We catch up with the star of Clint Eastwood’s latest film…
With SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and AMERICAN HUSTLE, Bradley Cooper earned star status and two Oscar nominations. This month the in demand actor appears on stage in the Broadway revival of THE ELEPHANT MAN and reaches a whole new dimension in Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER playing Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a soldier who served four deployments in the Iraq war and was credited with more sniper kills than any soldier in American history before his tragic murder in 2013.
What was it about the story of real life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle that resonated with you and made you so passionate about wanting to bring it to the screen? Bradley Cooper: I liked the fact that it’s not really a movie about war so much as a character study. Chris’s story is a universal one about what veterans have to go through, really-the idea of dealing with the emotional seesaw of going into a warzone to fight and then coming home, back to your family life, and the challenges that experience presents to all our soldiers. That was very moving to me.
When researching the role, you met Chris’ wife and family. What was that experience like and what did you learn about him beyond what was already in the book? BC: I feel like the most of what we gleaned from Chris wasn’t even from the book. It was much more about the weekend we spent in Midlothian, Texas, with his family. We got to spend a full weekend, which happened to be the same weekend that was the anniversary of his murder. So, it was a pretty heavy time to be there. No book could ever really give you what you get from meeting people in the flesh. You just watch somebody move through the house that Chris lived in and it tells you a thousand things- to sit at the dining room table or on the couch, or go into his backyard. The great thing was also that there was so much source material. There were videos and all the interviews that Chris had done, all the photographs and emails exchanges. I mean, Taya really opened up her life to us. She let us look through all of his clothes… She was a major reason why we were able to take so many specific things about him that actually made it into the movie. There are a handful of scenes that came out of that weekend we spent in Texas where she was just telling us stories about their relationship.
How did that wartime experience inform the life that he came back to? BC: Well, he was honorably discharged from the military and, for him, the saying hadn’t been ‘God, Family, Country,’ it was ‘God, Country, Family.’ You can read about him or watch him actually say that. Family had been last, and he wanted to amend that. There’s a 90% divorce rate amongst SEALs, and he didn’t want that to happen to his family. So, he made a choice to put family first. But when he got home, it wasn’t so easy to make that transition and because he was willing and physically able to fight, he would always say, he wasn’t there anymore. So, he found this other way of being of service, which was helping veterans. He would put the gun back into the vet’s hand to take the stigma away from it-because there’s something that they loved about it-and he knew that holding a gun again could be therapeutic. He would do this thing where he would drive up to this ranch and go shooting with vets and drive back, get to know them, hear their story, share his…
Did you do a lot of sniper training or work getting into the mindset of Chris? BC: Well, I had a tremendous amount of help from Kevin Lacz, who essentially plays himself in the movie. Clint had set up a time for me to go and learn how to shoot live ammo with these guys and one guy was Rick Wallace, who’d trained Chris Kyle. The other guy was Kevin ‘Dauber’ Lacz, who was a fellow SEAL sniper during Chris’s third tour. I’ve done one other ‘war movie,’ and we did a tremendous amount of training, but it was all blanks. And there’s just no substitution for shooting live ammo. It was invaluable to experience what it’s like to actually hit a head target from 600 yards.
AMERICAN SNIPER is at cinemas from January 16th 2015