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Steven Spielberg planned a different focus for his take on American Sniper

01.21.2015

AMERICAN SNIPER is a very good movie. Is it Best Picture of the Year? I may not be willing to go quite that far, but it is a damn good flick and one of the better productions Clint Eastwood has directed in several years. But, it could have been a very different movie if Steven Spielberg had not dropped out back in 2013.

Spielberg and Eastwood have very different directing styles but it would have been more than visual differences if filmmakers had not changed behind the scenes. Screenwriter Jason Hall explained to The Hollywood Reporter just what the Oscar-winning director had in mind.

Spielberg had read Kyle’s book and [Jason] Hall’s screenplay and was willing to commit to it as his next movie, with DreamWorks co-producing. But he had some ideas of his own. For one thing, he wanted to focus more on the “enemy sniper” in the script — the insurgent sharpshooter who was trying to track down and kill Kyle. “He was a mirror of Chris on the other side,” Hall explains of Spielberg’s vision. “It was a psychological duel as much as a physical duel. It was buried in my script, but Steven helped bring it out.”

As Spielberg added more and more ideas to the story, the page count continued to grow, bloating to 160. Warner Bros.’ budget for the film, though, remained a slender $60 million. Ultimately, Spielberg felt he couldn’t bring his vision of the story to the screen for that amount of money and dropped out of the project. Within a week, Warner Bros. president Greg Silverman, one of the three executives who run the studio, asked domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman to call Clint Eastwood.

It is always interesting to ponder how a movie could have ended up if someone else's vision were realized on screen and this is a perfect example. With Eastwood's AMERICAN SNIPER grossing over $100 million in just four days of wide release, audiences are clearly not disappointed with the finished product. But, I know I will always wonder what could have been.

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4:03AM on 01/26/2015

No thx Spielberg....

Well, I for one am VERY glad that didn't happen, b/c I thought that was the worst part of the movie!!! It would be one thing to show Kyle going after the sniper b/c we would know through him what really was going on. The parts they showed of the sniper trying to hunt down Kyle tho is just someone's imagination or what they thought could have been going on.... No one knows for sure what they did to try to find him, but only know they were actively trying to find and kill Kyle. Even Eastwood did
Well, I for one am VERY glad that didn't happen, b/c I thought that was the worst part of the movie!!! It would be one thing to show Kyle going after the sniper b/c we would know through him what really was going on. The parts they showed of the sniper trying to hunt down Kyle tho is just someone's imagination or what they thought could have been going on.... No one knows for sure what they did to try to find him, but only know they were actively trying to find and kill Kyle. Even Eastwood did the normal Hollywood thing and built up the scene for the audience. Kyle's 2100 yard kill shot was not to take out that specific sniper hunting him. Regardless, I'm very glad it was Eastwood to do this film over Spielberg or anyone else. His story deserved to be told they way Kyle wanted and about what he went through and dealt with afterwards... Not about the enemy sniper and the war.
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8:59PM on 01/21/2015
I like Steve's vision better. As I watched the film over the weekend, I thought the same of the other sniper. I was thinking of how here's a sniper who was in the Olympics and has his own beliefs in direct opposition of our own. It would have been interesting to say the least.
I like Steve's vision better. As I watched the film over the weekend, I thought the same of the other sniper. I was thinking of how here's a sniper who was in the Olympics and has his own beliefs in direct opposition of our own. It would have been interesting to say the least.
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4:08AM on 01/26/2015
Yeah except the book wasn't about the enemy sniper. It was a very small part and had almost no importance to the overall point of his book.
Yeah except the book wasn't about the enemy sniper. It was a very small part and had almost no importance to the overall point of his book.
6:23PM on 01/21/2015
Spielberg wanted to give extreme liberals a character to root for.
Spielberg wanted to give extreme liberals a character to root for.
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4:06AM on 01/26/2015
EXACTLY!!!! So happy he left the project. Eastwood was the only man for the job!
EXACTLY!!!! So happy he left the project. Eastwood was the only man for the job!
5:56PM on 01/21/2015
I agree that it's cool to know production facts like this, but I believe we ended up with the better of the 2 choices for this specific movie. Both legends in directing, but Eastwoods style really fit with the tone of the movie. I'm happy with the final product, hell of a movie, it deserves a lot of the attention it's been receiving!
I agree that it's cool to know production facts like this, but I believe we ended up with the better of the 2 choices for this specific movie. Both legends in directing, but Eastwoods style really fit with the tone of the movie. I'm happy with the final product, hell of a movie, it deserves a lot of the attention it's been receiving!
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4:13PM on 01/21/2015

Spielberg vs Eastwood there's no winner or loser

They have very different directing styles, points of view and ideas about how war is relevant to American film consumers. Spielberg representing liberal anti-war film makers and Eastwood kind of in the nether zone between a director who depicts violence as an ugly, painful necessary or sometimes unavoidable evil in the name of great change, be it for good or evil. Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List lead me to believe Spielberg would have made American Sniper into a wonderful film, but I
They have very different directing styles, points of view and ideas about how war is relevant to American film consumers. Spielberg representing liberal anti-war film makers and Eastwood kind of in the nether zone between a director who depicts violence as an ugly, painful necessary or sometimes unavoidable evil in the name of great change, be it for good or evil. Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List lead me to believe Spielberg would have made American Sniper into a wonderful film, but I think it would have downplayed Kyle's middle American stoicism in favor of trite west coast sensitivity within his warrior. Just look at the psychological arcs of the Saving Private Ryan characters, or the moral ambiguity examined in Munich vs. the almost 100% pro-American, machsimo overloaded American Sniper adaptation we got from Eastwood. Would've been a very different film. Not better or worse, just different...perhaps less true to who Chris Kyle was and what segment of America he represents and counted as his people.
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2:47PM on 01/21/2015
"It is always interesting to ponder how a movie could have ended up if someone else's vision were realized on screen". Are you sure? What you said is the definition or "Remake", and we have plenty of them. I'm sure that, years from now, someone will remake this movie using Spielberg's approach.
"It is always interesting to ponder how a movie could have ended up if someone else's vision were realized on screen". Are you sure? What you said is the definition or "Remake", and we have plenty of them. I'm sure that, years from now, someone will remake this movie using Spielberg's approach.
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1:03PM on 01/21/2015
I'm glad Spielberg ended up not directing because Eastwood gave us one hell of a brilliant, powerful film with his vision and direction.
I'm glad Spielberg ended up not directing because Eastwood gave us one hell of a brilliant, powerful film with his vision and direction.
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2:40PM on 01/21/2015
If there's one thing Spielberg's shown us, it's that he cant direct war movies
If there's one thing Spielberg's shown us, it's that he cant direct war movies
4:15PM on 01/21/2015
When I think back on movies like Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, etc. Eastwood would not have been my first choice for directing American Sniper. Spielberg wouldn't have been my first choice either, but I understand the logic behind that pairing. If I was batting around names to helm this adaptation, I was convinced they'd target Ridley Scott or James Mangold (schedules allowing).
When I think back on movies like Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, etc. Eastwood would not have been my first choice for directing American Sniper. Spielberg wouldn't have been my first choice either, but I understand the logic behind that pairing. If I was batting around names to helm this adaptation, I was convinced they'd target Ridley Scott or James Mangold (schedules allowing).
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