Steven Spielberg Nearly Directed ‘American Sniper,’ Here’s How His Version Would Have Been Different

Before American Sniper dominated the box office and set January records by hauling in over $100 million and nominated for six Oscars it was almost a very different movie.

Steven Spielberg became interested in Chris Kyle after reading his 2012 book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Spielberg was taken aback after hearing about the tragic murder of Kyle on Feb. 2, 2013, when he was shot at a Texas gun range by a mentally ill Iraq War veteran whom Kyle had been attempting to mentor. Spielberg was so moved by appalling demise of the legendary U.S. sniper that he wanted to bring Kyle’s life to the silver screen.

In May, Spielberg declared that he was going to direct American Sniper in the DreamWorks and Warner Bros co-production. However in August, Spielberg and DreamWorks pulled out completely. Clint Eastwood quickly jumped on to direct.

Details are now emerging of Spielberg’s version of the sniper movie and they are significantly different than Eastwood’s. American Sniper screenwriter Jason Dean Hall revealed some of the suggestions that Spielberg made about the script. The Hollywood Reporter has the details:

Spielberg had read Kyle’s book and 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.”

Spielberg wanted to humanize the insurgent enemy expert sniper, Mustafa, who was played by Sammy Shiek. Eastwood did not really focus on Mustafa’s personality and didn’t have any dialogue. The change would have made it more of a sniper versus sniper movie.

Then it appears that budgetary restraints played a part in Spielberg leaving the project:

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.

Spielberg was a producer in Letters From Iwo Jima, which was directed by Eastwood. Spielberg did do a masterful sniper scene in his movie Saving Private Ryan.

Do you think Spielberg’s version of American Sniper would have been better than Clint Eastwood’s interpretation?