‘Hometown Hero’ Anthony Sadler on playing himself on the big screen


Photo by Steve McKay - Sacramento State

Anthony Sadler poses at Hornet Stadium on Sept. 26, 2015. After Sadler and two friends helped stop a terrorist on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, the three men play themselves in a film directed by Clint Eastwood.

Shaun Holkko

On Aug. 21, 2015, then-Sacramento State student Anthony Sadler and his two childhood friends, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, were on a train from Amsterdam headed for Paris. It was then that a terrorist boarded the train armed with an AK-47, a pistol, and 270 rounds of ammunition.

     RELATED: President Nelsen praises Anthony Sadler for helping stop armed gunman on French Train

The three jumped into action, tackling the gunman and thwarting the attack. Their story was so inspiring to filmmaker Clint Eastwood that he directed a movie retelling the story and had the three men play themselves in “The 15:17 to Paris.”

Story continues below

We asked Sadler about his past, that day on the train and his role in the film’s production.

Q: How did you first meet Alek and Spencer?

A: I met them when I was 12 years old in middle school. We all went to a private Christian school named Freedom Christian. They had already been going there and then I came to the school for my eighth grade year.

Q: Can you describe your time at Sac State?

A: At Sac State I grew up a lot. I thought I wanted to go out-of-state to go to school and then I ended up going to Sac State. I was wondering if I was going to get that college experience and I realized it really is just what you make of it. Eventually I decided to immerse myself in school and I ended up having a lot of fun and it changed me a lot.

Q: What happened on Aug. 21, 2015?

A: Basically me, Spencer, and Alek were on a train backpacking through Europe and we heard a weird commotion that woke us up, so we turned around to see what it was, and the first thing you see is a guy with an AK-47. Within a couple seconds, Spencer realizes what’s going on and he gets up, then Alek goes, then I go, and we go and jump him until he drops the weapon. We beat him up a little bit, and then Spencer was able to get him into a chokehold and choke him until he was unconscious.

Q: What was it like to play yourself in a movie?

A: Pretty weird because the whole time you’re trying to decide if you’re acting or not. So it’s like you find your own insecurities, like what’s showing on camera, but at the same time you’re trying to come off authentic — so it’s a weird dynamic.

Q: If you had to have someone play you in the movie, who would it be and why?

A: I probably would’ve picked Michael B. Jordan because I like the trajectory of the career he’s on and the roles he’s picked so far, and I feel like he’s a really talented actor.

     RELATED: Anthony Sadler makes his appearance on the Tonight Show

Q: What was it like to work with Clint Eastwood?

A: He is such a legend that I found myself soaking up every moment just trying to make the most out of every situation, so it was an interesting process to be a part of. I found myself not taking any moment for granted, just because the kind of opportunity that is, nobody really gets one like it, so it’s pretty huge. I definitely didn’t want to disappoint him, but I was only nervous the first day. But after that he’s just so cool and chill that it makes it more of an easy process. He made it not a big deal — which is still crazy, because it’s still Clint Eastwood, but he’s able to get down on everyone’s level being relatable. He would come over and tell a joke or something and keep it light, so he’s not super serious. He made it super chill for us, so he’s a great guy to work with.

Q: What was your favorite memory from filming the movie?

A: Being on location in Europe. We could’ve shot the movie in Los Angeles and faked all the scenes, but we were able to go to Europe again. Just to look behind the camera and see Clint Eastwood over there, and we’re in Italy shooting a movie — it was pretty surreal.

Q: Why should people go see your movie?

A: Hopefully it inspires some people because they’ll be able to see more than just the headline. They’ll be able to realize who we are, just three ordinary guys. Hopefully it can inspire and have them be able to see themselves in one or all of us and know that they are capable to accomplish the extraordinary as well. It’s not just something the three of us have; everybody is capable of it, you just never know until you are in that situation.

Q: Would you be interested in another movie role if offered?

A: Most definitely. I want to pursue it after this just because I realize nobody gets these kind of chances, especially their first one out, so from here I definitely want to try and take it somewhere and hopefully keep acting.

Q: Two and a half years later, how do you reflect on the 15:17 to Paris?

A: I just look at it as one crazy ride that we’ve been on the past two and a half years. I’m excited for everybody to see the movie, because the movie is the closing chapter — like here’s what happened, everybody gets to see it, and hopefully it touches a lot of people.

Q: What was the movie press tour like? Where did you travel?

A: It’s been tiring but fun. We’ve been promoting all over the world, in Atlanta, (Washington) D.C., Dallas, Toronto, Paris, Los Angeles, New York City — the list goes on. For your first time out it’s a huge deal, so we’re not taking any moment for granted, that’s for sure.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I do some motivational speaking, so I’ll still always be traveling for motivational speaking. But right now acting is on the plate, so that’s next up and hopefully that’s the goal for 2018 — to get into another picture, so that’s what’s on the plate at the moment. I don’t want to waste the opportunity so I’m concentrated on (acting) right now.