Director Clint Eastwood was impressed with Beach's performances in smaller roles, but it was his audition tape that sold the acclaimed filmmaker on Beach's ability to play Ira Hayes, one of the Marines who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi during World War II. Eastwood said, "...He did a reading on tape and it was very good. You could see a lot of possibilities there. I hired him and he turned out to be even better than I expected. Ira Hayes was a complex person, a person who did sharecropping, a kid from Arizona who went to the Marine Corps, suddenly he's in the Marine Corps and he's got a uniform and he meets a lot of friends. He found sort of a family in the Marine Corps. He liked it to the point where he wanted to stay there."
Playing Such a Complex Man: Part of my research was just mostly tapping into the horrors of war," explained Beach. "I needed to get some sort of connection to carry the weight on my shoulders. When you watch what I do in the film, there's a heaviness that he has. There's always the constant reminder of what I've lost and how horrific it was. I found that Ira, this man just couldn't hold it. He was always wanting to express it, but he couldn't. You could see it in his eyes when he looks at you; there's that something there. That's what I fell into. When you fill yourself up with so much, it's hard to look at someone and not hide that. That was Ira. He couldn't hide it.
Filming Flags of Our Fathers Took a Toll on Adam Beach: Coming into it one of my best friends passed away. In the middle of it my grandma passed away, so I had a huge heaviness that carried me through it. I couldn't mourn for any of them because I was working and I had to wait until the job was done. But the affect of that heaviness is definitely there.
When you see me doing the hitchhiking scenes, we're getting in the van to shoot the shot and I got a phone call from my dad. I said, 'Hey, pops, how is it going?' He said, 'Grandma just died.' This water wanted to come out and I stopped it and I said, 'Pops, I'll talk to you later. I have to finish this scene.' I walked into the van and Clint [Eastwood] said, 'Are you okay?' I said, 'I just found out that my grandma just died.' 'Do you want to take a break?' I said, 'No. No. Lets finish this scene. I'll deal with it when this movie is done. I have a job to do.' So when you see me in that scene, there's that look. That look was everything that I was carrying that day and throughout the rest of it.
Analyzing His Character: Asked if he thought Ira Hayes suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome or if his research led him to believe it was something more complicated than that, Beach replied, I think that there is a certain part of your mind and body that can take all that emotionally. I remember one time when I felt an anxiety for the first time and it was when I was going through my divorce and the fear of losing my kids. There was a day that I got up from the couch and I almost fell over. My friends were like, 'Are you okay?' I said, 'I can't breathe.' They sat me down and then I looked and I saw myself underneath the pool table wanting to hide. I said, 'Guys, lets get out of here. I have to go.' That night I kept on wanting to get under the table and hide. I was sitting next to my buddy who said, 'Dude, you're going through an anxiety thing here. You're going through something here.' He said, 'You can't control it. Don't control it. Just let it go, whatever you're going through.' I told him about my kids. So if you take that little bit and you amp it up with your best friend begging for his life and hundreds and thousands of bodies amongst you, thats post traumatic syndrome to the nth degree. I mean, what do you do with that? I mean, I don't know what to call that. There's got to be another name for that. I don't know how any of our veterans got through it. It's mind boggling.