Part of the actors’ training for “The Guardian” included a pared-down version of the Coast Guard’s elite rescue swimmer school, to make them familiar with what real servicemembers in the program face.

Brian Geraghty, whose character is invited to the rescue course, thought that meant a week of easy backstrokes and treading water.

“I went through Marine boot camp for another film (“Jarhead”) and it wasn’t easy, but I was fine,” he said. “And I grew up surfing and I swam a lot, so I wasn’t worried.

“But I’m telling you, I couldn’t swim anymore. What these guys do is incredible.”

The actors said they spent up to eight hours a day in the pool during the course, with current and former instructors from the school pushing them the entire time.

“They knew we were actors, so they let us have it,” said Michael Rady, another cadet in the movie. “They really laid into us. Half the time I thought, ‘They just want this for the special features in the DVD.’ They’re trying to see how bad they can make it for us.”

Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Watson, an instructor at the school who helped run the actors’ class, admits he did have fun seeing how much water the guys could take. And he noted that the seven days they faced is just a fraction of the four-month course his students usually see.

The rescue swimmer course is notoriously difficult, with more than half of all candidates dropping out before completion. Still, Watson said he was impressed with what the actors could do.

“I think a couple of these guys, if they joined up, would have a good shot at making it through,” he said.

Rady appreciated the compliment, but said he’d never consider even trying.

The film’s star, Ashton Kutcher, said he was pretty pleased with himself for being able to stay with the Coast Guard guys for even one week.

But he was more impressed with the instructors.

“You meet tough guys all the time, but its not often you get to meet guys that tough that have that big a heart,” Kutcher said. “They talk about some of the strangers they’ve saved, and the compassion they have for those people is mind-blowing.”

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