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Meet the real people behind ‘Patriots Day’

Mark Wahlberg as he filmed a scene for the movie "Patriots Day" at the 2016 Boston Marathon.Gretchen Ertl/ reuters

“Patriots Day” director Peter Berg’s movie about the Boston Marathon bombings, opens in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles on Dec. 21. The Hollywood film tells the story of that tragic day — April 15, 2013 — and the frightening aftermath as law enforcement fanned out to find those responsible. In the film, Boston native Mark Wahlberg plays Sergeant Tommy Saunders, a fictional character who is a composite of a couple of Boston cops who worked the Marathon and aided in the manhunt that followed. But “Patriots Day” depicts plenty of real-life people and their stories, including politicians, police officers, survivors, and the bombers. Here are a few:

Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, left, and actor John Goodman.AP, left, and Getty Images, right/Getty

Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis // John Goodman

Goodman is best known for his role on the sitcom “Roseanne,” but he’s made plenty of movies, too, including memorable roles in the Coen brothers films “The Big Lebowski” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and in, most recently, “10 Cloverfield Lane.”

“I have a lot of respect for John Goodman,” says Davis, who’s seen “Patriots Day” twice. “I was very happy with how he portrayed my character. . . . They really did get an enormous amount of detail” into the film. “It’s really well done.” Davis describes watching “Patriots Day” as a “very raw, emotional experience. . . .It’s certainly moving.”


Watertown police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese, left, and actor J.K. Simmons.Getty Images

Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese // J.K. Simmons

A longtime Hollywood character actor, Simmons won an Oscar for his performance in “Whiplash.”

Jeffrey Pugliese says he and Simmons spent a lot of time together, riding around Watertown and also working at the firing range on shooting techniques. On his birthday, Pugliese says, Simmons took him and his family to a Red Sox game and arranged for a message to be displayed on the Fenway scoreboard. “He’s really a nice guy. I’m glad they chose him to play me,” says Pugliese. Watching the movie was “very surreal,” he says, adding that he was impressed with director Peter Berg’s attention to detail. “The director and producers went above and beyond [the call of duty] making sure they got it right,” he says. “When I was on set, many times [Berg] would stop the action, in the middle of shooting, and ask me, ‘Jeff, is that how it went down?’ ” At one point, a stunt double was called in for an action scene, but Simmons opted to do it himself. “He said, ‘If Jeff went over the fence, I can go over the fence.’ ”


Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe/file

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans // James Colby

Colby, who grew up in Arlington, has appeared in the TV series “Limitless” and “Jessica Jones,” and had roles in films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Evans praises Colby for his work ethic and says he did his homework to “really get a sense of who I am.” To prepare for the role, Evans says, Colby spent time at the coffee shop where Evans is a regular and also met with his brothers. “He’s a good guy, an Arlington kid. Some people say I talk funny, and James tried to get my South Boston accent down good. . . . Obviously he’s bit heavier than me,” Evans said with a chuckle. But watching the film was emotional. “It brings it all back,” he said.

Actor Kevin Bacon, FBI agent Richard DesLauriers, and Anne Graham at the AFI Closing Night Screening of “Patriot’s Day” at TCL Chinese Theatre on Nov. 17.Getty Images for CBS Films

FBI agent Richard DesLauriers // Kevin Bacon

Bacon is a veteran of Hollywood who still may be best known for his breakout role in “Footloose,” but he’s been in dozens of films since, including a few — “Mystic River” and “Black Mass” — that brought him to Boston.


DesLauriers says director Peter Berg deserves credit for making a movie that puts the appropriate focus” on bombing victims, first responders, and law enforcement officers who helped find the people responsible. “[Berg] couldn’t portray every single victim or every one of the thousands of law enforcement officers, but Jessica [Kensky] and Patrick [Downes] are portrayed in a manner that’s gracious and tasteful and appropriate,” says DesLauriers. “And Mark Wahlberg’s character is sort of an everyman cop, representing all of the officers who labored so long in the days and weeks and months afterward.” In portraying a difference of opinion he had with former Police Commissioner Ed Davis over releasing photos of the Tsarnaev brothers, DesLauriers said the filmmaker took a tiny bit of artistic license, but the movie still “very accurately captures” the conversations between state and federal authorities in the days after the bombing. “It was the most intense week in my 26-year career — we were galloping along at a breakneck pace to find these guys — and the movie does a great job telling the story,” he says.

Patrick Downes (left) and Jessica Kensky.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky // Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan

Brosnahan’s credits include “House of Cards” and “The Blacklist.” British actor O’Shea appeared in the TV series “Madam Secretary.”

Newlyweds, Downes and Kensky were standing near the finish line when the bombs went off. Both lost limbs as a result of their injuries. “We were hesitant about participating in the movie, and we were very honest with [producer Michael] Radutzky and [director] Peter Berg about our concerns,” says Downes. “I don’t think either of us thought we were going to leave that meeting thinking this was something we were going to do — we’ve been relatively private and this was kind of stepping out for us,” says Kensky. But the couple were impressed with Berg’s desire to tell the story accurately and sensitively, and they think he’s done that. “We’re a very small part of this movie — a small representation of all the people affected — but it feels like our story comes through,” says Kensky. “[The movie] portrays a very happy time in our life. It documents a very beautiful, loving time when we were newlyweds and it feels good to share that and I’m grateful to have that onscreen.”


Actor Jimmy O. Yang.AFP/Getty Images

Dun Meng // Jimmy O. Yang

Yang is best known for his role as Jian-Yang in HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”

A Chinese-American, Meng was a student at Northeastern when the Tsarnaev brothers hijacked his vehicle in Cambridge. “This is a true story, an important story for us in Boston,” says Meng. “They reached out and told me how they were going to make the movie — based on the true story — and said I was going to be proud of it. After I watched it, I really did feel proud of it.” Before filming started, Meng says he and Yang talked on the phone and went out to dinner a few times. Recalling the carjacking, which is a harrowing scene in the film, Meng says it was terrifying. “If I made a mistake and they grab me, they could kill me or do anything they want,” he says. “I want to have the chance to come out of this alive.” Meng thinks “Patriots Day” delivers a powerful message: “Whatever happens, we can overcome it. We can take care of each other.”

Globe correspondent Carli Velocci contributed to this report