2009
27.04

“I put a suit on and played a policeman. I didn’t have any lines or anything but managed to mess it up six times,”

The Northern Echo – Who dares, wins
Monday 27th April 2009

Former SAS officer Andy McNab was well qualified to take part in a poll to discover the ultimate film action hero. Kill count, creative ass-kicking and sex appeal were all taken into account, he tells Steve Pratt. As A former SAS officer Andy McNab has been at the heart of a lot of action.

Quite how that compares to negotiating the busy traffic in Lyons, I don’t know. But that’s what he’s doing as we conduct our phone interview as he returns from Italy where he’s been learning to sail.

Or not learning to sail… “It’s been a nightmare and the weather has been crappy,” says the former soldier who enlisted in the Royal Green Jackets at the age of 16.

But I’m not here to talk about driving with the former soldier whose account of the failed SAS mission Bravo Two Zero in the Gulf War became the highest selling war book of all time, with more than 1.7 million copies being bought. It was filmed for TV with Sean Bean starring as McNab, who’s now a successful writer of fiction and runs his own security company.

Whether Bean is a dead ringer for the SAS hero is anyone’s guess. Because of past military operations, McNab must remain a shadowy figure. That’s not even his real name as he must protect his identity. His website shows only a shadowy figure where his mugshot should be. This is a legacy of his undercover work in anti-terrorism and anti-drug operations around the world.

“During the war in Northern Ireland I was part of an intelligence operation. Obviously, if I show my face, it’s potentially dangerous to other people in the group,” he explains in an accent which betrays his London roots.

What isn’t a secret is his participation in a Sky Movies poll to discover the ultimate action hero. He was on a panel of real-life action heroes and film industry experts who judged a shortlist of all-time top ten action heroes. Each star was judged on five categories – weapons, one-liners, kill count, creative ass-kicking and sex appeal.

“I thought it was great just getting to watch all the films again,” says McNab. “Obviously, it’s a bit of a laugh really, but when you start to look at them, you can see the way the genre has changed over the past 15 years with all the technology and all the stuff in the Bourne films.”

If you’re just “just looking at rough action and having a laugh and being entertained”, then the Eighties and Nineties were the prime time to go into action. He remembers watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator and how the success of his “I’ll be back” robot led to some of his other lesser films – he cites Commando – being seen in a better light.

“There’s obviously a lot more technology and effects now, but the stuff in Terminator and Alien was mindblowing then,” says McNab. “It feels a lot rawer, even the Stallone stuff. Those films get shown more than anything else. If you’re in a picturehouse in Mumbai and can’t speak English, you don’t want too much dialogue. All you want is to understand what’s going on.”

McNab doesn’t pretend that action movies reflect real life. He’s not being casual about k i l l i n g (his biography says he killed for the first time at 19 during a firefight in Northern Ireland), but realistic about action used as entertainment. But it does come as a shock to see the name at the top of the action hero poll – Sigourney Weaver, for her portrayal of tough, no-nonsense alien killer Ripley in the Alien space movies. As McNab says: “It all comes down to the T-shirt.”

She leads the list, ahead of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and, surprisingly, Chuck Norris. Completing the rollcall are Matt Damon (who starred in the three Bourne thrillers), a pair of Bruces – Willis and Lee – Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham and Steven Seagal. Weaver’s Ripley earned top marks for creative ass-kicking (fighting the Alien Queen in the cargo loader) and kill count (she nuked a space ship in Alien and a planet in Aliens, as well as dispatching countless acid-bleeding creatures).

“She just outclassed everyone in all the categories,” says McNab. “Plus, she looks much better kicking ass in a vest than Bruce Willis will ever do.” The fact that it was a woman doing it earned her extra points in his book. Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil movies has also impressed him.

He clearly knows his movies without counting himself a film fan. “It’s not as if I’m queueing up two hours before the show on the first night,” he says in his defence. “But those films are fun. You go and get your popcorn and are entertained. You don’t have a big in-depth discussion.” Experience enables him to separate fact and fiction. “It’s a shame when people say ‘that wouldn’t happen’. Film-makers are trying to make a fantasy. If someone like Schwarzenegger punched you, you’re not getting up in real life.”

When he left the SAS in 1993, McNab was the British Army’s most highly decorated serving soldier. Since then he’s forged a career as a writer and security expert. His company runs specialist training courses for news crews, journalists and members of non-governmental organisations working in hostile environments, including war zones. He’s involved in training videos for the Ministry of Defence, lectures for the FBI and gives motivational talk for large corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.

He’s unlikely to outdo Weaver and the others as a screen action hero. He did work on Michael Mann’s thriller Heat, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, where the director was keen to make the shootouts as authentic as possible. “They were trying to make it realistic to the point of obsession. What you saw on film the actors had done on firing ranges beforehand,” he says. Mann insisted that he appear in the film, if only in the background of the action. “I put a suit on and played a policeman. I didn’t have any lines or anything but managed to mess it up six times,” he admits.

For the BBC, McNab is developing a series called Warrior Nation about a rifle company in Afghanistan. The idea is to look at a regular company and the 18 to 20-year-olds in it. “We’re already talking to the MoD and they’re very keen. That’s good and soldiers want to be in it now,” he says.

Not much like the old Robson Green series Soldier Soldier, I suggest. “The beauty of that was it was nothing to do with the Army, just a couple of lads who used to be in the Army. It wasn’t about conflict and what’s going on,” he says.

“I think certainly any rifle company will recognise itself in the series. With representatives from the commonwealth and the inner city, there will be lots of different characters. “One of the reasons I’m able to do Warrior Nation is because I go to Afghanistan and spend a lot of time with the battalion there. It’s interesting to see what the reality is and compare it to what people think it is.”

McNab may go to areas of conflict but isn’t fighting on the ground. He doesn’t miss the danger. “Not at all,” he insists. “Most people, once you get over that initial two or three years where it’s all exciting, find their time is up and it’s all over. It’s a job, although it’s not as bland as that makes it sound.”

Go here to read the article and the top list of Action Heroes

Girrrrrlpower! Cool – the Ultimate Action Hero is a woman!! Now, if you work with Vista too you will love the quote from Ripley in Alien. 😉

Ripley: Mother! I’ve turned the cooling unit back on. Mother!
Mother: The ship will automatically destruct in “T” minus five minutes.
Ripley: You… BITCH!
[smashes computer monitor with flamethrower]

2008
22.12

There’s even big fan clubs where every single word is analysed!

An interview in the Irish Sunday Business Post by Gavin Daly.

Soldier of Fortune

The man behind the pseudonym of Andy McNab has seen his life transformed beyond belief, from battling through enemy territory with Britain’s special forces regiment, to writing best-selling books and documentaries – and occasionally even hobnobbing with Robert De Niro.

In the lobby of a plush Dublin hotel, a man who cannot reveal his full identity is talking about things that don’t usually get discussed in such surroundings. ‘‘The new body armour is stunning,” he says. ‘‘When I was in Afghanistan in September, a parachute regiment lad took a 50 cal round – you know, a big thing designed to hit tanks – into his chest. It knocked him over, broke his ribs and all that – but he staggered up, he was all right. Without doubt, it’s the best gear anybody has got.”

Welcome to the world of AndyMcNab. Or rather, welcome to the world of the man known as Andy McNab – a former delinquent who became a boy soldier at 16 and went on to become a decorated SAS (Special Air Service) officer and bestselling author. A broad-shouldered 48-year-old of average height, McNab doesn’t look out of place in the hotel surroundings, and there is nothing to betray his background. But his face can’t be photographed and, when asked for his real name, McNab demurs. ‘‘My mates know,’’ McNab says, pausing for some deadpan military humour: ‘‘Well, normally, it’s just ‘dickhead’.”

McNab has been out of the British army for 15 years, but he never cut his ties with the organisation that made him a household name after the first Gulf War. In 1991, McNab led an eight-man patrol, Bravo Two Zero, into Iraq to locate and destroy Scud missile launchers and disrupt the country’s communications systems. But after a series of ‘‘cock-ups’’, just one member of the patrol made it out. Three were killed and four – including McNab – were captured and ‘‘went through an interrogation process’’. McNab spent four weeks in an Iraqi interrogation centre and three weeks in Abu Ghraib prison. ‘‘Obviously,” he says, ‘‘it’s quite well-known now.” One day, he was lined up with other captives facing a wall. Behind them, their Iraqi captors cocked their weapons. ‘‘We all thought we was going to get dropped,” says McNab, mixing his native London dialect with decades of Army-speak. ‘‘I’m like, ‘well fuck it, here we go’.” But it was actually a parting ploy from the Iraqis – when one of the captives started to break down, they laughed, secured their weapons and released the prisoners to the Red Cross. McNab went back to soldiering, content that his training had worked. ‘‘Of course, fuck that, I don’t want that to happen again,” is how he describes the episode. ‘‘But actually, it’s all right, I’m here, I’m getting sorted out. I like being in the army, it’s alright.” When he did leave two years later, he was Britain’s most highly-decorated soldier.

McNab was working in private security in Colombia a short time later when the army came looking for him. Keen to end – or at least influence – conjecture about what had happened in Iraq, the army establishment effectively commissioned McNab to tell his story. Bravo Two Zero, his account of the disastrous operation, has since sold over 1.7million copies in Britain and been translated into 16 languages. Using the real identity of a former SAS officer who had been in the North, south-east Asia, Africa, South America and ‘‘lots in the Middle East’’ wasn’t an option, so Andy McNab was born.

‘‘It took five seconds [to come up with],” he says of his alter-ego. ‘‘There was a PacMan game years ago called Munchin’ McNab and that was it. It’s short and sharp and it fit on the cover. That’s all, like a trade name. It was just going to be the one book.”

That’s not how it worked out. McNab has since put his name to two other non-fiction books, including his autobiography, Immediate Action, which has sold more than 1.4million copies in Britain. He has written a ‘Boy Soldier’ series of books for children and 11 thrillers featuring the character of Nick Stone – the latest of which, Brute Force, has just been published. There are McNab watches, beer and ‘‘all sorts of shit’’ available globally. Heady times, you’d think, but McNab is matter-of-fact both about his army career and about what has happened him since.

By his own admission, he was poor at reading and writing as a child, and was in juvenile detention for breaking and entering when he was recruited to the army at the age of 16.Now, he is a wealthy writer (‘‘not so much an author, because author sounds quite establishment,” he says) with film and television projects to his name. Was it a huge transition? ‘‘Actually, I was quite cocky,” he says. ‘‘I wrote Bravo Two Zero in four months. I knew the story; it’s what I now know is a linear story – that’s where it starts, that’s where it ends. Then I had another two months messing about with it, giving it a sense of place, environment, all that.” He took some inspiration from Joe Simpson, the mountaineer who turned to writing after he almost died on an expedition in Chile in 1985. Simpson wrote his classic, Touching the Void, to clear up controversy over the fact that his climbing partner had cut the rope they were sharing. ‘‘It’s such a good book – that sense of place and feel and environment,’’ McNab says of Touching the Void. ‘‘I spent those two months [with Bravo Two Zero] basically putting in the sense of place and all that stuff. Then it went public  and it went ballistic.”

McNab was back in Colombia when the idea of a second book was floated. ‘‘I was on this job and I got this call from the publisher: ‘Do you fancy doing another?’.And it was pissing down rain and I have six weeks’ [beard] growth and it was, ‘well, what the fuck do you think?’. That’s how it all started. It was good.”

‘‘Good’’ is probably an understatement. When Robert DeNiro read Bravo Two Zero, McNab was asked to be the technical weapons adviser on Heat, the Michael Mann film that also starred Al Pacino. He also did ‘‘a bit on Black Hawk Down’’ and films by Jason Statham. ‘‘It was from one extreme to the other,’’ McNab says. ‘‘I was in the regiment, got out and did this whole Bravo Two Zero thing. Within a year, I’m in LA fucking about with DeNiro and all the other lads. It was automatic weapons, Los Angeles and banks. It was fantastic.” Working with Mann also propelled McNab’s fiction-writing career. McNab hadn’t read much as a child, so Mann suggested he think more like a film-maker, ‘seeing’ chapters in his books as scenes, rather than as a daunting volume of work. ‘‘It’s all pictures anyway – you’re trying to create a picture, aren’t you?” he says. ‘‘I just think of it that way.’’

Even 15 years on, however, he cannot say that he enjoys writing. ‘‘No,” he says emphatically, in answer to that question. Does it get easier with each book? ‘‘No.” ‘‘It started as an invitation to write a book, but it’s a business now,” he says. He takes a businesslike approach, starting each book in January, with a deadline of Easter for a ‘‘decent’’ first draft. (‘‘Which this year was a pain in the arse, because Easter was early,” he says.) ‘‘Once I’ve got that first draft, then I start to enjoy it. Then I just keep on ripping it apart and work on layering and layering.”

His relationship with the army means he has plenty of primary material – his last thriller, Crossfire, included fictionalised versions of real operations he accompanied recently in Iraq. Last September, he was in Afghanistan with British units.
McNab’s new thriller Brute Force has an IRA theme and scenes set in Ireland, but McNab gives nothing away about the three years he spent in the North – both as an infantry soldier and a member of the SAS. ‘‘Once you get involved in the covert stuff, you start to understand, you get it,” he says. ‘‘If I lived in the Bogside, I’d probably have joined the IRA. But I didn’t, I lived in south London, so I joined the army.” He believes that the North was ‘‘propelled’’ towards peace after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 brought international pressure to bear on all terrorist groups. Unsurprisingly, he has clear-cut views about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan – the former is about oil, he says, while the latter is about tackling terrorism. Both need to be seen through with a combination of military action and reconstruction, according to McNab. ‘‘Afghanistan affects our daily life; and Iraq will affect our daily life if we don’t get the oil wells working,” he says.

McNab remains close to the defence establishment, helping to train soldiers and working on education and veterans’ projects. ‘‘I do as much as I can with infantry recruits, because the average literacy age of an infantry soldier is about 11,” he says. ‘‘That’s because, well, the education system is shit.”

His fame opens doors – he has met the British defence minister (‘‘he’s all right’’) and is due to have tea with Prince Charles next month. However, he doesn’t get too caught up in his own hype. ‘‘I don’t even know how many [copies] the last book sold; I can’t be arsed, there’s not enough time,” he says. ‘‘Ultimately, if people like them, they buy them. It increases 5-15 per cent every year depending on what territory you take. Places like Japan, there’s a frenzy.” He claims to be equally unconcerned about his audience, although his publishers and marketing people have probably done considerable market research. ‘‘I’m writing for me, not for anyone else,” he says. ‘‘My nine-year-old godson reads these. And the readership is 45 per cent female. There’s even big fan clubs where every single word is analysed!”

McNab will start his next book in January, but he has plenty to keep him busy until then. A documentary series, McNab’s Tour of Duty, has just been released on DVD, while a film version of one of his thrillers and an eight-part BBC drama – called Warrior Nation – are in the pipeline, with release dates in 2010.

‘‘It’s that weird thing where a little bit of success brings another little bit,” he says. ‘‘You’ve been given the opportunity and you gotta have a go. And yeah, I’m rich. But it’s always been a punt, and it still is really. It’s great, it’s lovely, but it’s not forever; as quick as it comes, it goes.”

Source: Sunday Business Post Online

2008
12.06

“What we are doing is running around an apple tree and as those apples drop we are catching them. There will be one apple that will hit the ground. “

Soldier Magazine
An Interview by Stephen Tyler

TAKING note of the old adage that authors should write about what they know has proven to be a lucrative line for ex-soldier Andy McNab.

The former Royal Green Jacket’s experiences behind enemy lines as part of the ill-fated Bravo Two Zero patrol in the Gulf War kick-started a writing career that has propelled McNab to the top of the fiction charts.

But although his own experiences have stoked the imaginations of the British book-buying public, McNab insists that readers wanting modern-day tales of bravery need look no further than the average squaddie.

“The private soldier now doesn’t compare to the private soldier at any other time in the Army’s history because the standard now is without doubt the best it has ever been,” McNab told Soldier, adding that his latest book, Crossfire (reviewed in Soldier in February), is based on his time in Iraq with troops from the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

“You get to these battalions and the standard is phenomenal. I was with 2 Rifles in Basra last year and we went on a strike op in the city. Number one through the door was a 19-year-old rifleman. About ten years ago that would have been a specialist role, but now you have infantry guys who are able to do it. The Army is in a strong position because of the experience and knowledge they are getting on board.”

The ever-increasing number of stories of bravery in the face of adversity filtering back from theatre forms the basis of Andy McNab’s Tour of Duty, a hard-hitting six-part series airing on ITV4 this month.

Using videos, pictures and first-hand accounts from soldiers on the ground, combat camera teams and intelligence sources, McNab takes an in-depth look at the challenges facing troops and how they are being overcome.

Interviews with everyone from infantrymen to company commanders on their return from theatre explain each story’s context and McNab said that talking to the troops convinced him that suggestions young people were being tricked into signing up were extremely wide of the mark.

“The media like to use the Army to attack Government and in doing so they make it seem as if everybody’s waiting to hang themselves, that it’s all depressing and people want to come home because they didn’t know what they were getting into,” he said. “They forget that actually these lads are exactly the same as their next door neighbours.

“The difference is that they have been motivated enough to get off their arse and do something and if they don’t like it they can get out.

“People forget that these lads do know what they’re getting into. They are volunteers, they are more educated and worldly aware than soldiers have ever been and it’s not as if this war is being kept from them because they can watch it live on Sky if they want.”

With operational commitments reaching an unprecedented level, McNab is pleased that previous problems with kit and equipment have been ironed out.

Indeed, rather than the horror stories that emanated from the first Gulf War about the SA80 not firing due to the heat, today’s front-line troops are almost universally positive about the equipment available to them.

McNab, pictured above, said that he is aware of foreign armies casting envious glances at British kit and thinks the reliability and effectiveness of the weapons is allowing young soldiers to concentrate on developing their skills.

“This whole thing that some people seem to be hooked up on that the equipment is rubbish is just wrong,” he said. “There’s some really good gear that’s so good that the Americans are going to start buying it.”

Although Nick Stone, the character in McNab’s books is fictional, the author believes that a lot of his character’s missions are now being successfully completed in real life by Regular soldiers. Ally that to the increasingly “Gucci” weaponry available to infantry battalions and it is no surprise to hear that McNab believes the nature of front-line soldiering today is both challenging and rewarding.

“They are getting more kinetic kit and heavy weapons stuff in Afghanistan than I ever saw when I was in the Green Jackets – the lads these days have an amazing array of quality kit and the responsibility that a young NCO or officer has these days is awesome.”

McNab’s training and unique military manoeuvres around the world have placed him in hot demand from private companies wanting to learn from his experiences. Hollywood has already come knocking and he has served as a technical adviser on films such as Heat, while his own stories are currently being reworked into a film script.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal winner also works closely with the counter-terrorism community and said that Great Britain is well prepared against attacks on home soil. “I think it’s a lot better than people think,” he said.

“The problem is that it’s seen as a massive threat, but actually the system does work.

“The Israelis have a great analogy that what we are doing is running around an apple tree and as those apples drop we are catching them. There will be one apple that will hit the ground and that’s a fact because you can’t stop everything, but we have huge experience in dealing with it and we are well prepared.”

You can find the article in Soldier Magazine here

2007
03.10

McNab for pseudonym “all it was is that it fit on a book cover”

Clever me I found an upcoming interview with Andy – with answers and all, unfortunately he doesn’t tell us the lucky  numbers for that week. Ok, a bit lame, just that the interview says ‘3 Nov 2007″ so either it was published too soon or they just f*cked up with the date. Right, too much gobbledygook, just give us the interview.
A few snippits…

Miranda Likeman spoke to McNab about who wants to kill him, resisting torture and how to shit in a plastic bag.

Just what terrorist groups to date want you dead?
Just the IRA. Well, workwise I got involved in a job with the  Khymer Rouge , spent some time in Columbia with trying to stop drugs flooding into the United States; got involved in some remnants of the African wars.

What training did you receive in order to resist interrogation?
Quite a lot, but it’s not about resisting. All they can do is prepare you physically to a certain extent, but they can’t go all the way otherwise they have loads of soldiers in hospital. They can’t teach you resistance techniques, but the techniques they use so you can start to recognise things, so you know the mechanics. Every country has got interrogation centres where you get arrested and go through the system.

More importantly, you should listen to other people’s experiences. If there is anything that gets you through, you should use it. For me there was an American Phantom Pilot in the Vietnam war who had six years in solitary confinement, and every bone in his body was broken, he had to self heal, he was continually tortured – the Americans said he was dead… his cell was three paces by two paces long – and after 6 years he got out. He is still alive I think – he is a tree hugger in Hawaii. He said you can’t do anything to resist the interrogation bit, the more aggressive you get, they just bring in more guns. All you can do is keep the integrity of the mind. In his head he built his own house, would decorate it, walk with his imaginary children – he had children but didn’t know how big they were – take them to the park, and that’s what got him through.

So it was that pilot. I just kept thinking of him really. These days I do talks to the military and FBI in the States about my experiences so they can be used. Whatever helps you. American prisoners, you can get them going just by pissing on the flag, because culturally, that’s an emotive thing whereas Brits want to join in. And there is a cultural thing the Brits haven’t got, I’m used to being cold, wet and hungry – a US Marine Pilot is out for two hours and then back on the carrier shooting hoops and eating donuts.

How does one learn to shit into a plastic bag?
You squat. So many cultures don’t even dream of using toilet paper either. The secret is to hold your trousers forward when you are squatting so you don’t get shit on your pants.

You say you are not afraid of dying, but are you afraid of anything else?
No, but not in that bravado way ‘I’m not scared of anything’. I just simply don’t care. Sometimes people think that is a problem, that I should care about this and that, but I don’t.

Apart from Heat, which you worked on, are there any mainstream movies you think accurately depict war or the SAS accurately?
Black Hawk Down. There is an Australian one called The Odd Angry Shot that is really good. A young guy joins with all of these aspirations and the old corporal who has seen it all before, that sort of thing. It’s more about the people rather than the contact, which makes it more interesting

How do you feel about how some events recounted in Bravo Two Zero have being debunked as complete fabrications? 
In the beginning, I was quite pissed off about it. But now I understand how the business works, I know the more it’s talked about, the more people buy the book

Go here to read full article

Apparently this is just part 1, we’ll watch out for part 2. 

I’m not sure who the POW is that Andy talks about, though I’ve heard the story before. If anyone can come up with a name I’ll link to the good man, I’ve got a soft spot for tree huggers.

2007
29.09

Andy McNab trains Al Pacino for Heat movieOk, Heat isn’t exactly present news.. but..on a website I found the scene with the “famous-at-least-by-any-decent-McNab-fan” shootout – though provided by YouTube – but with a nice analysis. So if you don’t have the DVD at hand but like to watch one of the scenes in the movie, described on mentioned website as “it is, in fact, the realistic nature of the scene that gives it much of its power. It was supervised by former SAS sergeant Andy McNab, who gave the cast weapons and tactics training, so don’t fuck with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer or Tom Sizemore in a firefight.” Visit the site here.

Another article mentioning Andy McNab I read today was on a ‘money expert’ site – using the nabbing of McNabs laptop as a warning to be well insured. I quote them: “Pretty much all home contents insurance policies will cover possessions left in the car when the car is parked at home. But that doesn’t always extend to times when you’re at the shops or at work. Andy McNab had popped to the newsagent so might struggle to cover the loss of his laptop.”

McNab himself said about the movie Heat: “I wondered how much the insurance would be to get these very expensive actors together firing live ammunition inches from each other.”

None of the expensive actors died working on that movie as far as I know, so I think – with a possible present claim on insurance for a stolen laptop – the insurance company might give Andy some slack here? 😉