January 25, 2018 01:00 PM

Clint Eastwood made a bold decision in the casting for his latest movie, The 15:17 to Paris — he enlisted the three real-life heroes on whose story the film is based to play themselves.

In the featurette above, exclusive to PEOPLE, Eastwood and Paris train attack heroes Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler reveal what they hope is an empowering tale for everyone.

“It’s about the common man,” Eastwood says in the video, which also features footage from the film and behind-the-scenes shots of Eastwood directing the group. “Three guys that grew up together who were put in a position to act quickly. It’s an interesting story about regular people doing exceptional things.”

Anthony Sadler and Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Clint Eastwood, Alek Skarlatos
Mike Windle/Getty

Stone, who served in the military as a U.S. Air Force Airman First Class, says in the video that he hopes people who see the film recognize the fact that anyone can be a hero if they choose to do so.

“I’m hoping this movie gets people to step out of the bystander mentality, when you see something bad happening to someone, step up and do something,” he says. “The way I look at it is that I had an opportunity to do something good and I took it.”

Adds Skarlatos, an Army National Guard Specialist: “We’re just incredibly grateful that we survived that day.”

The movie is based on the book by the trio and Jeffrey E. Stern. In 2015,  the men came face-to-face with a suspected terrorist on the train holding more than 500 people. The gunman, equipped with several rounds of ammunition, began firing on the crowded train, prompting the men to act.

“At that point I ducked down,” Skarlatos told Britain’s Sky News in the wake of the incident. “[Stone] next to me ducked down.

“I just looked at Spencer and said, ‘Let’s go! Go!’ ”

They overpowered and disarmed the man and were thus launched into international headlines.

Watch the video above for more from Eastwood and Sadler and the making of the film.

The 15:17 to Paris opens in theaters Feb. 9.

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