During what Bradley Cooper surely thought would be the first of many conversations with Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the actor made one promise as he discussed bringing Kyle’s best-selling autobiography “American Sniper” to the big screen.
Shortly after their brief conversation, Kyle and his friend were fatally shot by a troubled military veteran at a sprawling Texas lodge on February 2, 2013.
"Thank God I got to talk to him once on the phone. It was a very quick conversation. But I did tell him how serious I was about making this movie,” Cooper told USA Today. “And he should just know that whatever fears he had about Hollywood, to just put them aside and trust me. That I was going to do everything I could to tell this story.”
Cooper decided to continue with his plans to make the movie after Kyle’s death, bringing on legendary actor Clint Eastwood as director. And “there was really no choice” but to “do right by [Kyle] and his family,” Cooper said.
"You're sitting across the dining-room table talking to this person's father and mother. And his children and wife are there. And he's passed away. Knowing that they are putting all of their stories in your hands and the responsibly of that, it's actually unique,” he added.
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Cooper, 39, transformed himself to play the 38-year-old Kyle, putting on 40 pounds through a rigorous diet and workout regimen. He also trained with Navy SEALs who worked with Kyle, including Kevin "Dauber" Lacz, Kyle's sniper partner during his last two tours. Lacz served as a technical adviser and portrays himself in the movie.
But even clearing houses with actual SEAL teams and live-ammo shooting with the three types of rifles Kyle used in the field didn't prepare Cooper for staring into the rifle scope for the first time onset.
"Even though it was actors through the scope, they were human beings. It was a whole other deal. I remember getting a chill through my body realizing what he had to do," says Cooper of the man who was credited with 160 confirmed kills in his military service.
But the only way to be sure that the movie lives up to Kyle’s legacy is if his family “loves” it, according to the actor.
"His life merits this. I hope we have stepped up to the challenge,” he said.