Minn. Former SEAL Talks about Friend, ‘American Sniper’

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

American Sniper fake baby: I run a child actor agency and it’s clear why they went for a dummy.

The box office hit raked in a staggering $90.2m in its opening weekend and has scored six Oscar nominations including one for Best Actor for Bradley Copper’s brilliant performance.

One scene in the Oscar-nominated movie sees lead stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller pass a crying child to each other but unfortunately, their little darling is very clearly made of plastic. “I have never seen so many terrible fake babies in one film,” Camilla Long wrote in The Sunday Times, while website HitFlix was amused that “Cooper looks like he’s just plain never held a baby”.If you don’t see American Sniper to baffle at the apparent message that killing hundreds of Iraqis is heroic, see it for the scene where Bradley Cooper cradles what is obviously a fake baby for an entire scene and wiggles its little fake arm and everything.In the States, it’s this week’s most popular film, and everyone involved claims it has nothing to do with politics. “Really,” star actor Bradley Cooper stressed over and again in interviews, director Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper simply explains the “plight” of a soldier, and provides a “character study”.

Director Clint Eastwood is yet to comment on baby-gate, but when your film is on track to become the highest-grossing war movie ever, you probably don’t care much. In a world of success preordained through marketing and omniscient data tracking, it’s nice to be blindsided and bamboozled by an actual box-office surprise. Which is what an superlative $89.5m US opening weekend for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper indisputably is: the highest January debut ever, the second highest R-rated debut (behind The Matrix Reloaded’s $91.7m), the director’s highest debut (trouncing Gran Torino’s $29.5m) and, incredibly for an original drama, the 41st highest opening of any kind in a list clogged up with the big-budget franchise offerings of the last 15 years. Viewers have become so accustomed to the magic of the screen, that even a talking bear interacting with humans, or a murderous giant primate holding one in its hand, need to be utterly convincing on celluloid.

Children must be at least 15 days old and, up until the age of six months, can only be employed once for two consecutive hours – between 9.30 and 11.30am or 2.30 and 4.30pm. Now I have the mental image of a baby phoning in sick to work, Clint Eastwood looking pissed off, stubbing a cigarette out with the heel of his shoe and growling “gimme the doll.” Eastwood is notorious for his no-nonsense approach to directing, as is clear from this Moviefone interview snippet with Armie Hammer from the J.

What’s clear from audience analysis is that distributor Warner Brothers hit a target-demographic bullseye – one that has proved largely resistant to Iraq-war material thus far. Red-state America has been lapping up American Sniper, with eight out of the 10 top markets for the film in the south or midwest, like San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston and Nashville – an unusual state of affairs for the average studio film. Before he was shot dead at a Texas gun range two years ago, Kyle, who claimed that he killed scores of people as a sniper in Iraq, oozed conviction and charisma.

According to The New York Times, the screenwriter Jason Hall posted a tweet about that baby saying: “Hate to ruin the fun but real baby #1 showed up with a fever. Specialist marketing lionising Chris Kyle, “the most lethal sniper in American military history”, drummed up appetite for the subject matter via outlets like Fox News, military blogs and Soldier of Fortune magazine. But American Sniper screenwriter and executive producer Jason Hall has offered another explanation, telling journalist Mark Harris that a fake was only used when the real baby fell ill. There have been a couple of hints of late that a patriotic corpus of movie-goers has been waiting for material that better reflects their sentiments about recent US military endeavours. Many agencies that specialise in providing child actors for professional productions for stage and screen also have babies on their books – of all sizes, ages and ethnicities.

At one point he was like, “OK, cut, print.” And I was like, “Whoa, whoa, Clint, I had my sides in my hands, I thought we were just rehearsing that.”” Last year’s Lone Survivor – set in Afghanistan, but like American Sniper based on a popular memoir – did unexpectedly strong US business ($37.8m opening; $125m total). And in December, Angelina Jolie’s second-world-war drama Unbroken also surprised with a $31.7m opening; another martyrish military trudge appealing to every Republican’s inner bugler. American Sniper is the latest film driven by the sense of personal sacrifice and forbearance with which the American heartland feels it has contributed to foreign interventions. The conversation that now shadows American Sniper – which was released worldwide last Friday, and collected a record $105m (£69m) in the US over the weekend – has been no different.

Rueful but not exactly critical, they are perhaps the first sign of a shift from the crop of handwringing war-on-terror autopsies that frittered out for lack of mainstream support in the late noughties; even the relatively gung-ho Oscar winner The Hurt Locker failed to set the box-office alight ($17m US domestic) in 2009. After early screenings, which the Associated Press called an “unprecedented success”, the film has been subject to widespread praise among conservatives for depicting an American soldier at his best, and condemnation among liberals who question the admitted pleasure Kyle took in killing and dehumanising Iraqis. Even given the auguries in 2014, and not to take anything away from Warner’s efforts, what the massive scale of American Sniper’s success suggests most of all is serendipity. Then there were the tales Kyle told about himself, which came under increasing suspicion after numerous journalists tried – and failed – to corroborate them [see right]. Among them: he shot dead two armed Texas thugs who wanted to steal his pick-up truck; and he travelled to New Orleans and killed 30 bad guys in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina.

The frightening upsurge of Isis in the last two years has created the climate for a morally absolutist breed of war drama, where the pre-2008, largely liberal body of work was still preoccupied with the messy, ambiguous nature of America’s wars. In the UK there are very strict rules for how many hours a baby can be at their place of performance, for the time in the morning they can begin and the time in the afternoon they must finish by, for how long they are allowed on set and so on. Eastwood brings a kind of old-fashioned, valedictorian, fallen-soldier tone to proceedings that, bar Kyle’s wraparound shades, feels more like a relic of second-world-war classics; coupled with awards talk, American Sniper comes with a varnish of elder-statesmen respectability able to attract disparate age groups. It’s a lesson that journalist Rania Khalek learnt last week when she let loose with a series of tweets that took aim at Kyle’s book, also named American Sniper. “Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq.

That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’ There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there.” He later added: “There’s another question people ask a lot: ‘Did it bother you killing so many people in Iraq?’ I tell them, ‘No.’ … I loved what I did. … I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun.” To Khalek, any movie that lionises Kyle represents “dangerous propaganda that sanitises a mass killer and rewrites the Iraq War”. Most of previous Iraq-war material, apart from Jarhead and Zero Dark Thirty (as self-assuredly patriotic as American Sniper, but too complex to be a truly mainstream hit), has tellingly skewed to overseas audiences.

The heat is on the production team to complete the filming within a certain number of days or weeks so the costs do not spiral out of control, and as a result everyone is working long, hard hours, including the actors. Soap operas use real babies, but they know where they are filming and when; they have rigorous schedules mapped out in advance – everything is much more structured: they are well-oiled machines. On Saturday, The Interview actor Seth Rogen, who himself just emerged from a political storm, said, “American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie showing in the third act of Inglourious Basterds,” referencing a Nazi propaganda film inside Quentin Tarantino’s film that glorifies a sniper.

Caught up in the bankruptcy of its SFX company, passed from the stewardship of Warner Bros to Universal in post-production, fantasy romp Seventh Son has had a troubled early life. The first English-language reviews suggest the tumult hasn’t done the film much good, despite an impressive roster of acting talent ranging from hot new things Kit Harrington, Ben Barnes and Alicia Vikander to august campaigners Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. But that wasn’t before he got walloped: “Amazing considering guys like Kyle are the reason you’re not sitting in a N Korean prison right now,” one person told him. Possibly the film’s saving grace is that Universal – partly because they were forced to make do without a tentpole release in 2014 – have developed a talent in sewing sorcerers’ purses from orcs’ ears by wringing out overseas grosses from this kind of genre schlock.

And Seventh Son – also fantasy-based, with added young-adult currency (it’s adapted from the first of Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles) – looks to be making similar hay. The latter isn’t so surprising, with Sergei Bodrov following Timur Bekmembatov as another Russia-based director hired for fantastical visual panache (Fyodor Bondarchuk is next up, with an Odyssey adaptation for Warner).

At $60.5m already, with 22 territories to come, Seventh Son is looking like a steady, cross-borders earner; wise, if the 6 February US opening proves a dud. But, he added, “Most of us were taught the story of Jesse James and that the scoundrel wasn’t James (who was a criminal who killed people) but rather the sniper who shot him in the back. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One is currently about $200K short of Guardians of the Galaxy at the top of the US domestic list for last year, which it should easily bag during this week. Hopefully not on this weekend when we remember that man in Memphis, Tennessee, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet.” Even Sarah Palin entered the fray, excoriating “Hollywood leftists” for “spitting on the graves of freedom fighters who allow you to do what you do, just realise the rest of American knows you’re not fit to shine Chris Kyle’s combat boots”.

The exchanges are just the latest eruption in a long culture war. “As screenings have sold out, the conservative media has manned barricades against liberals who have attacked the movie,” conservative David Weigel wrote for Bloomberg. He noted that much of the controversy involves the extended battle over guns – and gun control – and pits pro-Iraq war conservatives against anti-war liberals. But it also hints at another gulf in American politics: the plummeting number of Americans who serve in the armed services has given rise to a widening divide between civilians and combat veterans. Chinese body-rejuvenation comedy 20, Once Again!, in 13th place globally, added another $9m to take its running total to a healthy $37m, including a small US gross.

Postwar immigrant epic Ode to My Father, 17th worldwide, is toiling its way into the South Korean record books – $77m at the end of this weekend makes it the country’s sixth most successful local film ever, with Nos 5-2 in touching distance. The actor struck out with his last three leads, Transcendence ($103m worldwide), Lone Ranger ($260.5m) and Dark Shadows ($245m), so the pressure is on.

Hollywood depicts superhuman teams of special operations forces snuffing out their adversaries with clinical precision.” Chris Kyle, muscle-bound, grim-faced and lethal, liked to tell stories. In terms of global prospects, it’s bolstered by the shiny sci-fi premise and a cast with plenty of visibility, including the in-form Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander; Spain and the Ukraine, early next week, are the first overseas markets before the US release on 10 April.

On $41m worldwide, it’s beginning to approach indie-breakout territory, with $60.4m for director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams in 2003 now in sight. Iñárritu rails against the superhero monopoly in the film through his ventriloquist’s mouthpiece, Michael Keaton’s washed-up A-lister Riggan; if Birdman sweeps the Oscars, then Iñárritu might provide meaningful caped competition box-office-wise, too. His writing is drenched in braggadocio. “People ask me all the time, ‘How many people have you killed?'” he wrote in American Sniper. “My standard response is, ‘Does the answer make me less, or more, of a man?'” Manliness, however, was clearly an issue to him. Leaving the Seals and returning to Texas in 2009, the tales became taller. “After his incredible military career, he felt such high pressure to maintain his image,” says Mooney , and one way he did this was through bar fights, blaming his behaviour on “pent-up aggression”. He told a story in his book of one time that he and a pal pummelled a few “wannabe Ultimate Fighters” in a bar. “I would rather get my ass beat than look like a pussy in front of my boys,” he wrote.

Two armed men, he said, approached him and told him to hand over the keys to his black Ford F350 pick-up truck. “I told them I would get them the keys,” he told Mooney. “I told them they were in the truck and to just let me reach in.” Kyle then claimed he reached into the car, pulled out a gun and, shooting under his armpit, killed both men. “It’s true,” he said. Reporters, including the New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle, called some of the nearby county sheriffs and none of them knew of it. “I went to every single gas station [nearby],” Mooney explained. “I talked to every single law enforcement out there, all the Texas rangers — and there’s no evidence whatsoever.” Years after those alleged killings, Kyle had another story to tell.

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