‘Hunter Killer’ actor Zane Holtz stops by UT ROTC training

Savannah J Salazar

Recently, actor and Austinite Zane Holtz led his team toward enemy lines, meticulously crawling through the trees and mud on the fields of Camp Mabry. But it’s not a movie he’s in — it’s UT ROTC training. 

Holtz stopped by Camp Mabry after the premiere of director Donovan Marsh’s “Hunter Killer,” a military thriller adapted from Don Keith and George Wallace’s novel “Firing Point,” to spend an afternoon in training. For his role as SEAL sniper Paul Martinelli, Holtz read books such as “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson and spent time with professional trainers. Now, the UT ROTC got a chance to show Holtz a taste of what they do.

Upon Holtz’s arrival, the students assigned him as alpha team leader and set up training for a squad attack drill — no bullets, just paintballs. The teams were briefed as the students explained to Holtz their most common drill. 

Holtz and the ROTC students had to stealthily crawl and communicate their commands through whispers, shouts and hand motions. Kenwoo Kim, government junior and ROTC member, said the drill is meant to attack the enemy using one line to flank and the other to lay down fire. 

“Zane was my alpha team leader, so he was assaulting with me,” Kim said. “It was good to work with him. He picked up pretty quickly. I told him what to do and he did it extremely well — got his people in line and cut through.” 

Holtz said undergoing military training with UT ROTC differed from working on the movie set. On the set of “Hunter Killer,” he worked with three to four castmates at a time, and he played the stumbling underdog. For the ROTC drill training, he served as the alpha team leader for around 15 experienced cadets. 

“We didn’t do anything quite as extensive as (ROTC training),” Holtz said. “(On the movie), we were working in a smaller group. The situations were a little bit different. This is very, very eye-opening, and what these guys are doing out here is truly awesome.” 

While Holtz had some military training for “Hunter Killer,” movies are understandably dramatized, Kim said. He said their work in ROTC isn’t accurately portrayed in film, but it doesn’t mean the movies aren’t enjoyable. In fact, Kim said seeing Holtz on screen the night before working with him on the field was anawesome experience. 

“It’s so interesting to watch (military movies) because in the movies, it looks all nice and flashy,” Kim said. “Getting an actor from (the movie) here in the field is cool. He did well, and it’s good to see that what he learned on set translated to the training here.”

After every drill, the cadets are evaluated based on their performance. Quinn Blazek, international relations and global studies sophomore, co-led the briefing of Holtz’s team.

“Going into (the training), it was a little difficult to have someone in charge who wasn’t completely familiar with our standard operating procedure,” Blazek said. “But (Holtz) caught on super quickly. He was willing to learn and was so helpful and took charge in the leadership role, which was awesome to see.”