Major: PhD in Economics
Hometown: Stafford, Virginia
Semper Fi: In 2004, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl volunteered to escort home the remains of PFC Chance Phelps, a Marine killed in the Iraq War. Strobl kept a diary throughout the trip, which took him from Dover, Delaware, to Dubois, Wyoming. Those notes would eventually become the basis for the HBO film Taking Chance.
Going “Viral”: After Strobl concluded the mission, he wrote an essay titled “Taking Chance” from his notes and shared it with Phelps’s father. “I e-mailed it to some people who e-mailed it to others. It went viral at that point.” A condensed version of the essay first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle under the title “A Marine’s Journey Home.” Since then, it has appeared a number of times in newspapers throughout the country and has been anthologized in a number of books.
Making Movie Magic: In fall 2005, producer Brad Krevoy approached Strobl about turning the essay into a film. He also gave Strobl the first crack at writing the screenplay. “I got a hold of a few screenplays and copied the format. The movie’s director, Ross Katz, helped with subsequent drafts. It is not a documentary, but every scene does capture the spirit if not the actual events.” Strobl and Katz, who share writing credits, were nominated for an Emmy Award and won a Writers Guild of America Award for the script.
Bringing Home Bacon: Actor Kevin Bacon plays Strobl in the film. In preparation for his role, Bacon spent several days with Strobl, including coming to his house for dinner and spending time with his family. “I didn’t think he had to play ‘me’ or imitate my mannerisms. It really wouldn’t have mattered. But it mattered to him.” Friends and family say Bacon nailed it.
No Business Like Show Business: Strobl’s first foray into the film business was a positive one, and he has nothing but good things to say. “HBO is a great organization. Chance’s family and I had a number of concerns going into the project. [HBO and the producers] kept their promises and were outstanding from start to finish.”
Going Hollywood: Strobl, who is ABD (all but dissertation) in his economics degree program, plans to continue writing, including for the screen. “I do have an idea, and I have talked to the producers. I plan to keep writing. And I hope some of that will be on my dissertation.”