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The real men behind ’13 Hours’ film say many misunderstand Benghazi

When Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Tiegen were in Chicago recently to promote “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” they took the opportunity to address misconceptions Americans have about the attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on his team.

Geist and Tiegen were two of the private military security contractors on the scene who fought through the 13 hours the violence lasted. Their story was recounted in the bestselling book by Mitchell Zuckoff that has now been turned into a film by director Michael Bay (opening Friday).

Mark “Oz” Geist
Mark “Oz” Geist

From Geist’s point of view, the biggest misconception is “what happened that night on the ground. The story has been hijacked by politics — both on the left and on the right. It’s been spun by forces on both sides who want to make it what they want it to be, rather than focus on the sacrifice made by the four Americans who died that night.”

John “Tig” Tiegen
John “Tig” Tiegen

Tiegen agreed, adding many aspects of those critical 13 hours have been fabricated by political types, “including the story the ambassador was tortured, which was not true.”

Asked if he gets angry when hearing tales about Benghazi he absolutely knows is a lie, Geist said, “Those things did bother me and the rest of us — before we did the book [with Zuckoff]. But since then, I don’t get as angry as I used to. The book told the truth about what happened to us on the ground, both before the attack and afterward as well.

“If I head a story that’s not true, I just tell people to read the book. Then you’ll find out the truth.”

Geist is portrayed by actor Max Martini in the film, and Dominic Fumusa plays Teigen. “Watching our lives re-created in a film was kind of surreal,” Geist said. “But I was impressed by the amount of work they put into telling our story — how badly they wanted to get everything right, and that goes for Michael Bay in particular.”

Teigen added, “Each of the actors who played us contacted us well before filming began. They spent hours getting all kinds of details about our lives, and not just what happened that night.

“They want to absorb the full aspect of who we were. … It was strange but impressive they took the time to do that kind of research.”

Geist laughed, “It’s just weird when you are the subject that’s being researched!”

As for Bay, Geist called him “a machine. He sees what he wants and you can tell a good leader by how he operates around the people he leads. He can be brash at times, but you sometimes have to be brash to get the best out of people.”

Asked for his favorite moment of being on the set of famed “Transformers” filmmaker Bay, the understated Teigen quipped, “It had to be when Optimus Prime showed up one day!”