Jason Hall, the screenwriter of “American Sniper,” says that while the movie features harrowing scenes of combat, he also set out to convey the toll of the Iraq War on its central figure, Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL considered to be the most lethal sniper of the modern American military.
While there has been some criticism that the movie glorifies some of the deadly battles as the U.S. fought insurgents during its occupation of Iraq, Hall, in an interview with Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM this week, says that it’s countered by the movie’s focus on the personal life of Kyle and other fellow soldiers.
“The cost is man, the toll is man, and it’s this man and every other soldier that fights,” Hall says. “If we understand that, maybe we won’t be so hasty into jumping into war, and if we understand that, maybe we’ll find a way of welcoming [veterans] home better.”
Hall said that he initially “didn’t totally understand” the war in Iraq, but coming from a family with a military background, he understood that, once U.S. military action began there, it was important to support the soldiers. “I’m very aware those soldiers don’t choose their war; war chooses them,” he said.
Director Clint Eastwood has said that he was opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which may be a surprise given his history of support for Republican candidates (and appearance at the 2012 GOP convention).
Hall, meanwhile, says that “American Sniper” may generate different reactions from different moviegoers, as well as provoke debate over the American experience in Iraq. He says the movie is “a new perspective of a war we are still trying to understand,” because of its focus on the soldiers.
In developing the script, the first challenge Hall had was gaining Kyle’s trust. Their first meeting wasn’t going so well until Hall took an unusual action: He put one of Kyle’s friends in a headlock.
Hall describes his final contact with Kyle in 2013, just as he was turning in the first draft of the screenplay. The next day, Kyle was murdered at a Texas shooting range by a veteran he was trying to help.
Variety awards editor Tim Gray talks about how the Oscar race has taken on some of the characteristics of a campaign war room. The controversy over the depiction of Lyndon Johnson in “Selma” is just the latest in a line of whispering campaigns that seem to try to taint the competition. “Hollywood has a history of bad mouthing their competitors, especially this year because it is a wide open year,” Gray says. “Nothing is a sure bet.”
Variety‘s David Cohen and U.S. News’ Nikki Schwab talk about the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in France and whether the threat to free speech extends to even milder forms of protest against controversial Hollywood content.