Steven Spielberg, Bradley Cooper to team for ‘American Sniper’

Bradley Cooper will star as U.S. sniper Chris Kyle in Steven Spielberg's coming film.
Bradley Cooper will star as U.S. sniper Chris Kyle in Steven Spielberg’s coming film.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Steven Spielberg is returning to the charged terrain of real-life American events, with the “Lincoln” director announcing Thursday he’ll tackle the story of U.S. sniper Chris Kyle as his next directorial project. Bradley Cooper will star as the late Navy SEAL.

The news clears up the uncertainty over Spielberg’s immediate future that arose when he decided not to move forward with the large-scale sci-fi adventure “Robopocalypse” earlier this year. A spokeswoman confirmed the new film, titled “American Sniper,” and said it would be based on a script from screenwriter Jason Hall (“Spread”) as well as Kyle’s own memoir of the same name.

Cooper, for his part, recently opted not to star in “Jane Got a Gun,” the troubled revenge drama featuring Natalie Portman. The star is currently finishing shooting his follow-up with “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell, a movie about the ABSCAM operation and scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s with a similar title to his new film, “American Hustle.”


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In addition to Spielberg and Cooper, the movie will be produced by Andrew Lazar (“Get Smart”) and Peter Morgan (“Identity Theft”).” A co-production between Spielberg and Stacey Snider’s DreamWorks and Warner Bros., the movie will aim to film this winter in an as-yet-unspecified location.

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Kyle’s story has been making headlines for several months. Known as the most accurate sniper in U.S. military history, the Texas native served for several years in Iraq, where his lethal aim earned him the nickname “the Devil of Ramadi” from Iraqi insurgents after one of his more high-profile kills.

After leaving the Navy in 2009, Kyle moved back to the Lone Star state, where he ran a security corporation and wrote his autobiography, which became a bestseller when it was published last year. But his story ended tragically. In February, Kyle and a friend were shot and killed by a 25-year-old military associate named Eddie Routh apparently suffering from PTSD when the three went out for shooting practice. Kyle was 38.

With the film, Spielberg is moving into the complicated and topical arena of gun rights. “Sniper” shares some themes with another upcoming prestige project, Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” the true story of Olympic wrestler Dave Schulz and John du Pont, and a movie which also involves a well-liked American figure shot by a man with apparent psychological issues. And it follows a number of other movies with guns at their center, including the theatrical release this fall of the Sundance hit “Blue Caprice,” about the so-called Washington, D.C. sniper John Muhammad.