American Sniper continues to break records following its historic first weekend in wide release at the box office, taking in over $105 million over the four-day MLK holiday. The film has received a largely positive response, with a 73% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although there are plenty of vocal detractors as well. Months before Clint Eastwood signed on to helm, Steven Spielberg was attached to direct, just three months after the film's subject Chris Kyle was murdered by a troubled veteran. Screenwriter Jason Hall, who first met Chris Kyle back in 2010, revealed new details about Steven Spielberg's take on the project to The Hollywood Reporter, which would have shifted the film's main focus drastically.
According to Jason Hall, who received an Oscar nomination last week for Best Adapted Screenplay, Steven Spielberg wanted to focus more on the "enemy sniper" Chris Kyle is trying to track down throughout the film, known as Mustafa (Sammy Sheik), an ex-Olympic marksman. Here's what Jason Hall had to say about Steven Spielberg's contributions.
"[Mustafa] was a mirror of Chris on the other side. It was a psychological duel as much as a physical duel. It was buried in my script, but Steven helped bring it out."
Jason Hall added that Steven Spielberg kept adding more to the story, bringing the script up to 160 pages, although the budget stayed the same at $60 million. In August 2013, Steven Spielberg dropped out, which lead to Warner Bros. asking Clint Eastwood if he was interested. As fate would have it, Clint Eastwood was already reading Chris Kyle's book, and the director even pushed the studio to consider the adaptation for a Christmas 2014 release, instead of Christmas 2015. Jason Hall did another round of rewrites when Clint Eastwood signed on, but this time the page count shrunk.
"It was for more clarity and more economy. Clint's a very stylistic director, more than you would think. I realized he's about doing things with imagery in a very sweeping, almost musical way."
Clint Eastwood's producing partner, Robert Lorenz, added that they cut several pages from the script they thought they wouldn't use, before production got under way in April 2014, with just 44 days to shoot and less than six months of post-production to meet the Christmas Day deadline. Of course, we can't know for sure how Steven Spielberg's version of American Sniper would have turned out, since it isn't exactly clear what other elements of the story he added that were later removed. Would you have rather seen Steven Spielberg direct American Sniper? Chime in with your thoughts below.