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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Watch the "Legend" for "American Sniper"

This movie is beautifully directed by Clint Eastwood. Truly, a masterpiece one should never missed. I am wishing that Bradley Cooper will win an award or nomination for his role as Chris Kyle the "American Sniper". I realized that all soldiers out there are the unsung heroes of our time. I left the movie house with a heavy heart, see for yourself why.

From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield.  But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms.  His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.”  However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents.  He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.

The real Chris Kyle

Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.”  But upon returning to his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.

A two-time Oscar nominee for his work in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” Cooper heads the cast, which also includes Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban and Keir O’Donnell.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.  The autobiography was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, 13 of those at number one.

The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan.  Tim Moore, Jason Hall, Sheroum Kim, Steven Mnuchin and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.

Eastwood’s behind-the-scenes creative team includes Oscar-nominated director of photography Tom Stern (“Changeling”); Oscar-nominated production designer James J. Murakami (“Changeling”) and production designer Charisse Cardenas; Oscar-winning editor Joel Cox (“Unforgiven”) and editor Gary D. Roach; and costume designer Deborah Hopper.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents in Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, A Mad Chance Production, A 22nd & Indiana Production, “American Sniper.”  The film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.


“…I have to tell you: it’s not the people you saved that you remember.  It’s the ones you 
couldn’t save…  Those are the faces and situations that stay with you forever.”
Chris Kyle, from the book American Sniper

Chris Kyle might have been just one of the millions of veterans who have served were it not for a statistic.  He emerged from the war in Iraq as the most lethal sniper in the history of the U.S. military, but the filmmakers of “American Sniper” knew it was equally if not more important to explore the man behind the numbers.

Director/producer Clint Eastwood offers, “I have done war stories before, but this was exciting to me because it was a cross between Chris’s exploits in combat and the personal aspects of his life, which made him even more interesting.  It shows the toll war takes on a person but also the pressure it puts on the whole family.  It’s good to be reminded of what’s at stake when people are sent into war and to acknowledge the sacrifices they make, so I thought that made it an especially significant story to tell.”
Bradley Cooper, who stars in the title role and also served as a producer on the film, adds, “In some ways, it’s a universal story about what most veterans have to go through—dealing with the seesaw of being in a war zone and then suddenly coming home to a ‘normal’ life.  That was very moving to me.  I liked the fact that it wasn’t as much of a war movie as it was a character study.  And if you look at Clint Eastwood’s films, like ‘Unforgiven,’ ‘Gran Torino,’ ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’…they are all complex character studies, albeit with very different backdrops.  So he was absolutely the right director to tell this story in a very raw, truthful way.”

The actor goes on to observe that “American Sniper” and the human drama at its center fit the Eastwood canon: exploring the nature of men for whom violence and justice become inexorably intertwined.  “Chris was not a violent man—in fact, far from it—but when called upon, he did not shrink from his duty because he believed the cause is just.  His heroism wasn’t just in the number of ‘kills’ he had in war; it was also in how he was ultimately able to confront the intangible wounds of war, not only within himself but on his family.”

The screenplay for “American Sniper” is based on the book of the same name, co-written by Kyle (with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice).  However, screenwriter and executive producer Jason Hall first spoke to Kyle about bringing his story to the big screen before the book was even written.  He recalls, “I was interested in the journey of a warrior of his caliber…what compelled him to fight and what it cost him.  We know that war is hell, but in this film I wanted to show that war is human.”
Eastwood’s longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz says, “We were intrigued by Jason’s take because it was so well-balanced and offered a more complete picture of Chris and what he went through, both on the battlefront and on the homefront.”

Chris Kyle lived according to a simple code: God.  Country.  Family.  They weren’t just words to him; they were the foundation for a life devoted to duty, service and an unwavering dedication to something greater than himself.  The extraordinary demands of his job as a Navy SEAL, as well as the burdens that placed on those who loved him most, especially his wife, Taya, ultimately forced him to re-examine the order of those three precepts, but never his commitment to them.

Eastwood attests, “Chris grew up with that mantra.  It was also instilled in him from childhood that there are some people who are born to be protectors, and he knew it was his calling to be one of them.  That’s part of what drove him to keep going back to do more tours, even though he was faced with the quandary of leaving his family behind.  He was just one of those guys who was always willing to go above and beyond.”

Kyle’s reputation had preceded him home and first caught the attention of producers Peter Morgan and Andrew Lazar, as well as Hall.  Morgan notes, “We heard about all his accolades as a Navy SEAL and obviously knew what a great patriot he was, but the more we delved, what kept coming across was what a genuinely good person he was…how loved and admired he was by his family, friends and those who served alongside him.  We wanted to form a story around the emotional themes of his life, the different things that drove him.”

Prior to starting work on the script, Hall traveled to Texas to meet with Kyle.  “He wasn’t very talkative at first,” the writer says, “but by the time I left I felt like I’d worked out a way to tell the story and earned his trust.  Then, as I was walking out the door, he said, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re writing a book.’  The book seemed like it could be an obstacle at first, but it ended up being a fantastic resource.”

Producer Andrew Lazar confirms, “We were committed to telling this story long before there was a best-selling book.  But because of the book, we had the benefit of Chris’s point of view, which, of course, really informed what we did in developing the film and in imparting his story to the best of our ability.”  

Still, there was another side of Kyle that Hall had seen firsthand and that he wanted to capture in the screenplay.  “It would have been easy to make this film entirely about his time in the war, but Chris was a more complicated person than that.  The book was written less than a year after he came home, so he still had that armor on.  It didn’t really present the softer side of Chris—the loving husband and father—and some of the more desperate moments he and Taya had struggled through in the brief times between those four deployments.  And while this war seemed so far away, the families of soldiers were more connected than ever by use of satphones.  Taya heard some terrifying things on those calls, but that was her lifeline to him, and I also believe her voice helped him find his way home.  I don’t think I fully understood who Chris was until I met Taya.”

“There is a lot of intense action,” Eastwood says, “but the soul of the film and what drives the story are the relationships: between Chris and his brothers in arms and, in particular, between Chris and Taya, which is the most important relationship in the picture.  Chris was obviously crazy about her, but, by the same token, he was committed to fulfilling the demands his country was placing upon him.”

Sienna Miller, who portrays Taya Kyle, offers, “At its essence, this is a human story between two people: one of whom is doing these extraordinary, unimaginable things so far from home and the other who is trying to hold her family together.  Chris’s sense of duty was so immeasurably strong because of who he inherently was.  He believed if he was home with his family more people would die, and that’s a tremendous moral dilemma to be faced with.  As hard as it was for her, I think Taya understood his plight and was trying to be patient and supportive of her husband, but that can be a hard thing to navigate when children are involved and, inside, you’re imploding.  It made it a fascinating and poignant story to be part of and, having met Taya, I felt a responsibility to do it justice.”
Cooper, who underwent a complete transformation to portray the more physically imposing Kyle, shared that sentiment, but states, “I never felt burdened by the responsibility; I was only honored by it.  It seemed like a great opportunity to pay respect to his service and to that of other veterans.  I loved every moment of walking in his shoes, every moment of it.”

On February 2, 2013, an unimaginable tragedy turned the filmmakers’ sense of responsibility into a promise.  Chris Kyle—who had survived four dangerous tours of duty in Iraq and had devoted his post-war life to helping his fellow veterans—was murdered not far from his home on a shooting range in Texas, allegedly by a veteran he was trying to help.  “I had never met him at that point; I had only talked to him on the phone,” says Cooper, “and then, like that, he was gone.”

Following the funeral, Hall reached out to Taya and they spent many hours on the phone as she recounted her life with Chris.  “The film suddenly became one of the ways her children would remember their father and she wanted to get it right,” says Hall.  “It was not only therapeutic for her, it also allowed me to capture her voice in her own words.  She painted a picture of who he was before the war, the unspoken toll it took on him, and all the healing it took him to get back.”

Almost exactly one year later, Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper traveled to Texas to meet with Chris’s family, including Taya; his parents, Wayne and Debbie; and his brother, Jeff.  The director recalls, “It was vital for me to spend that time with them because we got a much better idea of who Chris was from his family, who are wonderful.  We came away with a combination of sadness over the loss of this remarkable man but even more enthusiasm about making this film.”

“We gave them our word that we were going to do right by Chris,” Cooper adds.  “And the truth is I really did feel like he was there.”

Taya Kyle confirms that the promise was fulfilled, noting, “I give all the credit to Jason for spending so much time digging deep and learning about all the layers of Chris, and to Clint and Bradley and everyone involved in the movie for so fully embracing that.  It is an added bonus for me to know that people will get a glimpse into the man that I loved and will always love, and to have that preserved on film.  This movie is a piece of Chris.  It is an accurate depiction of the man as a whole—not just the warrior, but the man—and I can’t ask for better than that.”

Cooper remarks, “When Chris says in the movie, ‘I’d lay down my life for my country,’ you know he means it.  And then to see the journey he goes on…  It doesn’t make him a martyr.  It doesn’t make him anything other than just a man.  But that’s the kind of man he was.”

*Photos are from Warner Bros. Pictures

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