15 Facts About War Dogs: The Real Truth About Efraim Diveroli & David Packouz
It's been a hot second since their likenesses first came to life on the big screen, but for some reason, there's still a huge interest in Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz — and it's not really all that hard to understand why. These guys are crazy interesting. You can call Diveroli and Packouz a lot of things, but you can't call them boring.
The guys who were played by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in the 2016 film War Dogs are just as crazy in real life as their pot-smoking, gun-running movie counterparts. From profiting from war to spending time in the clink and getting caught up in lawsuits, the reality of the Diveroli/Packouz situation is as interesting (if not more interesting) than the film based on their lives.
Did we mention that one of them is also musically inclined? These guys are full of surprises.
Originally published August 2016. Updated November 2017.
In 2008, two years after the insurgency in Afghanistan escalated, The New York Times reported on a small, Miami-based company that had become the main supplier of weapons to the Afghan army. The company was AEY Inc., run by Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, both in their early 20s. One federal contract they received was worth as much as $300 million.
In 2011, journalist Guy Lawson wrote an article on Diveroli and Packouz for Rolling Stone. This article became the book Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History. It was the Rolling Stone article that independently caught the attention of director Todd Phillips and actor Jonah Hill. But when Hill tried to get the movie rights to the article, he discovered that Phillips' production company already had them. Luckily it all worked out.
Diveroli was indicted on several dozen counts of fraud and pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy, earning him four years in prison. While he was out on bail, he was further sentenced for possessing a weapon while out on bond. Eventually Diveroli had his prison sentence reduced for assisting in the investigation.
Packouz was also convicted of fraud in 2011, but he received a much lighter sentence of only seven months under house arrest. He admitted his remorse to a Miami judge for the "embarrassment, stress and heartache that I have caused," according to Rolling Stone. Though he took responsibility for his wrongdoing, he thinks the government made him a scapegoat for the Bush administration's questionable practices when giving out war contracts.
Efraim Diveroli decided to write a memoir about being the youngest ever international arms dealer called Once a Gun Runner. His ghostwriter, Matthew B. Cox, was one of Diveroli's fellow inmates in prison. They began the book while locked up, according to EfraimDiveroli.com. You can get your copy at Amazon.
Hill, primarily a comedic actor, claims that playing Diveroli was difficult at times. "I would say it wasn’t that fun a lot of the time to play [Efraim], although it might seem like it. I remember we were in Romania, and I was just really bummed out, and I told Todd [Phillips], 'I'm just sad playing this guy.' And he was like, 'But he’s such a great character.' I guess it's hard to play someone who is hurting a lot of people and deceiving people who trust them, not to bring some of that home with you. I definitely felt that when I was doing it, but for me, it's just a great character and a great challenge," he said in a Warner Bros. press interview.
Miles Teller had an easier time playing David Packouz, mostly because he could relate to him. "With David, when the movie starts, he’s completely unaware of what this business model is. David kind of acts like the audience in a way, because as Efraim is explaining it to him, the audience is beginning to understand the infrastructure of what these guys are gonna do. David starts out kind of aimless and directionless, and that’s not all that long ago [for me]. I was just really interested in the dynamic between David and Efraim and what that friendship was," according to the Warner Bros. press site.
Jonah Hill has played characters based on real-life people before, like Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street and Peter Brand in Moneyball, but he never got the chance to meet the real Efraim Diveroli. Hill told Metro News, "I would always prefer to meet the person, but if someone was playing me in a movie, I would give them the best version of myself. A lot of times when you meet the person, you end up having to be a really good editor, choosing what to include, but always I found meeting the people around them ends up being more helpful to me, because they are giving you a warts-and-all portrayal of the person at that time."
In 2006, the police were called when Diveroli and Packouz got into a fight with a valet parking attendant who refused to give Diveroli his car keys. According to the The New York Times, "A witness said Mr. Diveroli and Mr. Packouz both beat the man; police photographs showed bruises and scrapes on his face and back."
But the police also found a fake ID on Diveroli that said he was four years older than he really was, despite having turned 21, legal drinking age, the day before. According to the report, Diveroli said this about the fake ID: "I don't even need that anymore."
The War Dogs movie poster is inspired by the poster for the ultra-violent gangster film Scarface, starring Al Pacino, that was also set in Miami. References to Scarface are made throughout the entire film, implying that both Diveroli and Packouz looked up to the character Tony Montana and his gun-toting, outlaw lifestyle.