Sniper: Are Brandon and Thomas Beckett Based on Real Marines?

The ‘Sniper’ franchise, branching across numerous films, each with its own distinguished storyline, follows two primary protagonists, father-son duo Brandon and Thomas Beckett. The latter is the first to helm the series in the 1993 action thriller, simply titled ‘Sniper.’ As the Master Gunnery Sergeant’s story progresses across the following two movies, he undertakes many missions and essays thrilling narratives. However, for the fourth 2011 installation, ‘Sniper: Reloaded,’ Thomas’ character disappears for a while, with the narrative focusing on his son, Brandon, the franchise’s fresh new face.

The Becketts share a screen in the following few movies, with Brandon taking up after his father’s mantle as the series continues to expand within its near-30 year and growing run. The film’s success remains a testament to the fans’ appreciation for the stories and their subsequent on-screen storytellers, Brandon and Thomas Beckett. However, how much reality is behind these two characters and their stories?

Carlos Hathcock, a Real-Life Inspiration For Thomas Beckett

For the most part, Thomas Beckett from the ‘Sniper’ franchise is a fictional character. Most of the adventures the character undertakes — in his professional or personal lives— are entirely fabricated by different screenwriters and directors who have worked on the franchise over the years. Yet, back at the very start, in the first ‘Sniper’ film, Thomas Beckett’s character took some inspiration from a legendary sharpshooter, Carlos Hathcock.

Hathcock is famously known for making an impressive shot through the enemy shooter’s scope. The incident has become such a cornerstone in sharpshooting that it has been referenced numerous times, including in Steven Spielberg’s sniper film ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ Although many doubt the legitimacy of such an instance, John Roland Burke, Hathcock’s spotter, is said to have witnessed the event.

Either way, Hathcock’s legendary tales, including his impressive kill count as a sniper, contributed at least partially to Thomas’ creation. Thus, aside from a basic inspiration, the character remains a work of fiction. Still, in order to infuse his character with ample authenticity, Actor Tom Berenger hired a sniper gunnery sergeant during the second film. Likewise, by the third installment, Berenger persuaded the filmmakers to hire a Marine officer to lend his fictional character a sense of realism.

Furthermore, as the franchise grows, the audience witnesses Thomas develop tremendously even outside his character-defining sniper career. His relationship with his son, Brandon, in particular, adds invaluable humanity to his character that fans can’t help but be attracted to. Similarly, his character also remains grounded and relatable to realistic military experience through his slow and steady exploration of PTSD. As such, through authentic storylines and character traits, Thomas Beckett, a fictional character, maintains his ties to reality.

Brandon Beckett is a Fictional Character

Although Brandon Beckett is also a fictional character, unlike his father, he doesn’t seem to have any tangible connections to a real-life sniper. Entering the franchise after Thomas’ initial trilogy, Brandon appears as the perfect fit to carry over his father’s legacy. Within the series’ universe, the character has a slightly tense relationship with his father, which adds to the drama. However, it also allows the viewers to get a better understanding of his character as he gradually bonds with Thomas over the following films.

Therefore, the series’ long-running format remains the most instrumental tool in building Brandon’s character. Actor Chad Michael Collins, who has embodied every iteration of the character yet, spoke about the same in a conversation with Brittany Frederick. “You [as an actor] get a 90-page script and a self-contained movie, and as a character, you’re going to grow,” said the actor.

“You’re going to learn. You’re going to overcome obstacles – that whole hero’s journey, that Joseph Campbell stuff – but then you get to do that across several movies, and you really get some dirt under your fingernails. You take the character for a whole different kind of ride – more of a long-term journey.” Thus, although Brandon continues to grow into a well-rounded character with beats of realism as the franchise grows, he remains a fictional character with no basis in reality.

Read More: Sniper: G.R.I.T: Where Was the Sniper Movie Shot?