Marcus Luttrell is very polite and quiet — "Yessir," "No, ma'am," "Thank you very much" — but his abiding civil demeanor can't mask the fact that the physically imposing former Navy SEAL isn't inclined to suffer fools.

At a breakfast meeting at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills not that long ago, a waitress informed Luttrell that his companion dog, which Luttrell uses to help him deal with a traumatic brain injury suffered in combat, could no longer sit next to him on a banquette.


FOR THE RECORD:
Marcus Luttrell: An article in the Jan. 6 Calendar section about Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, on whom the movie "Lone Survivor" is based, said the film opened in New York and Los Angeles on Jan. 3. The movie opened in those cities on Dec. 25. —

"Who gave you that order, miss?" Luttrell said with a slight edge to his voice, gently patting his dog, Mr. Rigby. Told that it was local health code rather than instructions from some hardhearted hostess, Luttrell complied, albeit reluctantly. It was probably a good thing she didn't notice that he was discreetly chewing tobacco.

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It's impossible to understand fully what Luttrell experienced in the Afghanistan mountains in 2005, where he and three other SEALs were caught in a disastrous firefight against a much larger Taliban force that ultimately left 19 Americans dead. Luttrell wrote about the experience in his bestselling book, "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10," which has just been made into the movie "Lone Survivor" by writer-director Peter Berg.

It was more than a little hard for Luttrell to recount his ordeal in print. "I didn't want to write the book. I'm a private person," he said of his memoir, co-written by Patrick Robinson. He was compelled to pen it, he said, by his superiors.

"It was the Navy's idea, not mine," the 38-year-old Luttrell said. "They felt the story needed to be set straight."

His commanding officers were equally assertive in recommending that he support a movie adaptation, which opened to solid reviews in New York and Los Angeles on Friday before expanding into national release Jan. 10.

"I didn't want to do a movie," Luttrell said. "But Hollywood was going to do it with or without us. That's what came across the wire."

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So Luttrell personally auditioned Berg, the veteran of "Friday Night Lights" and "Battleship." At the time, the book was being devoured throughout the movie world, and producers were beseeching Luttrell for a meeting. Berg was wrapping up his 2007 Middle East terrorism tale, "The Kingdom," and invited Luttrell to take an early look.

Berg had prepared a detailed pitch for Luttrell, but soon after Luttrell watched Berg's film he decided he liked the director's attention to detail and was done looking for a show-business partner.

"It was the little things that most people would overlook," Luttrell said of how Berg depicted the military in "The Kingdom." "How people move tactically, how they handle their weapons, their communications — there was enough in there to show me he had the wherewithal to pull it off."

The mission at the center of Luttrell's story is both heart-stopping and heartbreaking.

Dropped by helicopter into Afghanistan's Kunar province near the Pakistan border, Luttrell and three other SEALs — Matthew Axelson, Danny Dietz and leader Michael Murphy — were pursuing a Taliban leader when three goat herders, including a young boy, stumbled upon them. The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch as Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Dietz and Ben Foster as Axelson.

The four SEALs agonized over their options, knowing they couldn't in good conscience kill the unarmed civilians, even as they were certain that if they released the trio they would alert the enemy, likely dooming Luttrell, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz. (If the SEALs tied up the three, they likely would have died from exposure or starvation.)

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