Directed by Joseph Kosinski, ‘Only The Brave’ is an action drama film that stars an ensemble cast of Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, and Jeff Bridges, among others. The movie revolves around the lives of a hotshot crew of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona. It follows the stepping stones that ultimately lead to their fight against a dangerous wildfire near Yarnell. The movie explores themes of camaraderie between characters and strives to bring attention to the sacrifices made by firefighters in the real world.
With superintendent Eric Marsh and newcomer Brendan McDonough at the narrative’s center, this movie highlights the delicate balance between their professional and personal lives. ‘Only The Brave’s’ fleshed-out, relatable characters and authentic portrayal of the life of firefighters can leave viewers questioning the origin of this story. If you’re curious about the same, here is everything you need to know about the inspiration behind ‘Only The Brave.’
Is Only The Brave a True Story?
Yes, ‘Only The Brave’ is based on a true story. The hotshot crew depicted in ‘Only the Brave’ is completely inspired by the real-life Prescott crew, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who were first brought together as a team in 2002 and eventually became an official hotshot crew in 2008. Screenwriter Ken Nolan first got the idea to work on a story based on this crew’s life when a producer sent him an article about them.
From then on, Nolan decided he wanted to tell the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and emphasize the importance of their ultimate sacrifice. In order to understand the nuances of the tragedy, Nolan talked to the relatives of the real-life firefighter crew. Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of his crew from the Yarnell Fire of 2013, had previously documented his experience in a book titled, ‘My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire’s Lone Survivor.’
McDonough and Amanda Marsh — Eric Marsh’s spouse, both worked as consultants on the movie, thus contributing the air of authenticity to the tale. Later when screenwriter Eric Warren Singer came on board, he added a new layer to the story. After learning about Eric Marsh’s past addiction and recovery from his widow Amanda, Singer further expanded on Eric’s character and his relationship with Brendan. Both Nolan and Singer wanted the story to feel authentic and genuine. However, for the sake of a linear narrative, they still afforded themselves some creative license.
For instance, one of the things that ‘Only The Brave’ left out of the story that had its roots in reality, was Deputy Chief Darrell Willis. Willis had played a big part in creating the Granite Mountain Hotshots. However, in the movie, his role in history is neglected and instead filled in by Jeff Bridge’s character, Duane Steinbrink. Steinbrink was a real person who had guided the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but he wasn’t solely responsible for their emergence.
Inversely, the rattlesnake bite detour Brendan’s story takes never actually happened to McDonough in real life. Instead, the incident was taken from the life of another firefighter. Nolan had thought the occurrence offered a poignant moment for bonding between Brendan and Eric, therefore used it in the movie. Similarly, a few other storylines involving the interpersonal relationships between characters were all fabricated to move the plot along and provide closure to the narrative.
Eric’s outburst at Brendan after the latter expresses his wish to prioritize his family over his profession — for one — does not have many bases in reality. According to McDonough’s book, Marsh had received McDonough’s concern with a positive and supportive mindset. While these changes are drastic, they are still understandable and do not interfere with the actual substance of the story. A different aspect that adds a layer of realism to ‘Only The Brave’ is its actors’ commitment and dedication. Josh Brolin, who portrays Eric Marsh in the movie, served as a volunteer firefighter in the 90s.
On top of that, the cast (including Brolin) took part in a firefighter boot camp to prepare for their roles. This experience helped them get insight into the physical hardships and struggles firefighters face every day on the job. At the same time, it also served as a bonding experience for the cast and contributed to their on-screen chemistry. Ultimately, ‘Only The Brave’ is based on the true story of the firefighter crew, Granite Mountain Hotshots. While the narrative takes some artistic liberties, ‘Only the Brave’ still tells an authentic tale and showcases the significance behind the real events and people involved.