By Clark Collis
August 15, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT
Giles Keyte
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Most directors try to prevent actors from fighting. But while shooting the fictional WWII tank movie Fury, David Ayer had his five stars — Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal, and Michael Peña — start each day by attempting to beat the crap out of one another. ”We put them through martial-arts training and physical combat classes,” says Ayer (End of Watch). ”It’s a great ice-breaker for actors. There’s something very honest about being punched in the face.” Despite all the famous — and hopefully undamaged — faces in the cast, producer John Lesher says the real star is Fury itself, a 30-ton gun-on-tracks ”played” by an antique Sherman tank. ”It has such personality,” he says. ”It’s just this beast.”

Tanks For Everything
Though the film is set in Germany, it was shot in the U.K., partly because of the large number of antique tanks in its museums and private collections. ”They’re very temperamental,” says producer John Lesher about the now-70-year-old vehicles. In all, 10 vintage tanks were used in Fury.

Practice, Practice
Prior to shooting, the five lead actors went to boot camp for simulated tank exercises. ”Targets in the field would pop up out of nowhere,” says military adviser David ”Sting” Rae. ”They’d have to spot it, react to it, come up with a gunnery order. They [acquired] muscle memory very, very quick.”

Fast And Fury-Ous
David Ayer’s End of Watch star Michael Peña plays Fury’s driver and often operated the tank for real during production. ”He’s a really good driver,” says Ayer, who co-wrote the script for the original Fast and the Furious. ”He was the guy I went to when I needed the tank to hit a certain mark.”

Paint Job
Fury is a fictional story, but Ayer was obsessed with historical accuracy. How obsessed? ”I have photos of him painting the tanks the color that he wanted,” says Logan Lerman, who plays a wet-behind-the-ears soldier on the tank crew. ”He’s a maniac — we were all maniacs on that set.”

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