A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Patriot Profile: Michael Strobl

By Colleen Kearney Rich on November 1, 2010

Michael Strobl

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.”

This is an expanded version of the story that appeared in the Fall 2010 Mason Spirit.


  1. Michael isn’t the only one close to Kevin Bacon. Theater professor Heather MacDonald actually directed him in a one-man play that she wrote.

    Comment by Charles Mann — November 23, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  2. That was in 2002. I also wrote about that. You can find that here.


    Bacon’s wife, Kyra Sedgwick, saw a production of _An Almost Holy Picture_ at Princeton and thought it would be perfect for her husband. McDonald was there for opening night. I remember seeing photos of her with the Bacons, but they don’t appear to have been featured in the Gazette article.

    Comment by Colleen Kearney Rich — November 24, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  3. sir i want thank you for your service and writing about your taking chance home. it was the best movie i’ve seen. i’m a vet and i’m with the honor guard unit of amvets
    we do it at veteran funeral not active members.but with active or even old vets they always play taps after they fire. i watched that part of the tape 3 times i thought i’d missed it the first time. was there a reason they didn’t play taps? thank you wayne

    Comment by wayne wallace — November 25, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

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