The fascinating life of Chris Kyle, the ‘American Sniper’

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper’ Astounds With $105.3M Over MLK Weekend.

In a scene in the film, Bradley Cooper and his onscreen wife, Sienna Miller, can be seen passing the faux baby between one another, reports The Hollywood Reporter. American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of Chris Kyle’s bestselling autobiography, exceeded all expectations last week by earning an obscene amount of money at the US box office: $105m over the Martin Luther King long weekend.Before it was a high-grossing, Oscar-nominated movie starring Bradley Cooper, American Sniper was a best-selling memoir by former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

For the three-day weekend, the Clint Eastwood movie that stars Bradley Cooper as the screen version of the true-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle earned $105.3 million. “You have to do a double take,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with the box-office tracking firm Rentrak. “We’re not accustomed to seeing those kinds of numbers in January.” We’re also not entirely used to watching as a mainstream movie turns into a firefight on social media, but that also happened as the weekend unfolded. Eastwood, 84, and the actors try to lend the lifeless prop some hint of vitality, but it’s impossible to miss, and according to the website, the audience at a media screening laughed aloud at its obvious artificiality. Americans went in their droves to watch a film that US conservatives, and red state audiences in particular, have already claimed as their own. “Hollywood leftists,” wrote Sarah Palin on Facebook, “just realise the rest of America knows you’re not fit to shine Chris Kyle’s combat boots.” Clearly, patriotism has significantly contributed to the film’s success, and the presence of “American” in its title will have helped tremendously. Fans on Twitter and Facebook expressed their support for the film in mostly positive ways, though there was some ugliness, too, with racial and religious slurs and threats of violence in the mix. Whether you’ve already seen the movie, want context before you go or just want to know more about the man behind the story, here is what you need to know about Kyle.

Over the holiday weekend, the film brought in a massive $US105.3 million ($129 million), a record for January (its three-day total of $US89.5 million is the second-best for an R-rated film, trailing only The Matrix Reloaded). It began with travelogues boasting footage of the Niagara Falls (such as the 1896 opus American Falls from Incline Railroad), while 1903’s short silent movie Life of an American Fireman, made for the Edison Manufacturing Company, treated viewers to a woman and child being rescued from a burning building.

A canny marketing strategy that banked on a bit of Oscar love helped (the movie grabbed six nominations Thursday), as did a bit of distance from the peak of the fighting in Iraq where Kyle served, some observers said. In some ways, though, it’s as simple as this: “American Sniper” turns out to be the movie that audiences want, or maybe need, to see now, in 2015, with the official wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down but the threat and images of terror still vivid. “Creatively, it’s just a terrific movie,” said Tom Nunan, a longtime studio executive and producer who also teaches in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. “It’s based on a remarkable best-seller by Chris Kyle.

The resounding wide-release opening is also tops for the 84-year-old Eastwood, whose previous best weekend was the $29.5 million wide release of 2009’s ‘‘Gran Torino. That came armed with the tagline “The Great American Picture of Today”, and in the last few decades titles such as American Graffiti, American Beauty and American Hustle have been used to make salient points about the US, with films often retitled to get the message across in the second it takes to notice a billboard. And it, in one weekend, gives the Oscar best-picture race something it was lacking: a big ol’ box-office hit. ‘‘American Sniper, nominated for six Academy Awards, immediately becomes the top grosser of the best-picture nominees. George Lucas’s original title for American Graffiti was Another Quiet Night in Modesto; Ridley Scott’s American Gangster was initially called Tru Blu; the American Pie screenplay was called East Great Falls High before the filmmakers opted to allude to both Don McLean’s song and the pie molested by Jason Biggs. “These films have underscored their role in interpreting and constituting ‘America’ by announcing themselves as titulary ‘American’,” writes Mandy Merck in her book America First: Naming The Nation In US Film, which traces it all back to 19th-century French historian Alexis de Tocqueville’s description of the country as “exceptional”. “Madness, beauty, graffiti, tragedy, romance, splendour and, of course, (apple) pie,” continues Merck, “all of these and many more have, at different historical moments and through the agency of filmmakers with widely various artistic, cultural and political agendas, found themselves rendered definitely ‘American’.” Whether these films celebrate or damn their own culture and history, they all trade on the country’s brand in true US fashion: loudly and proudly. He was honorably discharged in 2009. “Devil of Ramadi”: In Iraq, Kyle was so well-known that he was given the nickname “Devil of Ramadi” by Iraqi insurgents, who put a bounty on his head.

One of his often-cited anecdotes is making the decision to shoot a woman who was holding a grenade underneath her clothes — but who also had a child standing nearby — as Marines approached. In his memoir, Kyle didn’t bother to hide his rough edges, referring to Iraqis as “savages” and saying that killing the people he shot at times was “fun.” Questions have also been raised about the truthfulness of some of the stories he told, though the number of kills confirmed by the military – 160, which made him the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history – is not in question. Still, the Internet throughout the weekend saw plenty of arguments over whether he was a hero or a murderer, which in typical online fashion involved plenty of ugliness. “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some … Arabs,” read a comment on Twitter that’s representative of the minority of the film’s fans who made ugly comments. “If you forgive the expression, ‘American Sniper’ is an easy target,” Nunan said. “What I mean by that, it acts as somewhat of a Rorschach test for people who have strong feelings about our intervening militarily as a response to terrorism.” In other words, many will be predisposed to like or hate the film because of their personal beliefs, despite Nunan‘s feeling that it’s not “a dumb propaganda film” to promote the military. “The movie just offered up something that moviegoers wanted to see right now,” Dergarabedian said. “A story of valor and courage, and no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you have to respect what these soldiers go through.”

Dergarabedian said ‘‘American Sniper’’ resonated with audiences craving a celebration of valor, courage and patriotism. ‘‘American Sniper,’’ once pegged for release in late 2015, was moved up to qualify for this year’s Oscars. After Eastwood’s other 2014 release, ‘‘Jersey Boys,’’ struggled in its June release, totaling $47 million, ‘‘American Sniper’’ — a $58 million co-production between Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow — was tossed into this year’s Christmas mix. Fight against PTSD: Kyle helped found FITCO Cares, a non-profit group that helped those struggling with PTSD, where he mentored other veterans with war injuries. The film landed two Oscar nominations on Thursday, including best picture, but the snubbing of its star, David Oyelowo, and director, Ava DuVernay, drew widespread outrage. Sued by Jesse Ventura: In a case that settled on July 30, 2014, a federal jury awarded former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in a defamation lawsuit against Kyle.

In American Sniper, Kyle writes that he punched and knocked down Ventura on the sidewalk outside a California bar for making disparaging comments about the war in Iraq, a claim Ventura denied. Kyle started his own company: When he left the Navy in 2009, Kyle co-founded Craft International, which provided tactical training to military and law enforcement. That I was going to do everything I could to tell this story.” Other work: Kyle wrote a second book, this one with author William Doyle, which was published after his death.

Mooney, which was released on April 23, 2013. (And for those interested in the genre, here’s a roundup of more Navy SEAL memoirs, including No Easy Day by Mark Owen, which recounts the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.)

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