Mending the Line: Is Ike Fletcher an Actual Vietnam War Veteran?

Starring Brian Cox in the lead role, ‘Mending the Line’ follows the story of two war veterans whose paths cross, and they form an unexpected bond. Cox stars as Ike Fletcher, a veteran of the Vietnam War whose life was completely upended following his return from war. Suffering from PTSD, Ike found it difficult to move forward and left behind a lot of things in the process. Over time, however, he realizes the importance of all that he has lost, and he imparts his wisdom to a younger war vet who is just as lost as him, if not more.

With fly-fishing as one of the core plot points, the movie focuses on the challenges faced by real-life war vets. Emmy-winner Cox brings depth to the trauma and grief of his character, which makes him all the more real to the audience. It might even make some people wonder if the character of Ike Fletcher is based on a real person. SPOILERS AHEAD

Ike Fletcher is Fictional But Inspired by Real Life Veterans

As real as the characters with their real struggles in ‘Mending the Line’ seem, they are all fictional. The character of Ike Fletcher was conceived by screenwriter Stephen Camilo, who tapped into his own experience with grief and trauma to forge a character who would aptly represent those experiences on the screen. Camilo revealed that his father served in the Vietnam War, as a result of which, Camilo first-hand saw the impact that war has on people. His father, who died of cancer, had seen some troubling times in the war.

After his death, Camilo turned to fly fishing as a means to cope with his grief. When he started looking into the sport more, especially while writing articles about it for several magazines, he discovered how a lot of veterans had also turned towards fly-fishing as a way to find something to still them after the chaotic times they experienced in the war. He got in touch with real-life fly-fishing groups of veterans and, through them, learned not just about their experiences in the war but also how much the sport had helped them move on when they retired from the defense forces. From here, Camilo got the idea to write a story about vets and fly fishing.

When the time came to make the film and the talent of Brian Cox’s caliber was brought on board, the filmmakers knew they’d have no trouble getting the depths they required in their characters. Director Joshua Caldwell confessed that he was not concerned about the performances, but he knew that the cast would have to learn to fly fish, considering how many scenes they needed to film on the water.

In preparation for his role, Cox, like the rest of the actors in the movie, learned to fly fish. Simon Gawesworth, the Education & Engagement Manager for Far Bank, was brought on board to help the actors get a sense of what fly fishing is all about and how they could incorporate it into their performances. Reportedly, Cox easily took to the sport. He learned to cast and would spend a lot of time with Gawesworth to learn the ins and outs of the sport. He called fly fishing “centering,” revealing that he grew to enjoy it by the time the filming was wrapped up.

Apart from fishing, Cox also needed to get his character’s years of trauma right. Ike is a complicated person, but Cox knew that his experience in the war was where everything was rooted for him. While the actor hadn’t served in the Vietnam War (not being an American citizen), he did remember how his peers were at the time, how scared they were of indulging in another war, and how tough it was for them to accept that they were going to have to go to Vietnam. Cox tapped into that feeling and brought his own charisma to the role to make Ike Fletcher feel realistic to the audience, even when he is an entirely fictional character.

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