The new Mark Wahlberg movie Lone Survivor is the remarkable true story of four US Navy SEALs on an ill-fated mission in Afghanistan in 2005. Due for release in the UK on 31 January, the film has already been praised by US reviewers for its brutally believable portrayal of heroism and sacrifice. Yet as remarkable true stories go, the film is rivalled by the biography of its executive producers, Remington Chase and Stepan Martirosyan, who emerged as Hollywood players in 2011 and have since become, they claim, the biggest independent financiers in town.
What their movie-industry colleagues did not know until very recently, however, was that Chase and Martirosyan had a spectacularly chequered past: on 2 January, LA Weekly published a detailed investigation into the pair’s history, uncovering their twin convictions for cocaine trafficking, Chase’s multiple aliases, and a shared history as federal informants.
In 1989 the Armenian-born Martirosyan, then a Soviet citizen, was detained at the US-Mexican border and accused of attempting to smuggle a duffel bag stuffed with cocaine into the US. He pleaded guilty, then denied the bag was his and tried to withdraw his plea. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, but had his conviction overturned on appeal and was released in 1992.
The next year in Florida, he was arrested again after agreeing to take part in a cocaine trafficking operation that turned out to be a sting by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Though he pleaded guilty at the time, Martirosyan today insists he was innocent
Remington Chase, an American former child actor, has gone by several aliases during his varied career. He was convicted of several petty offences as a young man before he, too, was caught agreeing to smuggle cocaine during a DEA sting in Florida in 1993. In the pair’s interview with LA Weekly, Chase also protested his innocence.
As recently as 2010, Chase was arrested for social security fraud, and is thought to have turned informant again to secure a quick release. LA Weekly explains how Chase helped police uncover a robbery plot in Los Angeles, whose prospective perpetrator then accused Chase and Martirosyan of having hired him to kill a man in Russia. The accusations proved unfounded.
In 2011, Chase and Martirosyan broke into the film business with the launch of their firm Envision Entertainment, which has since backed more than 10 movies, including Lone Survivor and two other Mark Wahlberg projects. The company is also helping develop screen adaptations of the Hasbro board games Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos.
The negative press has certainly done little to harm the success of Lone Survivor, which made $37.9m (£24.3m) at the US box office in its opening weekend – the second-largest January opening ever.