Jim Burnstein thought he had heard all of his friend Mike Wright's best war stories from his time in Vietnam until his friend told him about the time he went AWOL.
For Wright, mayor pro tem for the City of Plymouth, his AWOL experience was out of necessity—lodging costs were too high while on R&R in Hawaii and he and a friend had to find cheaper living. For Burnstein, a screenwriter from Plymouth Township, his friend's story provided enough inspiration to be his next big idea for a movie.
While the events in Love and Honor—currently on video on demand on DirecTV and available Feb. 14 on major VOD services—differ from Wright's actual AWOL experience, the basis of a soldier going AWOL while on R&R was a suitable starting point for Burnstein.
In the film version, a young soldier in Vietnam gets a Dear John letter from his girlfriend, so he and a friend—based on Wright—go AWOL to win her back and end up in Ann Arbor, where much of the movie was filmed.
"I really don't care what really happened," Burnstein said of the actual circumstances of Wright's leave. "I know what should have happened."
The film stars Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games), Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies), Austin Stowell (Dolphin Tale), Aimee Teegarden (TV's Friday Night Lights), Chris Lowell (The Help, TV's Private Practice) and former Michigan State basketball star-turned-actor Delvon Roe. Hemsworth's character, Mickey Wright, is based on Wright, who also served as a technical adviser on the film.
With Love and Honor, Burnstein drew from his own experience as a Vietnam protester and sets the romantic drama with a backdrop of 1969's anti-war protests in Ann Arbor.
"It was such a classic movie idea," Burnstein said.
Burnstein said the VOD rollout for Love and Honor is an easier way for the film to reach wider audiences and build word-of-mouth buzz before its March 22 theatrical release in select cities. Similar models have been effective for such films as Richard Gere's Arbitrage and Kirsten Dunst's Bachelorette.