Warhorse One: Is Action-Drama Based on a True Story?

‘Warhorse One’ is Johnny Strong’s debut feature film as a director and also features the actor in the lead role. The military action-drama movie follows Master Chief Richard Mirko, who sets out on a mission to safely guide a young girl across the Afghanistan wilderness while being pursued by Taliban forces. Packed with riveting action set pieces, its civilian rescue premise lends it shades of realism, making viewers question if actual events inspired the movie. Hence, viewers must be wondering whether ‘Warhorse One’ is based on real incidents or a true story.

The Inspiration Behind Warhorse One

No, ‘Warhorse One’ is not based on a true story. The film is based on an original concept from Johnny Strong, who penned and directed the screenplay. The actor/director rose to prominence with his performance as Randall Shughart in director Ridley Scott’s 2001 war drama film ‘Black Hawk Down.’ ‘Warhorse One’ is Strong’s first foray into direction and second attempt at screenwriting following the 2020 film ‘Invincible.’ In an interview, he revealed that the movie’s concept originated from a highly personal experience. The actor revealed that when his daughter was two and a half years old, he shared an emotional bonding moment with her, making him realize that he would be willing to suffer pain to protect her.

Strong wanted to translate the emotional core of his experience with his daughter into a feature film. He soon started developing different iterations of the idea until he settled upon the main character being chased through the mountains by bad guys while trying to protect a young girl. In the meantime, Strong also developed directorial ambitions and chose the project to make his feature film debut as a director. After pitching the idea to one of his frequent collaborators, William Kaufman, he began writing the screenplay, keeping things as simplistic as possible.

The premise revolves around Richard Mirko, a gunned-down Navy SEAL Master Chief who takes the challenge of guiding a young girl to safety through a Taliban-occupied Afghanistan. The story is set in 2021 when the US Military withdrew its forces from Afghanistan. However, the premise itself isn’t based on any specific actual event. It represents the bond between a duty-bound soldier and a young girl he feels compelled to protect. Hence, it is safe to say that the film is not explicitly based on actual incidents.

Strong revealed that he had been friends with ex-military or ex-Special Forces officers and drew from their experiences while writing the screenplay. Besides, the actor has stated that Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 comedy-drama movie ‘The Kid’ was a significant inspiration for him when making ‘Warhorse One.’ Strong has stated that the emotional relationship between The Tramp and an abandoned boy influenced him to center his story on a soldier and a young girl’s bond. Nonetheless, the film thematically speaks about a man’s desire to protect something he cherishes, which sets the movie apart from ‘The Kid’ and other civilian rescue action dramas we have seen.

“There are a few messages in the story. But the thing I wanted to do that a lot, not many filmmakers do on this type of material, is talk about how the children are the ones who bear the suffering,” Strong told Script Magazine about the film’s themes. He added, “And the accompaniment to that is how these young men and women that are used in conflict are unfortunately abandoned in a lot of ways at the end. And they have to deal with this, the psychological after-effects of that.”

Ultimately, ‘Warhorse One’ is not based on a true story. The movie draws from an original concept from writer-director Johnny Strong. Though the film’s premise might seem like a typical military or war drama movie, Strong utilized his personal experiences as a father and those with military experience to craft the narrative. As a result, despite its explosive action sequences, the movie remains rooted in the emotional relationship between a soldier and a young girl, lending a semblance of reality to it.

Read More: Where Was Warhorse One Filmed?