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Real-Life Heroes Turned Movie Stars Share the Story That Became ‘The 15:17 to Paris’

Three young Americans were at the right place at the right time to thwart a terrorist and save a train full of people. Now, their story of real-life heroism is a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos are playing themselves in the movie version of their trip on Aug. 21, 2015 on a train headed from Amsterdam to Paris.

The three 25-year-old friends recently chatted with Glenn about that fateful train trip and how Eastwood talked them into starring in the film.

“It was quick thinking, everyone else was running the other way, and they ran toward the problem and saved hundreds of lives,” Glenn said on today’s show.

Listen to their full interview here:

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: Do you know why you were born? Do you know why you're here?

You ever -- have you ever thought your whole life is leading toward one moment, and you never know when that moment is coming?

August 21st, 2015, three American friends, really average guys. They boarded a train from Amsterdam to Paris. They had no way of knowing that their lives were building to that moment. And they would be worldwide heroes, later in the day.

The three friends, Anthony Saddler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone, they were on a train, going to Paris. They took a lone gunman down who had 300 rounds of ammunition on board.

It was quick thinking. Everyone else was running the other way. And they ran toward the problem and saved hundreds of lives.

I spoke with them about that fateful day and how their story eventually caught the attention of Clint Eastwood. Alek, Anthony, Spencer, welcome to the program. How are you?

VOICE: I'm great. How about you?

GLENN: Very good.

All right. So I want to talk to you about one thing that, you know, I -- I had a problem with, with the story. And I just want to hear it from, quite honestly, Experience, I want to hear it from you, and then I want to hear the excuses from Alek and Anthony. At some point, you're on this train with this terrorist. And Alek says, go!

And then you go. He's got a gun. And I noticed, at least in the movie, Alek and Anthony, I'll give it to you, Anthony, you were asleep. But where the hell were you, Alek?

VOICE: I've been asking him the same thing for a few years now.

GLENN: Right.

VOICE: He asked me to go. And then he waits for me to make it to him.

GLENN: Look -- no, no, no. Just didn't wait to make it to -- then you're wrestling. And you're trying to hold on to the guy. And, I mean -- I mean, I know that you took the butt of the gun to his head after a while, Alek. But it was a little sloppy and slow.

(laughter)

VOICE: Thank you! America speaks, finally.

STU: Yes. Let's hear the rebuttal, please.

VOICE: All right. Yeah, let's do this.

VOICE: So, first of all, Spencer was on the aisle seat. So he had to go first. I wasn't going to, like, climb over him and then trip in the aisle and just get shot.

GLENN: Right. Right. Usually, that is -- then that phrase should have been, go. I'll meet you in about five minutes.

(laughter)

VOICE: Well, obviously, I was using him as a human shield.

GLENN: Right.

VOICE: I wasn't trying to get shot. And if he was dumb enough to go first, I mean, it's his own fault for getting shot, right?

VOICE: Natural selection.

(laughter)

GLENN: It's -- you know, it's -- it's an incredible story from -- from start to finish, with the three of you. Your friendship. But also the -- what happened on that day.

I was struck by the fact of how many people didn't do anything. I mean, really didn't do anything.

Some people were just paralyzed by fear. But -- but everybody else just ran. And there was no one that stepped to the plate.

VOICE: Kind of hard to ask people to do that, we know. We're all unarmed. And so nobody was really expecting that. So it's kind of a crazy situation to find yourselves in, that's for sure.

VOICE: Yeah, but, I mean, truthfully, we cannot even say that we would have done the same thing, if we hadn't had the confidence in ourselves, just based on the experiences that we had in life. And the skills that we had.

You know, the only thing that really gave me, you know, the confidence to run up at the guy and get up in his face was because I had been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for the last year. And all I said pretty much to myself was, man, if I could just get up in his face, I know I could do something.

You know, getting too close to him. He won't be able to be as effective. So I just -- that's what really gave me the boost.

VOICE: And also too, that I think our friendship -- I mean, we had been friends for so long. I think we knew we would kind of have each other backs. And we all kind of talked about similar situations before.

And we all knew we were kind of, of the same mindset.

GLENN: Do we -- what do we know about the terrorist that was the guy that you took down?

VOICE: Actually, he was later found out to be connected to the Brussels airport bombing and the Bataclan Theater Attack. He was from the same village in Morocco as those guys. And one of the first to come out of that terrorist cell. And so, I mean, he's being held in French custody right now. And he's become a much larger investigation. And hopefully we'll be able to get some more information and be able to relay that soon.

STU: One of the things I remember of when this happened -- because obviously a terrorist attack starts. You start hearing about how bad it could have been. And there's such a moment of pride as an American, to hear that it was three Americans who stopped this.

GLENN: And can I tell you something, when I first heard it, thought it was, okay. Three Americans. And because two of you have background in the service, you just assumed, okay. They're probably Navy SEALs. And I know a lot of Navy SEALs. And they're just going to snap your neck if you get out of line.

VOICE: You're a wannabe Navy SEAL.

GLENN: Right. You guys are not that. I mean, no offense, but you're --

VOICE: Oh, thanks. I'm still infantry.

GLENN: Right. I mean, you're not me. But you're -- but you were -- you were not drilled over and over and over and over again to kill.

I mean, Spencer, you were drilled to heal.

VOICE: Yeah. I mean, but it was -- it was truly a life or death situation. I mean, we had no options. You're on a moving train going 200 miles an hour. This guy has an automatic weapon. I mean, Option A, you sit there, wait till he shoots you. Or you get up and try to do something. And, I mean, that was -- the fight was a fight for survival. It was either he was going to kill us, or we were going to kill him. But luckily, we were just able to subdue him and choke him unconscious.

VOICE: I think that's the best thing about the movie. Because like you said, of course, people remember the headline. And they're like, of course, two off-duty servicemen, of course they would.

But the movie does a good job at showing that we're three ordinary guys that none of us have ever seen anything traumatic like that before.

And I think that that's wild to speak to more of the masses of people, because they'll be able to identify with one of us or all three of us and see just how ordinary we are. And that we were really faced with an extraordinary situation.

GLENN: So, Anthony, if you were -- if -- you know, when they ask -- when Spencer said, hey, come to Europe. And you guys thought that there was a chance something like this would happen. Would you have thought that you were the three guys that would have stood up and done what you did?

VOICE: No.

That would have -- that would have definitely been hard to pay. I would have never thought nothing like that would have happened. But I guess hindsight being 20/20, I guess me being the civilian that I didn't have formal training.

I couldn't have picked two better guys to go on the trip with. So I couldn't have imagined being in that situation with any other two people. That's for sure.

VOICE: That's one thing our families kind of joke about, is that, oh, it would be -- it would be us that did something like that. Not just because of like our training or, you know, anything like that. But just because we're always getting in trouble together and always --

VOICE: And something always happens when we hang out.

GLENN: Yeah. You should stop hanging out.

STU: And stop getting on trains. Please, planes.

GLENN: The other interesting thing is, off of that is in the -- you know, in the movie, it shows that you are troublemakers.

I mean, none of you excelled in school. You were always in trouble. And been most likely -- not your moms. Your moms come off as wonderful mothers.

VOICE: They are.

GLENN: But, you know, besides your moms, doesn't seem like anyone with any authority in your childhood expected anything like this from you guys.

VOICE: That's for sure.

(laughter)

VOICE: There's one thing in life, we never being, like, told what to do. So, I mean, we were difficult kids to raise. But we all are super thankful for the parents that we had, feel like they really shaped us.

VOICE: That's a good theme to draw from the movie too. It's just that, you know, even our success, our failures, they were all part of the bigger plan.

And I think people would be able to identify like that. Like, if they feel like they're on the wrong path, that could be something pushing you in a direction that, for all, you know, could be working in your favor in the future. So it's all part of the bigger plan.

STU: What was it like when you were approached with the idea of actually acting?

GLENN: No. Go before that.

First, what was it like, when Clint Eastwood said, hey, I want to make your story?

VOICE: Well, honestly, we were just extremely excited. Because we've all been -- I mean, we were raised on Clint Eastwood movies. So it was kind of a no-brainer for us. And even when we were talking to him about, how they're going to do the movie. Sully had just come out. So I watched sully. And once I saw how good of a job he did on that, especially, it was just kind of like, let's just let the man work. And let's do it. We were just -- we were just so excited. Because, I mean, you couldn't have picked anybody better to do it.

STU: Definitely. Clint Eastwood, he's legendary first as an actor. And now as a director.

But he made this choice. And in case people don't know, the movie stars -- the three guys you're hearing, the real people who are in the incident are the actors portraying themselves in a movie.

GLENN: Clint Eastwood, you know, didn't get Sully. He got Tom Hanks. So when he said to you, hey, guys, why don't you do it? What were your thoughts?

VOICE: I mean, we were just totally blown away and shocked. We never considered it a possibility because that's not the normal thing. And we also just really didn't want to risk the success of our story. Because we knew it was going to be forever, so we wanted it to be good.

And so, I mean, it's just something that totally came out of nowhere.

But how are you going to tell Clint Eastwood no playing yourself in your own film? It's just something we couldn't turn down. We just jumped at it.

VOICE: Nobody wanted to get that death stare from Clint Eastwood.

GLENN: No, I know. I understand that.

Spencer, you were -- you were wounded, seemingly in the movie pretty badly. I mean, at least painfully

VOICE: Just a flesh wound.

GLENN: Just a flesh wound. And then you went on and stuck your hands in a wounded man's throat to save his life. How long did that actually happen?

VOICE: On the fight took place probably tops two minutes. And then from the point when the attack started until when we got to the next train station, it was about 25 to 30 minutes.

GLENN: Holy cow.

VOICE: And so -- I was over with Mark. I would say it was, yeah, a solid 20 minutes, I had my hand in his neck.

GLENN: And he is -- and he is okay?

VOICE: He is good. And actually, that is another thing about this film. Is, you know, it's not only us playing ourselves. But Mark plays himself. His wife plays herself. We have Chris Norman, the British man who tied up the terrorist playing himself.

One of the same train employees. We had a lot of the same police. Had the same exact medical team that brought us up to train two years ago.

GLENN: Wow.

VOICE: And oftentimes, people, you know, think that we were the only ones that really did anything. But, I mean, without all those people contributing and doing what they did that day, we would have never been in the position to do anything ourselves and be successful at it.

So it's really awesome that they're going to be able to finally get the credit they deserve in such a big way.

GLENN: He did a good job of taking the television footage at the end with the president of France awarding you the legion of honor. Because he was, you know, mixing new footage with real footage. And I couldn't help, but wonder, are your parents the ones in that crowd in the new footage?

VOICE: No. They are -- they were actors portrayed. They were actors.

GLENN: No, no, no. I know that those -- I know the actors. But I mean the other people in the crowd. Did they include your parents at all in this, your moms?

VOICE: No. They weren't able to. But also, on the day of the actual ceremony, there's no footage of the crowd. It was just us.

GLENN: Right.

VOICE: And we have, you know, Judy Greer and Jen Fisher playing our moms throughout the movie. So it would probably throw off the audience at the end if they would have put our real parents in.

GLENN: What was it -- what was it like when, you know, this happened and then you're called to receive the -- you know, the legion of honor award and you're standing how many days, three days later, a week later?

VOICE: Three days after.

GLENN: Three days later.

VOICE: It happened on Friday. And we're receiving the medal on Monday.

So we're going from hostels and doing the cheap way all through Europe, to terrorist attack on Friday, until all of a sudden, in the Élysée with the French president on Monday. So it's -- it's a quick turnaround, that's for sure.

VOICE: Yeah. Staying in the ambassador's personal residence, like, we were sleeping in the same bed like Charles Lindbergh slept in when he crossed the Atlantic. And it was honestly just, like, the coolest experience.

VOICE: My room was called the Benjamin Franklin room, okay? That's where the president stays, when he comes to France.

We really got an upgrade.

GLENN: Wow. And more importantly, the French people were nice to you.

VOICE: We love the French people.

VOICE: Yeah, we love them.

I mean, I feel like that's a common misconception these days, actually. It's very cliche to say. But they're very nice people.

VOICE: But our experience is a little different.

VOICE: Yeah.

STU: You're saving their lives, of course, they're be nice to you.

GLENN: They're going to be nice to you. Trust me, they're not going to be nice to me.

VOICE: We'll be the ambassadors for you, don't worry.

GLENN: Yeah, my wife and I are taking our kids over to Europe this summer for the very first time.

And just last week, we planned a trip from Paris to Amsterdam and back, on that same train. I'm not sure I want to take it now.

VOICE: Same thing.

VOICE: It's a popular thing.

VOICE: Well, now you know what to do.

GLENN: Yes. And here's the role I'll play, go!

(laughter)

GLENN: God bless you guys, thank you so much. And it was -- it was -- it's really stirring -- your story is really stirring. And it was really a great moment, I think for all Americans to -- to watch the French say the truth about Americans. And sometimes, you know, the rest of the world doesn't -- doesn't see us like this. But I think that's -- we all at least want to be in that -- in situations like that. And you guys actually did it. So thank you so much, God bless.

VOICE: Thanks for having us. God bless you too, man.

(music)

GLENN: The new Clint Eastwood movie, 1517 to paris, opens up a week from today.

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