Steven Spielberg and Bradley Cooper Team Up for ‘American Sniper’

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

Bradley Cooper has been looking since February for a director for his next project, and clearly he wasn't afraid to think big. It was announced Thursday that Steven Spielberg has signed on to helm "American Sniper," a film about the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, with Cooper attached as both star and co-producer.

"American Sniper" is based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle, who racked up 160 confirmed kills during four tours of duty in Iraq, earning the nickname "the Devil of Ramadi" from insurgent leaders and winning two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars along the way. Kyle's book became a New York Times bestseller, and Cooper's production company bought the rights to the memoir in 2012.

Kyle's story came to a tragic end on February 4, 2013, when the former sniper, who was involved with programs to help veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was shot and killed at a rifle rage. The alleged killer was an Iraq war vet with PTSD. A few days after Kyle died, Cooper told NPR he intended to make the Chris Kyle biopic a priority.

"His story, first of all, needs to be told," Bradley said. "And it's also relevant on two fronts. One, gun control, and two, the needs to address this -- the many soldiers that are coming back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." Cooper added he wanted to move the project forward to help Kyle's family; he left behind a wife and two children.

While Cooper was looking for a director for "American Sniper," Spielberg was in the market for a new project after his next projected assignment, the sci-fi epic "Robopocalypse," was put on hold as writers retool the screenplay. With Spielberg as director, what was clearly a passion project for Cooper will now also be an A-list production with possible Oscar appeal.

Spielberg will co-produce "American Sniper" as well as direct; Andrew Lazar and Peter Morgan round out the production team. Jason Dean Hall has written the screenplay, and Warner Brothers and DreamWorks will release the movie. Spielberg and Cooper are currently aiming to begin filming in early 2014.