up and down mountains to get to a location at night. I mean, how do you do that? How do you remain still and motionless for 7-10 days just stalking and watching something? It’s not just a physical discipline, it’s a mental discipline. How these guys do that? It’s no wonder why they have washout rates from sniper school that rival the Navy SEALS; it’s just so hard to do all around. I’d like to say I could do it but you know what? I’d like to try boot camp and see if I make it through that first (laughs).
I prefer watching people do it in movies.
(laughs) It’s a lot safer and a lot easier doing it on a movie set for sure.
Can we expect a follow up?
Yeah we’re actually gearing up to do another one and it’s going to happen this fall and all the pieces are just being put in place right now. These movies are great domestically but they’ve got a really big international reach and I’m always shocked, surprised and happy. When one of these movies get released I get contacted by fans from anywhere from Indonesia, The Philippines, Australia, South America and more. There are people from all around the world who are seeing these films and they really like them. It’s nice to see that we have a bit of a global audience here. I think for that reason we can keep making them because every single one of these films has dealt with an international or global issue and I think it gives the movies a bigger feel than the budget we actually shoot them for. I think it just makes it more appealing to people who are living all round the world.
What I liked was that the film didn’t look like it had a tiny budget, it looked authentic…
All the credit goes to UFO Films, the production company we work with on these past 2 films. They’re fantastic and they’re based in Bulgaria. We travelled to I think 7 different locations in a 26 day shoot so we were just on the move all the time. The movie’s got that feel to it; you’ve got the Black Sea Coast with the sun and the sand, we were on top of a 10,000ft mountain at the beginning of May in Bulgaria and there were these unbelievable rock formations. Then we’d end up in Istanbul Turkey, so the locations themselves were great so that’s all credit to the production company. Our director Don Michael Paul is a master of taking very little money and making it look 10 times that much; he’s just really great. Hopefully he actually gets that opportunity to actually have that 10 times as much; imagine what he could do with that.
Have you ever seen his movie from 1987 called Rolling Vengeance?
I haven’t seen that one actually…
It’s awesome. It’s about a dude who goes on a revenge rampage in a monster truck…
Oh that sounds right up my alley; I grew up in the country like I said and monster truck rallies were definitely on the weekend ticket when I was a kid. I need to check that one out.
Any chance of Tom Berenger returning to the Sniper series at all?
I don’t know if Tom will ever be back; Sony puts these wonderful little films together and they dial me and my team up a few months out and just keep us in the loop that it’s coming back around and they’ve got another one planned. So in terms of the script or what the cast is going to be I just never know until pretty close to shooting. It always turns out great and I always love working with whoever they bring on for whatever reasons. I so love working with Tom and he is the original Sniper so the more you can have him there the more fun it is.
I’m a big fan of Dennis Haysbert and I think I want him to narrate my life…
(laughs) Yeah, it’s fun working with Dennis as the Colonel; I mean how are you NOT gonna listen to that guy? He’s gonna tell you what to do in that voice and I’m like “yeah you should probably do it”.
What else do you have coming up?
I’ve been busy; looking forward to this next installment of the Sniper franchise and we’re gonna keep that going. We’re finishing up a film in Texas called Howlers where I get to play a werewolf slayer from the old West who is kinda thrown into present day circumstances and finishing off a pack of werewolves. Really awesome director/writer called Josh Ridgeway; indie project all the way but it’s got me, Sean Patrick Flannery and a great group of actors. It’s just a really fun story; an action/horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously kinda like the classic John Carpenter films from the 80’s. Again playing a soldier is every actor’s dream and a kid’s dream of mine and now I get to play a cowboy in this one where I get to shoot everything from rifles to crossbows to silver tipped axes and all sorts of hand to hand combat in my black hat, black duster and back boots; it was just so much fun. That’ll be out next year.
This Fall I got to work on a new digital horror that’s coming out on HULU called Freakish, so that will be coming out in October and now I’m waiting to hear if I’ll be going back to Utah. We shot a pilot for BYUTV which is more of a digital network that pairs up with the likes of Netflix and HULU. Orson Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game and has created a really fun sci-fi TV series with his partner Aaron Johnston so we just shot that for a few weeks in the gorgeous Martian looking landscapes of the Utah desert. We’re waiting to see if that goes forward as a series and if so then looking forward to getting back and working on that one.
You’re not afraid of trying different things; what do you look for in a script?
I’m at a place just now where I’m having so much fun with this and really although I’ve never been desperate about it, it’s something I fell in to but I still take it really seriously and I definitely feel like it’s my calling so it’s still fun and it’s playing pretend for a living. There’s not much that I’m not interested in to be honest with you and luckily for me my type is that soldier, the all-American and I love that type! Whether it’s a cop or a soldier, I love just putting on the uniform. For me right now it’s just a lot of fun and there are things I get to do like play an old cowboy which is a new challenge but if I just played soldiers until I called it quits then I‘d be super happy.
Thanks so much for taking time out to chat with us today and best of luck with your future projects.