Based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL, prolific sniper Chris Kyle, America Sniper gives insight into how war affects those fighting
In the opening scene of Clint Eastwood’s new war drama American Sniper, the audience watches as Bradley Cooper is perched high on a building in an Iraq war zone. Through a scope he spots an Iraqi woman and her young son.
The mother seems to hand a grenade to the boy and suddenly the 10-year-old runs toward a marine convoy making a sweep of the area. Cooper’s character has to decide if it indeed was a grenade and whether to shoot the boy dead, or risk watching the marines get blown up.
It’s dramatic, but not far from the truth.
It’s a similar scenario Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who went on to become the most prolific sniper in US military history with 160 confirmed kills during four tours of Iraq, faced on one of his first missions days after the invasion of Iraq.
“My whole body, my stomach, just turned,” Cooper, recalling the scene with the mother and child, says.
Cooper underwent three months of sniper training.
“But it was the first time I was behind the scope when we weren’t doing target practice,” Cooper says.
“Then I saw the two actors in the scope.
“I moved the gun away and said, ‘We can’t shoot the scene with them there’.
“The gun wasn’t loaded, but I had a glimpse of what a soldier has to go through.”
Eastwood, Cooper, actress Sienna Miller and screenwriter Jason Hall had more than a glimpse into the life of Kyle, who penned the best-selling book American Sniper about his experiences in Iraq. Kyle, his wife Taya and their two young children welcomed them into their Texas home.
In a tragic twist, the day after Hall turned the script into Eastwood and Cooper, who are producers on the film, Kyle was killed at a shooting range.
“Taya embraced us a few days after the funeral and she said, ‘If you guys are going to do this you need to get it right because this is going to play a part in for better or worse on how our kids remember their father’,” Hall says.
“She opened her heart to us and gave us this other side of her husband.
“What we learned was if you want to know who a man is you don’t ask the man, you ask his wife.”
That opening scene was particularly striking for Taya.
“I know that first shot, he didn’t want to do it,” Taya says of her husband, who became so prolific on the battlefield the enemy put a US$80,000 bounty on his head.
“A woman and a child? Are you kidding me?
“He was mentally prepared to shoot a man ... he forced him into a situation where he had to make a choice – he lets these Marines die or he swallows hard and has to do it.
“It hurt him and it pissed him off.”
Kyle Gallner and Bradley Cooper in
based on Chris Kyle.