On September 12, 2001, Sean Huze, an aspiring actor who’d been scoring bit parts in B movies and television shows, marched into the Los Angeles Marine recruiting office at Sunset andLa Brea and enlisted. Huze loved his life as a SAG-card-carrying actor “but I didn’t think that anything I was doing personally was more important than defending my country,” he says. Although it’s common for Marines to keep their war stories bottled up when they return home, after serving as a corporal in Nasiriyah, Al Kut, Tikrit, and Baghdad as the “tip of the spear” with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, “Hollywood” (as Huze’s Marine buddies liked to call him) needed to put his experiences down on paper. He penned a 70-minute play called The Sand Storm, which played in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as well as Weasel, a comedic courtroom drama inspired by Huze’s experience, focusing on a Marine commander intent on suppressing dissent within his ranks.
Huze is currently in pre-production on his new feature film with Ed Asner, The Dragon Slayer. Mother Jones caught up with him in Los Angeles to talk about life after combat, art, and the penalties facing troops who speak their minds during wartime.
Mother Jones: What is The Sand Storm about?
Sean Huze: It’s an account of the Iraq experiences of nine Marines and one Navy corpsman. Each one focuses on an event that’s had the deepest impact on him. Lance Cpl. Dodd talks about the assault on Nasiriyah and the death he was party to. In particular he is haunted by a four- or five-year-old kid he saw dead in the street.
MJ: How did audiences react to the play?
SH: A major from Camp Pendleton saw it and told me, “Just keep telling the truth.” Another Marine, who was part of the 1st Marine Division during the invasion, just like I was, came up to me afterward and told me he felt now he could talk about his experience. From a civilian perspective, I think people have many strong opinions about the war but really have no idea what actually happens on the ground. For them it is an eye-opening experience, and it helps to give names and faces to the men and women who served in Iraq.
MJ: Any negative reactions?
SH: After a show in L.A., a girl asked me about the final monologue, where a character talks about the kindness of the Iraqi people toward us, which was based directly on an experience my platoon had providing security for a community. And she said, “But that didn’t happen. They don’t like us.” She was fixed in her opinion that every Iraqi absolutely loathes the U.S. military, but that certainly wasn’t accurate in April 2003. It happens on both sides. People ask for your opinion and your experience, but all they really want to hear is something that rubberstamps their bullshit.