All the fuss over American Sniper – the Oscar buzz, the red-carpet premieres, the political debates – was not real-life sniper Chris Kyle’s thing, says his friend, actor Dean Cain.
“It would be absolutely and completely surreal and strange to him,” Cain tells PEOPLE. “And he’d probably want to go fishing. I’m not kidding. He’d go horseback riding. He’d want to do anything but be in the public eye.”
“But,” Cain adds, “if it was able to help his fellow servicemen, Chris would be fine.”
The Navy SEAL and the former Lois and Clark star became tight when they were paired in 2012 to perform military-style operations on the NBC competition show Stars Earn Stripes. They played to benefit The Wounded Warrior Project.
Kyle, who was killed on a Texas gun range in 2013 while helping a troubled fellow veteran, “was a very, very modest guy,” says Cain. “He was self-deprecating.”
When asked about his distinction as the most lethal sniper in American history, “[Chris] just would say, ‘I’m not that good. There are guys in my own unit that are better shots than me. I just happened to be in the right spot.”
Cain laughs as he recalls being so exhausted during one mission on Stars Earn Stripes that he dropped his ammunition crate. “I was just done. And I apologized profusely to Chris. He didn’t want to lose, I promise you. But he was like, ‘Man, on this one mission, we were getting shot at and I was so tired, I was almost ready to let them shoot me. There’s no honor lost in that. We all get tired. We all get scared.’ ”
As for Kyle’s combat experience, Cain says, “There wasn’t any glory in killing people for him. He said it was about all the guys he couldn’t save.”
“My first reaction was anger and you know, maybe I could have been more eloquent,” Cain says now. “But it felt like it deserved that kind of response. I stand by what I said.”