Guardian, The: Tale of Rescue Swimmers, Starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher

Joining Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher in “The Guardian” is the diverse cast that makes up the 22 young recruits at A School, group made up not only of exciting young actors but also several Olympic-level swimmers, competitive triathletes and a couple of real-life Rescue Swimmers.

Real Swimmers

I really went out of my way to make sure we cast real swimmers, says Andrew Davis, and at the same time, to create a great mix of different sizes, genders and personalities in the class. Having so many accomplished athletes and members of the Coast Guard in the cast really elevated the actors, because everybody was trying to keep up with each other.

To further prepare the cast for the exceptional rigors and dangers of even simulating water rescues, those playing Rescue Swimmers and trainees were shipped off to attend an abbreviated, but definitely no-holds-barred, A School led by the Coast Guards Robert Watson, John Hall and Butch Flythe.

Discipline and Sense of Life

Andrew Davis notes that just being in the presence of the real Rescue Swimmers was a constant inspiration. Theres a certain way they carry themselves, a certain sense of discipline and a general view of life they have that is just terrific, he says. We felt very blessed to have people who have
actually saved the lives of others right there on set with us, giving us feedback.

The cast was also excitedbut felt the considerable weight of trying to live up to the heroism of the men and women they were portraying. Says Brian Geraghty, the young star who plays the underdog trainee Hodge: We knew these guys we were working with had saved a lot of lives, so that puts a lot of pressure on you to get it right. Geraghty continues: But man, this training was ridiculous!

Ive been surfing my whole life and I love the water, but this was so tough physically and mentally it was like nothing else. Notes Butch Flythe: We put the actors through what we would call Rescue Swimmer Lite, but it was still very intense. They worked incredibly hardand if you looked on the pool deck at any moment, you wouldnt be able to tell this wasnt a real A School class, which was very impressive to us.

Although many of the actors in “The Guardian” had been through various film boot camps before, nothing seemed to compare. It was a great experience because it bonded us all together, says Tripp Vinson. We had a very athletic cast but everyone was dead tired by the end of it, and we were really proud of that.

Hardcore Training

Coast Guard technical advisor Jeffrey D. Loftus believes that the hard-core training helped both cast and filmmakers to take more creative risks. Between the real swimmers being around all the time and the training and the exposure, the cast got the rescue techniques at boot camp, they were able to take things much further, he says. They got great opportunities to see the things that a swimmer goes through that normal people cant really imagine. I think that helped them to really represent the professionalism, dignity and honor that distinguish Rescue Swimmers.

For Rescue Swimmer Robert Watson, the experience of working on a Hollywood film production was equally eye-opening. As Rescue Swimmers, we came in with our perceptions of Hollywood, but we
found Kevin, Ashton and the rest of the cast to be truly honorable, he says. They had a job to do and they wanted to do it right. We train very hard to do our jobs, and it was cool to be around other professionals who also put their heart and soul into what they do.

Swimmers’ Personal Lives

Meanwhile, in exploring the world of Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, “The Guardian” also delves into the jobs resonant effect on the swimmers outside lives and relationships. This emerges through two of the films female characters: Ben Randalls frustrated wife Helen, played by popular TV and film star Sela Ward, and Jake Fischers blossoming love interest, Emily, portrayed by rising star Melissa Sagemiller, who recently came to attention in Showtimes Sleeper Cell series.

Sela Ward

Ward was thrilled to reunite with Andrew Davis, having previously starred as Harrison Fords wife in The Fugitive. I really wanted to work with him again, and Id never worked with Kevin Costner before, so I thought this would be a lot of fun, she says. Theres also enough to the role of Helen that I thought I could really showcase something special and make each scene count.

Ward sees Helen as a very strong, artistic woman who lives a far bigger life than Kodiak, Alaska, can offer her. She continues: I think Helen thought that she and Ben would one day have much bigger plans together, but now she sees very little of him with his work demands. They are really two people who should be together but cant seem to be under the circumstances and have grown apart.

Despite being realistic about the toll such a career can take on families and marriages, Ward also developed immense respect for the Rescue Swimmers in the course of the production. They are really about the human ability to give of oneself for another human being, she observes. Thats the heart of this movie.

Melissa Sagemiller

Sagemiller was also moved by the real-life Rescue Swimmersbut her character, Emily, is less than blown away by Jake Fischers bravado at first. Emily is a schoolteacher and a kind of no-nonsense, firecracker sort of girl who meets Jake, thinks hes cute but a smart-ass and is just not that impressed, laughs Sagemiller. She thinks hes got a lot of work to do on himself!

She continues: The two of us right away have this very intense chemistry. Theres a lot of back-and-forth game-playing where were constantly one-upping each other, but in the process of all these games, we completely fall for each other. But as their relationship deepens, Emilys honesty towards Jake becomes invaluable to him. Emily can see right through Jake, whereas Jake cant always see through his ego and whats going on with him and his struggle, comments Sagemiller. She gives him that sort of feminine intuitive point of view he really needs. Shes a really fun, spicy character to play.

Working with Ashton Kutcher

Working with Ashton Kutcher was a big bonus for Sagemiller. Hes incredibly fun and spontaneous, she says. Hes always telling jokes and hes got this great energy and magnetism. We hit it off right awayand it was great to see his intense commitment to his character.

Rounding out the female cast are also 1960s singing star Bonnie Bramlett in the role of Maggie, the bar owner and widow who is intimately connected to the A School; and Shelby Fenner, an exciting newcomer previously seen on televisions C.S.I. and Charmed, who takes the action-oriented role of Cate Lindsey, one of the female recruits at A School.

Fenner was intrigued to learn that the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer program is the only one of its kind that is gender blind and allows women to enter if they can meet the physical requirements. Now she had the honor of joining Ashton Kutcher and the other men in training at the productions challenging boot campand to portray one of the handful of exceptional women currently working as Rescue Swimmers.