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Interview with Alex Skarlatos: The Real Life Hero of ’15:17 to Paris’

Those of you who saw posters advertising Clint Eastwood’s “15:17 to Paris” movie probably know it was based on a real life event. Three childhood friends from the US, with the assistance of some other passengers on board, bravely stopped a terrorist attack on a European train and saved innocent lives.

However, did you know that the heroes of the film, including Greek-American Alex Skarlatos, as well as Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone, portrayed themselves on the big screen?

We spoke to Alex Skarlatos about how he reacted on the day of the attack, what has happened to him since the incident, and what it was like to portray his real life story in a movie for Clint Eastwood. The full interview is below:

15 17 to Paris Skarlatos

Tell us about what it’s like to be in this giant feature film directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, without any prior acting experience.

Honestly, it came as a total shock to us. I didn’t think it would be possible to do it this way at all. And so, the whole experience really has been a lot of fun, especially because Clint Eastwood is incredibly down to earth and a very fascinating person. So for us the whole thing was very exciting, and then getting to watch the movie with our family, we realized playing ourselves makes the whole movie very authentic to the audience.

Was it at all challenging to relive those difficult moments?

Not really. A lot of people think that it would be, just because it was a traumatic experience, but we don’t really have any PTSD or anything like that. Thankfully nobody ended up dying, so for us it’s really turned into a positive experience by now. So for us, doing it again wasn’t as traumatizing as people think.

The day of the incident, what went through your minds and made you react the way you did to save people?

I don’t think much was going through our minds; it was mostly just reacting to the situation. I think the movie does a good job of showing that we only did what we did because we knew each other for so long, and we had discussed this kind of thing before. Beyond that, we really weren’t thinking much, we were just reacting instinctively to the situation and I didn’t have time to reflect on it or fully process what had happened for a long time afterwards.

You all had military training though?

Military training definitely helped. I don’t think it really had much to do with our initial reaction, just because we didn’t have time to think about anything and we did what we did mostly to save each other. But our training definitely kicked in, in the aftermath, with Spencer saving Mark’s life, and my weapons handling.

Alex Skarlatos

Did you ever expect that day would lead to all this, with a book and movie based on the situation?

Absolutely not. I think all we realized that day is that we stopped a terrorist attack and any possible consequences of that. I thought it might be a big deal in France, where it happened, but once I came back stateside, I didn’t realize it would be such a big deal here. The fact that it has led to a book and this movie was all very surprising.

Are you and your friends thinking about the next steps to take after the movie?

We have. I mean, the one thing we definitely know is that we can never be sure what the future holds. We’re all trying to get into acting, and we also do professional public speaking, so hopefully we can do that for the foreseeable future.

Can you tell us a bit about your connection to Greece?

The Greek side of my family is from Alexandroupoli, and I’ve been there twice now. It’s just gorgeous up there, it’s not really like the big city, so it’s a wonderful escape.

Do you know much about the history of the Greek side of your family?

My grandfather was actually a resistance fighter in World War II. He was captured by the Germans and ended up marrying a German. They escaped to the United States before the end of the war and that’s how my family ended up here.

Catch Alex Skarlatos in “15:17 to Paris”, in theaters now. The movie premiered February 9 and is still playing nationwide.

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