Bradley Cooper in a scene from American Sniper.
Bradley Cooper in a scene from American Sniper. Keith Bernstein

The story behind "The Legend" in Eastwood's American Sniper

CHRIS Kyle rose to fame as America's most lethal sniper.

But there was much more to the man, says screenwriter Jason Hall.

Hall got to know the Navy Seal, who earnt the nickname "The Legend" for his deadly accuracy over four tours of service during the Iraq War, while penning the script of American Sniper.

The Clint Eastwood-directed biopic stars Bradley Cooper and is partly based on Kyle's bestselling autobiography.

The film is nominated for six Oscars including Best Adapted Screenplay, Hall's first Academy Award nod.

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.
Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper. Keith Bernstein

Hall met Kyle in 2010, nearly two years before the publication of American Sniper, and spent many hours with the Texan and his wife Taya.

Tragically, just days after Hall submitted his first draft of the script, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range where he was trying to help counsel a returned soldier reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I got an insight into how he felt about things and he shared several stories that weren't included in the book for one reason or another," Hall tells APN.

"I turned in the script and he was murdered two days later. It was tragic and it didn't make sense. You get close to your characters (as a writer), but I'd also got close to him. I felt this man changing and to me that was the remarkable part."

While Kyle's autobiography is a portrait of a man still wearing his "war paint", Hall says he wanted the film to focus on his return home and his gradual, challenging adjustment back to civilian life.

"There is a certain voice that they capture in the book and that voice was this guy just back from war. He's unapologetic, almost to the point of being a little belligerent," he says.

"That wasn't the Chris Kyle I knew at the end of his life. That book really captured this man who was still at war, which was very much what I found when I met Chris in 2010. He was just back from Iraq and he had been fighting or training for the past decade. It took him a long time to acclimate and find his way back."

Hall says Cooper's performance gave him goosebumps on set.

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.
Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper. Keith Bernstein

Cooper trained with Navy Seals and gained 18kg for the role. But it was his attention to the details of Kyle's personality, habits and ticks that impressed Hall.

"He got his body there and the voice and all of that, but to me that was the least impressive part. He captured the essence of Chris," he says.

"When Taya walked out of the movie for the first time I was waiting outside the theatre and I was nervous for many reasons. She fell into my arms crying and she said, 'I don't know how he did it. I just spent two hours with my husband'.

"For a widow that's a strong thing to say. What a gift he gave her."

Cooper is nominated for Best Actor at next month's Oscars and won Best Actor in an Action Movie at Friday's Critics' Choice Awards.

Critics have various interpretations of the film, but Hall says it's not a commentary on the politics behind the Iraq War.

"This is a picture of what we send our men and women off to do," he says.

"The picture of that turmoil is not Chris's turmoil alone. It's the turmoil of every solider you send off to war.

"I felt by telling the personal experience of Chris Kyle we could tell every soldier's story."

American Sniper opens nationally on Thursday.


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