In order to bulk up 40-plus pounds, Bradley Cooper ate around 8,000 calories a day which calculates eating a meal every fifty five minutes. Using his own trainer, he worked out four hours a day for several months. Along with the massive intake of food and intense workouts, Cooper's preparation also included twice-daily lessons with a vocal coach, as well as many hours spent studying footage of Chris Kyle. When it came to actually pointing a rifle, the actor trained with Navy SEAL sniper Kevin Lacz, who served with Kyle and was a consultant on the movie.
At his peak, Bradley Cooper could deadlift 425 pounds, twice his bodyweight, for five sets of ten reps each. Cooper said that during a workout scene in the film where he is seen deadlifting, he was actually deadlifting 425 pounds and that it was not dummy weights on the set, even though the filmmakers suggested he use dummy weights for the scene.
Bradley Cooper wears the real Chris Kyle's walking shoes in the film, and was given them for keeps after production wrapped. Cooper claimed in interviews upon the film's release that he was still wearing the shoes for his personal use.
Bradley Cooper initially bought the rights, intending to only produce it with Chris Pratt starring, but he changed his mind. Both Cooper and Pratt starred in Guardians of Galaxy (2014) the same year as this film.
Bradley Cooper felt he could become Chris Kyle because he and Kyle had nearly the same height, age, shoe size and body frame. Once Cooper had built up his body and had grown out his beard, Chris Kyle's friends and family said that they would do a double take while looking at Cooper because of how much he looked like Kyle.
Bradley Cooper used Chris Kyle's actual workout playlists as music to listen to while working out for this role. He also pinned a picture of Chris Kyle to the wall of his gym to always have his goal in front of him.
Bradley Cooper said that to accurately portray Chris Kyle, he did not want to get "cut" or "ripped," because that was not who Kyle was. He wanted to get huge to play Kyle and his workouts were designed to give him great size, but not muscle definition. He said he built up his physique not by body-building, but just by hard-core Olympic lifting. Cooper ended up going from 185 pounds to 225 pounds for this role to look huge like Chris Kyle, and he actually sported a gut for the movie.
As of 2015, this is the highest-grossing war movie of all time worldwide, as well as the highest-grossing war movie in the U.S. (unadjusted for inflation), beating Saving Private Ryan (1998). Steven Spielberg, director of Saving Private Ryan (1998), was previously attached to direct American Sniper (2014).
The real Chris Kyle actually had every intention of enlisting in the Marines. However, when he went to the military recruiting office, where recruiters from all the military branches had offices, the Marine recruiter was at lunch, and the Navy recruiter happened to see Kyle, and invited him to come talk about the Navy and what it had to offer.
Bradley Cooper really wanted to do justice to the size of Chris Kyle, because he felt he would not be accurately portraying the man if he did not look huge like him. He said that after every take, he would go and ask the crew, "Did I look big enough?"
Bradley Cooper claimed that his only experience with firearms prior to preparing for this movie was as a kid in summer camp. For previous films he had only received instruction on how to hold and discharge a gun loaded with blank ammunition. All his shooting lessons for this film were with live rounds.
Upon Chris Kyle's first kill, he returns to find another soldier reading a graphic novel. The graphic novel is for the character the Punisher, who wears a skull on his chest. This skull is later seen on decorating uniforms and vehicles in Kyle's team.
Taya Kyle initially thought that Sandra Bullock should play her, as she felt she was relatable to her and that Sienna Miller was probably too British. However, after meeting with Miller and bonding over motherhood, she was confident with the choice of her.
Before starting work on American Sniper (2014), Bradley Cooper worked on Aloha (2015) with John Krasinski, where Krasinski had to play a buff military man. Cooper was so impressed with Krasinski's physique that he hired his trainer, Jason Walsh, to train him for American Sniper (2014).
Kevin Lacz was also a U.S. Navy SEAL and served with Kyle, during which time he was given the nickname 'Dauber'. He was initially a consultant on the film before Bradley Cooper offered him the chance to play himself in the film, which he accepted.
Having gained 40 pounds of muscle for this role, Bradley Cooper had to immediately slim down after filming wrapped in order to star in a Broadway production of The Elephant Man, in which he plays a physically deformed man.
Between takes Bradley Cooper often chatted with Clint Eastwood about the filmmaking process. Cooper has stated he has a goal of becoming a director, and as an actor turned director Eastwood was an inspiration to him.
Bradley Cooper admitted to having trepidation at the amount of physical training required for the role, since he had been sober for 10 years and did not want to have to resort to performance enhancing drugs.
During the time that he was attached to direct this film, Steven Spielberg contributed several ideas to help the story narrative, most notably the addition of a rival enemy sniper. Because of these changes, the script swelled to nearly 160 pages, at which point Spielberg felt that he could no longer bring his vision of the film to the screen. He dropped out on August 5, 2013, and less than three weeks later on August 21, Clint Eastwood was announced as the director.
Bradley Cooper later admitted that he thought it was silly using an unconvincing plastic doll for Kyle's infant child during a serious, emotional scene. While moving the doll's arm with his thumb, Cooper cracked in a Texas drawl: "I'm saving y'all 100,000 dollars."
Bradley Cooper claimed that the Iraq scenes were shot in Morocco over a period of two six-day weeks. Director Clint Eastwood wanted to finish filming in that region quickly before the weather became too hot.
Steven Spielberg immediately contacted Clint Eastwood when he decided he would not direct the film himself, having a good relationship with Eastwood and correctly thinking Eastwood would be interested in filming the story of Chris Kyle. The only specific note relating the film that Spielberg gave to Eastwood involved the Mustafa character: Steven was fine with whatever changes or edits Clint had planned for his shooting script, but he felt Mustafa was important enough that he wanted to emphasize it to the new director.
This movie was produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, owners of the DC comics brand. However, the signature skull of The Punisher (a popular Marvel comics character) can be seen in several scenes.
In the scene where Kyle is making fun of his friend for reading a comic book, the comic book in question is The Punisher. This is the source of the skull emblem that the SEALS later adopt and paint on their body armour and vehicles.
Jake McDorman, who played Biggles in the film, would go on to star in the television series, Limitless (2015). The series was inspired by another Bradley Cooper-led film by the same name Limitless (2011). The two would share scenes together in the Cooper-produced television show.
The Punisher skull logo is seen intermittently throughout the film, beginning with Chris Kyle's first deployment as Ryan "Biggles" Job is seen reading a graphic novel of The Punisher. However, there could be perhaps more of a significance in the correlation between the War in Iraq and The Punisher (2004) film, for which the said skull logo has the closest resemblance to. The Punisher film was released in April 2004, around the same time when U.S. Marines were sustaining heavy casualties during the First Battle of Fallujah.
Bradley Cooper only spoke to Chris Kyle one time on the phone, just a couple of weeks before Chris Kyle's tragic death. It was a two minute conversation according to Cooper. Since Kyle's death, Cooper dedicated eight months to bring Chris back to life and to honor the Kyle family. Cooper did such a great job that the Navy SEALs who had known Kyle and trained Cooper said they felt the presence of Chris when Bradley was around.
Chris Kyle met Lone Survivor (2013), Marcus Luttrell, during their BUD/s(SEAL Training) and became close friends with him, although they graduated with different classes. They kept in contact often and remained friends for the remainder of Kyle's life.
In the scene during Kyle's last deployment, a Cobra attack helicopter shoots a missile at insurgents about overrun the building where the SEALs are at and accidentally missed. According to Kyle's autobiography, the helicopter pilot never knew that there were SEALs on that building roof and it was lining up to fire on what the pilot thought was insurgents on the rooftop. Kyle sees the helicopter about to fire upon his own position and calls out for his unit to deploy their panels. The panels are reflective sections of fabric and alert other friendly forces to their position. The pilot sees this at the last second and pulls away instead of firing because of kyle's actions. Kyle's unit would have been killed if it had not been for him seeing the helicopter about to attack.
During the closing credits where the real Chris Kyle's funeral is shown, Kyle's casket is shown covered with numerous SEAL Tridents (nicknamed 'The Budweiser'). It is SEAL tradition to pound, by hand, one's own badge into the coffin of a fallen comrade. At a 'normal' SEAL funeral the coffin would bear a dozen or so ( usually the immediate team members). Kyle's coffin had over one hundred.
Chris Kyle's father personally told Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper that he would "unleash Hell" if his son's memory was disrespected in this film. He also said that Eastwood and Cooper were "men he could trust."
It was revealed in the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh that Chris Kyle was shot in the back six times by a .45 handgun, inflicting mortal wounds to his aorta and spinal column. Kyle's own pistol was holstered during the shooting. Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield who had accompanied Kyle and Routh to the shooting range, was also shot several times in the back and head (like Kyle, was found with his own weapon holstered). The gun that Routh used to kill Littlefield was a 9mm Sig Sauer pistol that belonged to Kyle. After the murders, Routh fled the scene in Kyle's pickup truck.
At the beginning of the film Chris' father adamantly tells him never to drop his gun. Chris drops his gun twice after that, once as he is running for cover from enemy fire in his final tour of duty, and in the last scene when his son asks him to come play Skylander, shortly before leaving the house.
Despite the depictions in the movie, Chris Kyle actually never shot any children. In his autobiography, Chris Kyle does scope a child at one point. The moment is also depicted in the movie. The combatants had sent the child down the street to retrieve an RPG. "I had a clear view in my scope," writes Kyle, "but I didn't fire. I wasn't going to kill a kid, innocent or not. I'd have to wait until the savage who put him up to it showed himself on the street."
The real Taya Kyle, Chris' widow, does not believe the marine Eddie Ray Routh that killed Chris Kyle murdered him due to PTSD. She believes that's what "others want to believe." She dismisses the claim all together.
Bradley Cooper recalled being very sensitive meeting the real Chris Kyle's father for the first time, and found it surreal sitting at the same dining room table that Kyle had eaten dinner at only months earlier. Cooper claimed that during their conversation he gave his word to Kyle's father that although he looked and sounded nothing like his son at the time, by the time filming began he would be as close a match as possible.
The film was released a month before Eddie Ray Routh's trial for Chris Kyle's murder. Routh pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. On February 24, 2015, Routh was found guilty of capital murder in Stephenville, Texas (the jury did not buy his insanity defense) where he is sentenced to life imprisonment without parole - the prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty.
When Kyle attends Marc Lee's funeral, he is shown pounding his trident into the casket. In his memoir, Chris Kyle stated that he was unable to attend Marc's funeral and wasn't able to pay his respects until he had attended the funeral of Biggles.
Chris Kyle's first long range kill was a woman who was about to throw a grenade. It was not, as depicted in the movie, a child and then his mother. When asked about it, Kyle responded "The woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn't take any Marines with her."
When screenwriter Jason Hall attended Chris Kyle's funeral, he received numerous threats from soldiers that were friends of Chris. One soldier even said, "If you fuck this up, I'll kill you." The soldier later approved of the movie after seeing it.
At Chris Kyle's funeral, Country musician Randy Travis appeared to perform "Amazing Grace." Earlier drafts of the screenplay included his rendition over the funeral, but in the final film it was replaced with "The Funeral" by Ennio Morricone.
To prepare for her role, Sienna Miller first wrote an e-mail to the real Taya Kyle and subsequently, in the next few months, they would communicate with one another via Skype. She also spent time with Kyle in Los Angeles and talked about family as a way of getting to know her speech and mannerisms. The most difficult part, according to Miller, was to know how Taya would start a conversation either with her late husband or with someone else.
Although the screenplay is credited as being adapted from Kyle's book of the same name, Screenwriter Jason Hall claims that he began researching the screenplay and met Chris Kyle before the book was completed and published, and he continued to interview Kyle's widow on further details after his death. Hall concluded of the book: "I absolutely knew there was more to this guy than was in those pages...It didn't really get into what happened when he came home and what going to war had cost him. I wanted to take a deeper look at that."
When it was announced that Jason Hall would adapt Chris Kyle's memoir in 2012, Kevin Lacz's wife, Lindsey, contacted him via a Facebook message asking him basically not to screw up with the story. To her surprise, Hall responded almost immediately after that, requesting for assistance in the technical aspects of the script. Lacz then immediately offered his assistance and both men would exchange notes and correspondence, subsequently became good friends. Also in the months prior to his fatal shooting, Kyle also came into the picture and, too, offered his assistance as well.
The man named "Biggles" lives long enough to get married to his girlfriend and have a fulfilling life despite being blind in both eyes due to his injuries. He dies later on while undergoing surgery. In the book, Chris Kyle takes him to a bar, where they allegedly overhear Jesse Ventura. Biggles asks Kyle to introduce him to Ventura, who refuses. After a while, Ventura is talking loudly against the war and President George W. Bush. Kyle asks him nicely to stop it. After Ventura keeps on, Kyle punches him out. Kyle never named Ventura, only provides a description, and current versions of the audiobook have omitted that section. In later interviews, Kyle admitted it was Ventura. Ventura maintains he never would have said that, and that it didn't happen. Ventura then sued Kyle, and, to much controversy, Kyle's estate after he died for defamation, and won.
The music that plays over the montage of Chris Kyle's funeral is a track named "The Funeral" by Ennio Morricone and originally composed for the spaghetti western The Return of Ringo (1965). Clint Eastwood himself composed the limited amount of original scoring for the film for which he receives no onscreen credit. Morricone is a friend of Clint Eastwood, having composed the music several spaghetti westerns Eastwood has starred in.
The script originally includes a re-enactment of Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield being gunned down by Eddie Ray Routh on that fateful day. This was to appear at the end of the film just before the funeral, but it was vetoed by his widow Taya Kyle as it was too harrowing for her and too gruesome to have it shown to her children.
Chris Kyle is depicted in the movie as shooting the child with the grenade and then the mother when she picked it up to throw it. In the real incident, she was the only one shot when she attempted to attack U.S. forces.
Due to Chris Kyle's tragic death so early in production Bradley Cooper had unfettered access to Kyle's possessions that the family had not yet had the time to sort or dispose of. Cooper watched hundreds of hours of raw home movie footage and studied Kyle's wardrobe while researching the role.
While a lot of things were omitted from the movie, it has been reported that Kyle lied about several things in his autobiography. In his book, Kyle tells the story of a 2006 bar fight in which he cold-cocked a guy, identified only as Scruff Face, for criticizing the Iraq War and saying that SEALs "deserved to lose a few." Later, on the Opie & Anthony radio show, Kyle revealed that Scruff Face was, in fact, Jessie Ventura, the former professional wrestler and governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. Only, Ventura said the incident never happened, that it was a lie. He filed suit for defamation and pressed his suit even after Kyle was killed. The jury found in Ventura's favor and awarded him $1.8 million. Almost immediately, the entire SEAL community turned against him, accusing him of going after one of USA's most decorated military veteran and trying to take money from his widow and his two children. Ventura maintained that he'd sued the estate, not the widow personally, and any money owed him would come from the publisher's insurance company, not the widow and all he'd wanted was to have his reputation restored and to recoup earnings he says he lost because of all the bad publicity. However the verdict was later overturned on appeal leaving the matter unresolved.