Hunter Killer: Is Gerald Butler’s Joe Glass Based on a Real Captain?

Donovan Marsh’s 2018 film, ‘Hunter Killer,’ a tense submarine action flick, follows the story of two rescue teams, one on land and one in the ocean’s depths, amidst a coup with grave political implications. After the mysterious disappearance of Russian and American underwater vessels, the Pentagon sent out its search parties for reconnaissance. Once it becomes clear that the Russian President, Zakarin, has just found himself on the other end of a hostile takeover, it is up to Joe Glass, a strategic and bold Captain, and his team to rescue Zakarin from foreign territory.

The film packs a thrilling punch with a plot of diplomacy and collaboration surrounded by military jargon and intense action. As the life-or-death events unfold on screen, Gerald Butler’s Joe Glass holds the narrative together with his composed and unconventional leadership. As such, in following Captain Glass’ adventure of pulling two superpowered nations from the brink of an all-out war, viewers are bound to wonder if his character is modeled after an actual person.

Firing Point’s Joe Glass

No, Captain Joe Glass from ‘Hunter Killer’ is not based on a real-life person. The film itself is a fictionalized tale adapted from the pages of George Wallace and Don Keith’s 2011 military thriller novel ‘Firing Point.’ Consequently, its protagonist, Joe Glass, is similarly inspired by his namesake character, who helms the novel’s narrative. Thus, Joe Glass remains a fictional character created by Wallace and Keith. Likewise, his on-screen counterpart remains modeled after the character, with screenwriters Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss, director Marsh, and actor Butler informing his on-screen counterpart in their own ways.

While writing the novel, authenticity was a crucial aspect for both Wallace and Keith, who wanted their story to reflect the lived experiences of Navy SEALS in a realistic light. In order to do so, the duo ensured to ground their novel and its characters, including Glass, in reality. Wallace’s personal history with the Navy likely was a tremendous help in this department. The man served duty across multiple vessels over the years, including the USS John Adams SSBN 620 and the USS Woodrow Wilson SSBN 624.

Wallace never explicitly modeled Glass’ character or his storylines after his war stories. Nevertheless, his intimate knowledge of the profession and the high-stakes situations within a submarine likely infused Glass’ character with invaluable authenticity.

Gerald Butler’s Joe Glass

While Joe Glass’ iteration within ‘Hunter Killer’ was inspired by his bookish counterpart, numerous aspects of his characters came to life in a unique manner within Butler’s performance. As a producer involved in the film’s making, the actor was heavily invested in bringing Glass and his story to the screen. As a result, Butler championed the film ever since he came across ‘Firing Point’ all the way back in 2011.

Once the film entered development after years, Butler remained a fundamental part of crafting the story and adapting it for the screen. Therefore, by pouring over the script in an effort to perfect it, Butler gained intrinsic knowledge about his character. Thus, he had an easier way with the technical aspects of his performance, which remained laced with effortless authenticity even in times of heavy action.

When discussing his experience with the character and preparing to embody Glass, Butler said, “A lot of it is really, you have the bones of the character, and then you just put his clothes on. A lot of that just happens by osmosis. I spent a long time with this script. I worked on it a lot for many years. I then spent a long time with the director, with the Navy, on submarines with naval commanders. The more time you spend, the more suddenly you feel comfortable in that uniform.” As such, ultimately, Butler’s dedication to serving the story and his character helped shape Joe Glass’ realistic portrayal. Yet, the character himself is a work of fiction.

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