Jeff Bauman never imagined he'd become an American hero, nonetheless, the center of a Hollywood film. But that's where life has taken the now 31-year-old following the 2013 Boston marathon bombings that left him a double amputee.
The unspeakable tragedy that thrust Bauman into the spotlight inspired him to write the memoir "Stronger" in 2014. That book spawned the creation of a new Hollywood film out in theaters September 22 featuring Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Massachusetts native describes the movie, also titled "Stronger," as a real and raw depiction of his long road to recovery since the attack.
"It was really authentic and real. It did remind me a lot of the last three years of my life. It's amazing."
Gyllenhaal says the movie's success depended on its ability to communicate the raw emotion felt by Bauman and his family. That's why he said it was so important to nail the small details, which included spending time with the Baumans and educating himself about prosthetics.
"I pride myself on my preparation and understanding the situation," he said. "I learned so much and prosthetics and so much about the healing process and rehabilitation process, so much about what it means to have a community around you, people who love you, who love you no matter what, with all of their faults."
Director David Gordon Green went to great lengths to ensure that the movie not only resonated with Bauman, but also with those who find themselves in challenging circumstances. He cast the actual nurses who helped change Bauman's first bandages in the hospital. The doctor's voice was even recorded by the real surgeon who helped treat Bauman--Dr. Kalish. Those production choices, Bauman says, made all the difference, describing the scene as the most powerful in the entire film.
"It's such a powerful scene in the movie because it shows so much," he told Circa. "It shows a lot of pain. It brought me back. I couldn't fight back the tears. It was really hard to see."
It was from that hospital room that Bauman also helped the FBI identify one of the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Despite his physical and emotional scars left from the attack just hours beforehand, Bauman was able to describe details to law enforcement that became pivotal in their manhunt. To this day, he still vividly remembers Tsarvaev's suspicious activity.
"I remember exactly what he was wearing. He was wearing a heavier jacket for the day. It was a warmer day. He was wearing a hoodie, like sunglasses and a cap. He wasn't taking pictures or clapping."
While the 'Stronger' film may have further pushed Bauman into the spotlight, he wants people to remember that he's just a regular guy who wants to focus on being a great dad to his toddler, Nora.
"I just want to be a solid person," he added. "[I want] people [to] know that I'm not Jake. I'm not out there to be famous, and be a lead actor."
And he hopes that his story connects him with people who are experiencing trying times.
"If I can do it, anybody can do it. That's what I want people to take out of it. I just want them to relate, and just know that they can get through it."
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