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Interview with Steve Zahn, May 29, 2013

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Doug Boyd, Interviewer | 2013OH132 WW 401
Colonel Arthur L. Kelly American Veterans Oral History Collection | From Combat to Kentucky: Student Veteran Oral History Project

0:00No transcript.

0:00 - Interview Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Ok,well, we're here with Steve Zahn, this is Doug Boyd. We are going to do an oral history interview for the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries

Segment Synopsis: An introduction to the interview with Steve Zahn.

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0:43 - Brief biography

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Partial Transcript: If you would, begin by telling us a little bit about yourself

Segment Synopsis: Discusses childhood in Minnesota, his fascination with the military and his training as an actor at Harvard University and his transition into professional acting. Mentions the film "Reality Bites," his first film in 1993.

Keywords: Broadway; Gustavus Adolphus College; Institute for Advanced Theater Training at American Repertory Theater at Harvard University; Minnesota; New York City

Subjects: Actors--United States


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2:02 - Moving to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: You are also here in Kentucky, talk about that transition.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about meeting his wife Robyn Peterman and moving their family to Kentucky and his interest in Kentucky history.

Keywords: Historical markers; Kentucky history

Subjects: Kentucky


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4:42 - Lifelong interest in the military

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about Minnesota, a bit.

Segment Synopsis: Talks about developing a childhood interest in the military, a family trip to Gettysburg and his love for military movies. Remembers how he often pretended to be a soldier as a child. Specifically talks about the influence of a book about the Vietnam War that was so powerful that he made copies of the pages of the book and handed them out to people on the street. The importance of supporting veterans.

Keywords: Marines; Minnesota

Subjects: Childhood and youth Gettysburg National Military Park (Pa.)


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10:20 - Becoming a professional actor

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Partial Transcript: You actually made the call to go into acting as opposed to going into the military

Segment Synopsis: Talks about dropping out of school to pursue acting and how this came as no surprise to his parents. Discusses the influence of High School teachers and his experiences at the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. Discusses the transition from acting on stage to acting in movies.

Keywords: American Repertory Theatre, Harvard University; Ben Stiller; Encouragement from Parents; Ethan Hawke; Parents; Reality Bites (Film)

Subjects: Acting Acting--Study and teaching Harvard University High school teachers


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16:48 - Working in films

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Partial Transcript: So you've done a couple films, what was the first "War" film

Segment Synopsis: Talks about specific roles, including roles he did not get; and being typecasted into comedic roles. Specifically discusses the films "That Thing You Do" and "Rescue Dawn." Reflects on the advantages of being "typecasted." Talks about the research process for "Rescue Dawn," the decision to not do "Band of Brothers," and his hope for a role in "Saving Private Ryan." Discusses Werner Herzog's approach to filming "Rescue Dawn."

Keywords: Band of Brothers (Film); Comedy; Courage Under Fire (Film); Crimson Tide (Film); Dale Dye; Deiter Dangler; Duane W. Martin; Joyride (Film); Rescue Dawn (Film); That Thing You Do (Film); Tom Hanks; Werner Herzog

Subjects: Acting Comedy


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24:50 - LIfelong Interest in the military and acting

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Partial Transcript: You have this amazing story about...I like the idea of connecting it to playing "pretend" as a child, the story of the letter.

Segment Synopsis: Returns to the topic of early influences on his fascination with the military, watching "the World at War," and how as a child he loved to check out books about the military. Connects his early interest in military to his professional career as an actor.

Keywords: Lawrence Olivier; the National World War II Museum; The World at War (Documentary); Vietnam War; World War II

Subjects: Vietnam War World War, 1939-1945


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28:10 - Visiting the Troops in Iraq

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Partial Transcript: At some point, you've reached a level of fame

Segment Synopsis: Reflects on his role as a celebrity and his passion for serving and advocating for veterans. Discusses being invited by Pro Sports MVP for the "Ambassadors of Hollywood Tour" to Iraq to visit the troops. Talks about preparations for his visit; the journey to Iraq, flying in Blackhawk Helicopters.

Keywords: Blackhawk Helicopters; Camp Bucca; Iraq; Kuwait; Veterans

Subjects: Iraq War Veterans--Services for--United States


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38:33 - Into the Combat Zone

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Partial Transcript: Did you have a moment on that flight, thinking back on that again, that you realized that this wasn't pretend?

Segment Synopsis: Discusses details about his experience in Iraq, impressions of the cafeteria; his general excitement, and his interaction with the troops.

Keywords: Camp Bucca; Camp Ramadi; Iraq

Subjects: Iraq War


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Hyperlink: Video footage of the "Ambassadors of Hollywood" trip to Iraq.

42:38 - Interacting with the troops in Iraq: Part I

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Partial Transcript: I know you probably don't Google yourself, but those photos are online

Segment Synopsis: Describes personal interactions with the troops. Recalls shooting a .50 caliber gun; running in a July 4th race; Using humor to help boost moral. Tells a specific story about participating in a boxing match with a female officer.

Keywords: Iraq

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Hyperlink: Images of Steve Zahn interacting with the troops in Iraq.

48:27 - Interacting with the troops in Iraq Part II

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Partial Transcript: Camp Bucca was cool. And then just talking with these guys

Segment Synopsis: Reflects on the personal stories told and the friendships made during his visit. Talks about visiting "FOBs" (Forward Operating Bases).

Keywords: Al Asad Airbase; Camp Bucca; Forward Operating Base (FOB); Iraq; Korean Village; Veterans

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53:32 - Interacting with the troops in Iraq: Part III

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Partial Transcript: Did you ever have a moment when you were, kind of afraid?

Segment Synopsis: Recalls moments during his visit in Iraq, including a night interacting with British SAS troops. Describes visiting Sadaam Hussein's palace.

Keywords: Blackhawk Helicopter; Sadaam Hussein; the Green Zone

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58:01 - Boosting morale: An unforgettable trip

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Partial Transcript: Boyd: We had an interview come in, we did an interview with a gentleman, for this project, who was in a combat support role.

Segment Synopsis: Boyd and Zahn discuss the role of morale in the lives of the troops. Zahn describes his "mission," wanting to make people laugh. Tells a story about having dinner with a group of soldiers who had just returned from a mission where they lost troops and his efforts to engage them and boost their morale. Tells a powerful story about flying out of Iraq seated next to a woman who wept as the plane took off.

Keywords: Humor; Morale

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64:20 - Connecting with veterans back home

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and just having... Now, the beauty of that trip...now when I run into a vet, I have a doorway.

Segment Synopsis: Reflects on how his trip to Iraq has improved his ability to connect to veterans. Tells a story about interacting with veterans while working on the TV series Treme in New Orleans. Discusses activism and the importance of supporting the troops when they are both "clean" and when they are "dirty and broken."

Keywords: Morale; Transition; Veterans

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69:48 - Honoring Veterans: The Importance of Oral History

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Partial Transcript: I am definitely going to go on more trips

Segment Synopsis: Talks about how he wants to continue to serve the troops. Discusses the importance of doing projects like the Nunn Center's "From Combat to Kentucky Oral History Project." Zahn and Boyd discuss the importance of recording oral history.

Keywords: Oral history; student veterans; Veterans

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