Fort Jackson soldier to appear in Russo brothers movie 'Cherry'
By LUCAS DAPRILE | The State (Columbia, S.C.) | Published: February 29, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Every time Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Boozer meets someone, he gives them a hug.
Whether it's a reporter he never met before, a fellow Fort Jackson base employee or every actor, caterer or boom operator on a 300-plus member movie shoot, Boozer starts the relationship with a hug and a smile.
It's hard to imagine Boozer, 33, playing a drill sergeant in a movie, much less being one in real life.
But that's exactly what the Columbia native has done for part of his career. And later this year, the world will get to see Boozer as a drill sergeant in the movie Cherry, which is produced by the Russo brothers, best known for Marvel's Avengers series.
"Cherry" is a movie about the true story of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who robs banks after returning from Iraq and develops an opioid addiction, according to media reports.
Although he said the actors and staff on the set were blown away by his ability to both act and be a drill sergeant, he insists there is nothing special about him.
"I'm just 87, just unleaded," Boozer often jokes, referring to the octane level of regular gas. "I'm not premium."
His wife has heard the line so many times she rolls her eyes.
"I just had a smidgen of opportunity and I made the most of it," Boozer said.
Boozer, a 16-year Army veteran who graduated from Lower Richland High School in 2004 and now is a soldier at Fort Jackson, was originally supposed to be just a military consultant to make sure basic training was accurately portrayed. He got the job because one of his friends, whom he worked with while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, called him and asked if he would be a military advisor on Cherry.
He was supposed to train actors how to act like drill sergeants and train extras to act like recruits. He had eight hours to teach them the first three weeks of basic training.
"It's not just about yelling," Boozer said of being a drill sergeant. "It's about coaching, training, mentoring."
Boozer was so "in the zone" while training the actors and extras, he didn't realize he was being filmed. A director was so impressed by what he saw that he offered Boozer a role as Drill Sergeant Rivera.
"They never gave me lines for the movie," Boozer said. "All of my lines in the movie are me talking, me just being a drill sergeant."
The movie spreads awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly called PTSD, and that's something close to Boozer's heart.
Boozer was diagnosed with "severe PTSD" after his three tours in Iraq: 2004, 2007 and 2010, he said. He talked openly about perhaps his worst moment in the war, when a wounded child died in his arms, and about how his PTSD took such a toll on him that he contemplated suicide.
Through confronting the triggers of his PTSD – one of which is when a child is in danger – and by having a strong support system, namely his wife, he has been able to cope with his PTSD.
"Anybody can have PTSD. It comes from anything traumatic," Boozer said.
Since Boozer's PTSD diagnosis and since surviving suicidal thoughts, Boozer now gives everyone he meets a hug.
"You never know whose life you can change with a hug," Boozer said. "We can change the world by being better people."
Boozer plans to finish his 20 years in the military before pursuing an acting career, he said. Though, it hasn't stopped him from getting an agent, an IMDB (International Movie Database) page and the Russo brothers' contact information.
Since Cherry was shot, he said he has received "hundreds" of requests to audition for movies and shows, but he's focus, for now, is still on the Army.
"When you start something, you finish it," Boozer said of his military service. "Hollywood can wait three or four more years."
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