American Sniper is currently picking-off the box-office competition with extreme prejudice, bringing in $105 million so far. Regardless of the controversies stirred by prominent comments, it’s hard to argue that the film hasn’t been a rousing success. However, it seems that fate, which delivered helmer Clint Eastwood to the film, nearly yielded a different version of the movie, after it almost fell into the directorial hands of the legendary Steven Spielberg. It turns out that the version of American Sniper that Spielberg wanted to make would have been significantly different, spending more focus on the point of view of the enemy sniper who was out to kill Chris Kyle.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall discussed the series of seemingly circuitous circumstances leading to the film being made. The most notable event was the interest expressed by Steven Spielberg to take directorial duties for the film after having read the 2012 book by the late Chris Kyle, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Amongst what would have surely been a number of nuanced Spielberg-esque stylistic paths, Hall has revealed that the director wanted to focus more of the film on the insurgent enemy expert sniper, Mustafa (played by Sammy Shiek). Said Hall:
Comparatively, the film that we did get from Clint Eastwood was more of a linear exploration of Chris Kyle’s physical and psychological journey through the post 9/11 multi-war maelstrom, focusing on the root of his seemingly inexpressible sense of responsibility. Steven Spielberg’s film would have undoubtedly incorporated these aspects, but with the words "psychological duel," you get the sense that his version would focus more on what it means to be a deadly expert sniper and what part of yourself must be sacrificed. The parallel play between Chris Kyle and Mustafa would have likely grasped on to a "we are ultimately all the same" type of ethos while serving to depict the grand mechanism of war itself as a looming, ever-present character in its own right, putting both men through the tumultuous ringer.
The possibility that the director of the game-changing war film, Saving Private Ryan might have gotten his hands on American Sniper does make one wonder what could have been. Whether or not the film would have still been seen as a cultural rallying point for patriotic fervor or kryptonite to anti-western sentiment is difficult to determine.
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