Alumni Release 'Semper Fi,' Starring Jai Courtney
BY Gina Hackett, November 7, 2019
Three Columbia alumni released Semper Fi, a feature film starring Jai Courtney and distributed by Lionsgate, earlier this month.
The film is produced by alumna Karina Miller ’04, co-written by alumnus Sean Mullin ’06, and co-written & directed by alumnus Henry-Alex Rubin ’95.
Semper Fi stars Jai Courtney (Divergent) as Chris Callahan, a rule-following police officer and Marine Corps reservist who knows his deployment to Iraq is impending. But when his troublesome younger brother receives an unfair prison sentence, Callahan begins to test the boundaries of his loyalty to the law.
Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl), Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story), and Nat Wolff (Paper Towns) star alongside Courtney in Semper Fi.
“Having earned a B.S. at West Point and then serving in the military after that, the education I received at Columbia played a critical role in how I approached writing the screenplay,” Mullin said. “In particular, the screenwriting class I took with [Professor] Andy Bienen laid the groundwork for me in regards to how best to structure compelling cinematic narratives.
“It was a long road—over 14 years and well over 100 drafts of the script—but I’m proud of how the film turned out and I’m especially proud of how well it has been received by veterans.”
Mullin’s previous credits as a writer & director include Amira and Sam, which depicts a romance between a veteran returning from Iraq and an undocumented Iraqi immigrant. As with his previous work, Mullin drew on his real experience as a Captain in the New York Army National Guard and a first responder after the September 11th attacks while writing the film.
“It’s a unique opportunity to show strong men processing their emotions and being honest about them, and I think there’s something to be said for men showing strength through vulnerability as something that needs to be represented,” Miller, the film’s producer, said.
“I got the script from Henry years ago...and the original draft that I read had a lot more to do with PTSD and the V.A. letting people down and that whole process, which by the time we were making it was something that had been seen on film a lot,” Miller added. “So we refocused it so that it was more about the relationships, about the brotherhood and the sense of loyalty...that people in the military have as opposed to a sociopolitical comment on the war.”
Miller is best known for producing the Netflix film To the Bone, which was written & directed by television powerhouse Marti Noxon and premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The film depicts an anorexic teenager (played by Lily Collins) who, after exhausting every treatment option, meets an unconventional doctor (played by Keanu Reeves) whom she believes can help her.
Rubin, who befriended alumnus James Mangold ’99 (Logan, Walk the Line) while at Columbia, got his start as part of Mangold’s second unit on films such as Girl, Interrupted and Cop Land. Rubin then began producing, writing, and directing himself, making his mark on the industry with Murderball, a documentary on paraplegic rugby players that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.
Semper Fi was released in theaters on October 4 and is available to stream on-demand.