Unlike most war movies showing the devastation of war from a foot soldiers grunt's-eye view, 21 and a Wake Up dramatizes the real life story of three young nurses' just days from returning home at the 24th Evacuation Hospital, the last major Army Hospital still operating in Vietnam. The picture, taking place over a 100-time span, shows what life was really like on a vast Vietnam military base that had swimming pools, nightclubs, banks and massage parlors.
21 and a Wake Up stars Amy Acker (of TV's Angel and Alias) as the film's lead Caitlin Murphy, an army nurse who undertakes a treacherous journey up the Mekong River to Cambodia to save a very young Vietnamese-American girl before the American bombing of Cambodia. Like all events in the film, Murphy's heroic trip is based on a true story.
The unusual title refers to (1) The number of days nurse Caitlin Murphy has remaining in-country when a major event transforms her life; (2) The average age of young nurses on their first your in Vietnam who wake up to a shocking war they never imagined; and (3) The 21 years America was in Vietnam (1954 through 1975), waking up to the first war the U.S. ever lost.
The film also stars Faye Dunaway (Network/Chinatown/Bonnie and Clyde), JC Chasez (of N'Sync in his first movie role), Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years/The West Wing), Ed Begley Jr. (St Elsewhere/The West Wing), Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan/Blackhawk Down) Wes Studi (Heat/Last of the Mohicans) Andre Royo (The Wire) and Ben Vereen (Pippin).
Director McIntyre; Acker, who starred in 70 episodes of the cult classic Angel; and McKellar will attend the movie's premiere at 6:30 pm at the AMC Theaters River East 21, 322 E. Illinois Street, Chicago. McKellar, an actress and internationally recognized mathematician, plays Jenny Valentine, the second leading nurse who discovers her talent and skill in the army and later becomes a surgeon.
Neither anti-war or jingoistic, according to writer-director McIntyre 21 and a Wake Up is an unusual adventure subtly attempting to discover the emotional truth and inspiring courage behind young women who keep their sanity by saving soldiers lives. The writer/director developed the film with noted physician Marvin Wayne, a surgeon serving at the 24th Evacuation Hospital in its final year.
The film created such interest in military circles that director Chris McIntyre was invited to speak to the graduating class at West Point about the picture during pre-production in 2007.
McIntyre chose Chicago because it his favorite American city. "I spent a great deal of time in Chicago immediately after my four year tour with the US Marines' air wing during Vietnam. "I love the restaurants, theatre, and people, and have tons of long time friends who have urged me to have the film's world premiere in Chicago. The public here is extraordinarily open to a film like this. Our Sneak Previews this summer in Chicago have been amazing!"
The film opens in theaters in Chicago and the suburbs Friday, October 30. Veterans will be admitted free to showings at local move theaters. For locations and more information, visit www.21andawakeup.com.
MEET DANICA MCKELLAR
50 ABC 7 viewers have a chance for a personal "meet and greet" with Danica Thursday, October 29 from 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. for autographs and photos. Email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
21 AND A WAKE UP
Thursday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m.
AMC Theaters River East 21
322 E. Illinois St., Chicago
Opens in Chicago and suburbs on Friday
ABOUT DANICA MCKELLAR
Danica McKellar ( www.danicamckellar.com) continues to prove herself as an accomplished actress on film, television and the stage, and now her passion for mathematics has made her a two-time New York Times bestselling author.
Best known as "Winnie Cooper" on The Wonder Years and "Elsie Snuffin" on The West Wing, Danica was named "Person of the Week" by ABC World News with Charles Gibson for her latest role: author of the nationally bestselling book Math Doesn't Suck (www.mathdoesntsuck.com) Her groundbreaking book uses hip and entertaining examples to teach middle-school girls and their parents how to master many of the tough math concepts that are introduced in middle school -- the time when young girls begin to shy away from math. The book was such a success that Danica wrote a sequel, Kiss My Math (www.kissmymath.com) , which debuted in August, 2008 at No. 4 on the New York Times Bestseller List. And Danica's message to girls? Smart is sexy!
Even prior to the books' release, Danica was honored in Britain's esteemed Journal of Physics and The New York Times for her work in mathematics, most notably for her role as co-author of a groundbreaking mathematical physics theorem which bears her name: The Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theroem, and which she completed while graduating summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in Mathematics and garnering all its department's highest honors.
Danica continues to enjoy success with her first love -- acting. She has starred in over 30 films, TV movies and plays and has over 50 guest starring roles in series. She was recently seen in a recurring role in the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother in the role of fun, oversexed "Trudy." She also recently starred in the Lifetime Movie Network's multi-media series entitled Inspector Mom, as the mischievous "Maddie Monroe." Inspector Mom includes two telefilms with ten web-episodes currently available on the LMN website. Most recently she completed the role of M.A.S.H. nurse "Jennie Valentine" in the Vietnam Drama 21 and a Wake Up, co-starring with Faye Dunaway.
Additional television roles include starring in the feature length SCI-FI Channel's Path of Destruction, SCI-Fi's Heatstroke and guest-starring on the critically-acclaimed NCIS and appearing on the series finale of the award winning NYPD Blue. She has also been seen in successful independent feature films such as Raising Genius with Wendie Malick and Justin Long, and also in Hack! with William Forsythe.
Danica makes time for theatre when she can and was last seen in Mark Goffman's romantic comedy Me Too at Hollywood's Stella Adler Theatre. She also performed Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues and the Beverly Hills Coronet Theatre, and starred at The San Diego Repertory Theatre as "Catherine" in David Auburn's Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof.
Her voice work includes lending life to the character of "Jubliee" on the X-Men Legends video game along with Patrick Stewart and Lou Diamond Phillips, and the infamous "Invisible Woman" on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Danica is also a series regular on the WB's animated cartoon series Static Shock and has recurred on Fox's King of the Hill and Cartoon Network's Justice League.
Danica also recently released a yoga and meditation DVD collection, Daily Dose of Dharma. She teamed up with her Mother and world-renown meditation instructor Mahalia McKellar, and certified yoga instructor Christy Marsden for the DVDs which take viewers step-by-step towards a powerful reconnection of mind, body and soul.
Building upon her commitment to mathematics and children's charitable causes, Danica is the national spokesperson for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's Math-A-Thon, which is a fundraiser that assists the hospital's continuing research for new treatments and cures for cancer, AIDS and other catastrophic diseases afflicting children. Danica also appears around the country as a speaker on mathematics education, a trend started in 2000 when Danica was invited to speak to a subcommittee of Congress on the importance of women in math and science.
CHRIS MCINTYRE'S STORY ABOUT VIETNAM AND MAKING THE MOVIE
As a veteran of the US Marine Corps from Thanksgiving of 1967 through Thanksgiving 1971, I always desired to make a small film about Vietnam.
I was a strong supporter of the antiwar movement in college, and invited a number of antiwar speakers to the University, understanding the perceptions and reasoning behind the antiwar movement's hatred of the war in Vietnam.
I was raised in the small farming town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which leapt into the national conscience on September 11, 2001 as the crash site of United 93.
Hearing about my friends' experiences after returning from tours in Vietnam, the war began to take on a more complex picture in my mind than that provided by other friends in the antiwar left. Following my own draft notice in the summer of '67, rather than allow myself to be conscripted into the Army for two years, I enlisted in the Marines for four.
It wasn't long before I fell in love with the country of Vietnam and its magnificent people.
Other than Good Morning Vietnam, there have been no Vietnam War pictures showing life on a large in-country base, removed from the frontline shock of war.
It was only at large Evacuation Hospitals located on these bases where Americans came face to face, 24 hours day, with the human cost of war, as tens of thousands of soldiers over the course of a decade med-evaced through these extraordinary institutions, in thousands of cases meaning the difference between survival and body bags.
"21 and a Wakeup" focuses on 100 hours at the 24th Evac Hospital very late in the war, the last of these major hospitals to close as America was turning the conflict over to the Vietnamese and going home.
As this very same drawdown is duplicated today throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, I was drawn to this 40 year old parallel account in my small, self-financed indie drama.
Inevitably drawing comparisons to both "MASH" and "China Beach," the film in fact goes much deeper to encompass a dozen true incidents, most importantly those of Dr Marvin Wayne, a top surgeon at the 24th Evac Hospital in 1971. Compressing my four years of service along with Dr Wayne's into a 96 hour period, every event in the film and every major character has a basis in a real event and true story.
I longed to obtain permission to film in Vietnam itself, where no American war film had ever been allowed to shoot.
Portions of several very small contemporary films surrounding returning war vets, or briefly flashing back to combat, had been filmed in various parts of the country, as well as part of the British picture "A Quiet American," which took place during the last days of French occupation in the 1950's. But no film written and directed by an American taking place entirely during the war had ever been allowed by the Communist government to film within its borders.
The Vietnamese government film censors typically sit right next to the camera, and will stop filming at any time if a political statement or something that can be construed as against the government is filmed. Our film suffered no such trauma. They respected the vision of our modest project, and signed on at the highest level of government to let us shoot the film I wanted.
A film like ours understandably appeals to the Vietnam generation, who recognize the attitudes, music, images and iconic stars of the time like Faye Dunaway, Ed Begley, Jr. and Ben Vereen, as well as more contemporary supporting stars such as Tom Sizemore, Wes Studi and Tim Thomerson.
The film also enjoys strong emotional resonance among young women, who appreciate the bravery and dedication of the young nurses, and who are also very familiar with stars of this generation like Amy Acker, Danica McKellar, JC Chasez and Andre Royo.
ABOUT THE CAST OF "21 AND A WAKE UP"
NURSE 1: AMY ACKER (Caitlin Murphy) Amy starred in 70 episodes in the final 3 years of Joss Whedon's adored series Angel, and the final season of JJ Abrams' Alias. Amy constantly guest-stars in top rated series such as Law and Order, Ghost Whisperer, and Private Practice and has a continuing co-staring role in Whedon's Dollhose. In addition, Amy has had co-starring roles in pictures such as Steven Spielberg's Catch Me if you Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
NURSE 2: DANICA MCKELLAR (Jenny Valentine) The Wonder Years' Winnie Cooper, Danica is an iconic role model for women coming of age in the late '80's. Danica has since starred in dozens of television episodes, playing noteworthy characters on such acclaimed series as NYPD Blue, Jack and Bobby and The West Wing. In "21" she plays Jenny Valentine, a nurse with the skill to be a surgeon but the luck to be born when female surgeons were all but unknown.
NURSE 3: KRISTYN GREEN plays Skyler Paige, a beautiful 21-year-old nurse from Mississippi at the beginning of her first tour, discovering the horror of an Indochina war half a world away is nothing like her Army recruiter promised. Kristyn has costarred in numerous independent films and enjoys a highly-praised supporting role in USA's The Starter Wife.
CIA AGENT: TOM SIZEMORE (Jack Breedlau) Golden Globe Nominee Tom Sizemore plays ruthless CIA station chief Jack Breedlau. Star of his own critically acclaimed NBC drama series Robbery-Homicide, Tom is better known for his big-screen military and urban tough guy roles, starring with Wes Studi in Michael Mann's Heat, Oliver Stone's Vietnam story Born on the Fourth of July, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.
BASE CAMP ENTERTAINER: T LOPEZ plays stunning Mexican USO singer Xenia Salinas whose humor and sensuality mask the sadness she endures touring with her group in Vietnam. The talented actress and singer is America's new Macarena Girl, and is the first Latina ever signed to mega-label Cash Money Records, where she is recording her brand new album produced by Li'l Wayne.
JC CHASEZ -- HIS FIRST MOVIE ROLE (N'SYNC SINGER) (Dr Tom Drury) In his feature motion picture leading man debut, JC plays heroic surgeon Tom Drury, who risks his life to save a soldier with a live grenade in him, based on a true incident from the 24th Evac Hospital. Born Joshua Scott Chasez, in 1995 JC, along with pals Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Lance Bass formed N'Sync, quickly shattering records in the US and Europe as the most popular recording group in the world.
CAT LY (Song Li) The most famous Vietnamese singer in the US, Cat plays Song Li, who has a secret child with ill-fated Tom Drury. In addition to starring with Kieu Chinh in Journey from the Fall, Cat also plays the lead in this summer's Vietnam drama Owl and the Sparrow, where her heartbreaking performance helped the film win five Best Picture Awards, and was nominated for the prestigious Independent Spirit Award given the night before the Oscars.