Since his 2013 appearance on Animal Planet’s “Rhino Wars,” Oro Valley resident and retired Navy Seal Craig “Sawman” Sawyer has been keeping plenty busy.
In one of his latest ventures, Sawyer has stepped in front of the Hollywood cameras alongside actor Casper Van Dien, commonly recognized for his character “Johnny Rico” in the film “Starship Troopers.”
After spending the bulk of his career doing special ops military work, and later, as a security contractor for such names as U.S. Sen. John McCain, Sawyer began working as a consultant for filmmakers in need of someone with expertise in military tactics.
Sawyer has worked on the sidelines for a number of films, training actors like Jack Osbourne (“Hollyoaks”), Matthew Marsden (“Black Hawk Down”), Michael Broderick (“G.I. Joe”), and Zoe Saldana (“Colombiana”).
Thanks to his networking, Sawyer landed his latest role as a hard-nosed Special Forces Master Sergeant in the film “Leap,” likely due for release in 2015.
Van Dien stars in the film as a veteran facing the struggles of reconnecting with his family after returning home from duty.
The film is the second in Sawyer’s acting career, but he says the transition into the film industry has come with surprising ease, given his background.
“TV shows or films come together a lot like a special ops mission does in the military,” said Sawyer. “You have numerous people working toward the same end goal, and people have very specific jobs. If everyone works together, you get a desired end product.”
Sawyer acknowledged that being on camera has taken some getting used to, but adds that he has had quality coaching from professionals like Van Dien, who has appeared in almost 100 films.
“Casper and I would sit and talk about acting technique, and he’d say, ‘Saw, you’ve already lived this stuff. What you’ve got is more valuable than acting experience. Just be who you are. He is a great, laid back guy, and he was great to work with.”
Van Dien also encouraged Sawyer to deviate from the script if a line didn’t feel realistic, making the experience that much more comfortable for him.
Sawyer said he would gladly entertain the possibility of additional movie roles should an invite be extended.
Sawyer’s popularity in the military and entertainment industries has continued to gain him national attention. He was recently made a public figure on Facebook, where he has over 53,000 likes. There, he often shares products he has endorsed, be it weaponry or apparel. He also sells t-shirts on his website, tacticalinsider.com, which help fund anti-poaching efforts in South Africa, where “Rhino Wars” was filmed.
The show has since cancelled, but Sawyer is hoping to continue the anti-poaching efforts.
“I’ve gathered a team of tier-one operators that are second to none,” said Sawyer. “We have the proper assets, intelligence, drones, tactical vehicles, laser, thermal imaging, and weapons. We are just waiting on a few pieces of the puzzle, politically, and through Hollywood, before we start.”
In “Rhino Wars,” Sawyer and his team fought off poachers – sometimes to the death – with the hopes of reducing the killing of rhinos for their horns, which many in the region falsely believe have medicinal value.
Sawyer also uses social media to sometimes promote his political views. Asked his thoughts on the current immigration crisis, Sawyer called it a “tragedy.”
“You’ve got these women and children who have been led to believe they can make their journey to the U.S., and walk into the country and be taken care of, and that’s not the case,” said Sawyer, adding that the issue has become too political, when really it’s black and white.
“You have people that say if you want it done the right way, you’re anti-immigration, and that’s a lie,” he said. “The deception is ugly. If I were president today, I would send an international message that you are not to come here illegally. It’s dangerous, people suffer, and we have a proper, legitimate way to handle immigration.”
That said, Sawyer won’t be running for office anytime soon, though he said it is something he has considered in the past.
His family, he said, will be the priority in any decision he makes.
“I’ve passed up opportunities to make a lot of money and sell out,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of money, and my family has stuck by me through thick and thin – and mostly thin – and so I’m always going to choose a lifestyle that I want my family around.”