Operation Seawolf Interview: Steven Luke on WWII Movies, Adapting Operation Teardrop

ComingSoon spoke to Operation Seawolf director Steven Luke about his World War II film that stars Dolph Lundgren, Frank Grillo, Hiram A. Murray,  Andrew Stecker, and Apostolos Gliarmis. Out in theaters and on demand on October 7, it will release digitally on October 25, 2022.

“In the last days of WWII, Germany, desperate for any last grasp to defeat the allied powers, looked to their last remaining weapons and soldiers,” says the synopsis. “The German Navy and the last remaining U-Boats formed together for one last mission to attack the United States Homeland. Captain Hans Kessler (Lundgren) a grizzled submarine commander from both world wars, is called into service to help turn the tide of the war. The mission was soon to be known as Operation Seawolf.”

Tyler Treese: You wrote the script as well as directed Operation Seawolf. So just tell me a bit, and I know you’ve done other films on both World War I and World War II, so what’s kind of your overall interest in the World Wars and Naval warfare?

Steven Luke: Sure. So yes, I have done several projects set during World War I and World War II. I’m a history major by trade, and I’ve always been fascinated by the service men and women during that time and, just trying to bring some of their stories to life. Obviously, both those wars affected millions and millions of people around the world. And so there’s just lots of incredible stories to find and to be told. And so I always just keep finding different ones I want to try to bring to light, and Operation Seawolf, I kind of, through a roundabout way of doing research, kind of found something that I thought would be interesting, and we were able to put the pieces together to actually make it into a movie.

So I was curious about what inspired this film in particular. Was it Operation Teardrop, or what was kind of like the real-life events that inspired this?

Yeah. Well, hey, I’m super impressed. Yes. So Operation Teardrop, it was the US Navy in World War II. It was their operation to kind of stop these U-boats at the end of the war. And yeah, I read that Operation Seawolf was the German side of it, what they had called it, and then the Navy’s called Teardrop. And I found it so fascinating that the Navy dedicated so much resources in order to stop this mission. The further I kind of dove into the research of the actual operations on both sides, the more fascinated I was by it. Because it was kind of like one of the last things on that part of the war that the Navy and the German Navy kind of both engaged in. So a very fascinating story. Operation Teardrop, it’s a fantastic piece of history.

This film takes place at a really interesting time because it’s near the end of the war. So, the Germans are kind of seeing the writing on the wall, they’re getting desperate. So how interesting was it to place it there and kind of explore the psyche going on there?

Well, I think yes, it was at the very end of the war, and I thought it would be just fascinating to [explore] how do fighting officers, men, and soldiers continue with the fight when they kind of know that it’s lost. And so, kind of exploring that you aspect of, well, what is it that would keep your soldiers in the fight at the very end? I think it’s a very interesting…it’s not very a talked about and shown piece of history, but definitely something I thought was very interesting, and you could really find some characters in that world.

You have a great cast assembled for this. Dolph Lundgren is such a legend. So what did it mean to get him on board here? I know you have Come Out Fighting coming up as well, which also features him.

Yes. So yes, having Dolph involved, I always love working with Dolph. I was fortunate enough, he did one of my very first bigger movies, War Pigs, and he did such a fantastic job in that. Having him in Operation Seawolf, it was fun to kind of get to have it…he was my lead. He plays the role of Hans Kessler, and kind getting to work with him a little bit more, one on one, about the journey that his character was going to have to be on was very fun.

Dolph is an incredible person, super nice, amazing storyteller, and it was fun to kind of get to work with him in developing the character and the journey that he wanted to kind of go on with this guy. So yeah, and he’s in my next movie that’ll be coming out called Come Out Fighting. With Dolph, it’s always a testament. I’m just very fortunate that he trusts me with the characters that he portrays and him getting to kind of go on those journeys and being a part of my projects. So, fantastic. It’s always fun working with Dolph. He’s a great guy.

You’ve had a pretty varied career. You’ve done production work, you’ve acted. Does doing all these different types of work on films, how does that really help you as a director and help put it all together?

Well, I think one of the things yes, when it comes to directing, it’s been so awesome to kind of be involved in different aspects of film production in the past. It’s really kind of helped me see what it takes to make the machine work, actually being in the machine and kind of being involved in those pieces. And I think just knowing that as a director and having to physically have done work from being a PA myself all the way up to being a lead actor in something. Whether it be directing the lead actor as opposed to how to best utilize the PAs and, and also in both cases, keeping them involved and really motivated to tell the story.

I mean, I think that’s something that’s so important as a director is to make sure that everyone is aware of how important their job is. And, I mean obviously, someone like Dolph, who plays the lead and is the star, and is the face of the story and the movie. I mean, you have to make sure that you’re telling that story and you’re on that journey with him, but everyone involved in the machine is very important and they help bring that to life. I think as a director, it’s fun to kind of have that experience and being able to keep the whole crew and cast focused in on the central goal of bringing everything to life and also having fun involved, as well.

War films are so great because, you have that action, but it really just goes into the core of the humanity of the characters and the conflict. So I was just curious about what some of your favorite war films are, that really inspire you as a director?

Oh, sure. Well, I think one of my favorite movies that I always like to bring up is a movie called Kelly’s Heroes and it stars Clint Eastwood. It’s from the seventies and it’s kind of a little bit of an odd duck. I mean, it’s got some of the most amazing action that’s never talked about, but it’s also kind of, I don’t want to say humorous, but it’s got some really good one-liners. And I think what’s so fun about it is it ties action with military and veterans, and they’ll say this as well, there’s kind of [an ability] to keep their job and what they do, how they’re able to kind of stay in the fight is, they find funny things, kind of make mundane things funny. Kelly’s Heroes, it does a great job of kind of portraying that aspect of our veterans. So I definitely recommend that.

Obviously, the big one being Saving Private Ryan. That had such a huge impact on me when I was a kid growing up and watching in theaters. It’s a perfect story and it’s a perfect war movie and that’s always kind of been my goal, to try to do something that could ever be like that.


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