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BEHIND THE SCENES OF AMERICAN SNIPER

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By Robert K. Brown


From the February 2015 issue of SOF

How much did the Hollywood mindset interfere with presenting the actual facts regarding Chris’ life?
Overall, a reverence and respect for Chris Kyle and even the military as a whole was apparent from the first day I started working on American Sniper. Everyone I met and worked with made a huge effort to portray Chris in a way they felt was consistent with Jason Hall’s (screenwriter) vision.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mark Hammet, a sniper with Scout Sniper Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, in support of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, uses his rifle combat optic during a company operation in Sangin, Afghanistan, Jan. 21, 2011. The battalion’s mission was to conduct counterinsurgency operations in partnership with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David Hernandez/Released)

I started working with Jason on the script before Chris died, and it was immediately obvious to me that he was devoted to capturing the man that was Chris Kyle. He spent literally hundreds of hours on phone calls and doing research while completing the script. His passion for writing the script and bringing Chris and his SEAL brothers to the screen was contagious. It infected everyone else working on the movie and set the tone for the entire production. There’s no way to completely convey an entire lifetime in 2-1/2 hours of film, but I do believe the finished product reflects Chris’ commitment to his fellow SEALs and service members, his family and his faith. Bradley Cooper’s commitment to Chris Kyle was unparalleled. He studied hundreds of photographs and hours of video, met and spoke with Chris’ family, and physically transformed himself for the role. I worked closely with him during the entire filming process and know he felt personally invested in portraying Chris accurately. I can’t picture anyone else undertaking that role and mastering it to the degree that he did.

A Polish soldier fires a sniper rifle during a live fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Afghanistan, March 21, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. David Zlotin/Released)

I can’t imagine working on a more personal project, and it made the process easier to work with people who were fully committed to portraying the real man that was Chris, from the producers down to the crew.

How often did the director’s requirements interfere with realistic portrayal of combat scenes?
There’s a reason why Clint Eastwood is a legend. Clint has an uncanny ability to read the script and envision a scene. He’s very good at working within his constraints and limitations and still producing an outstanding product. He has a healthy respect for combat and for SEALs, and that shows through in the film. Combat in American Sniper really serves as a backdrop for the real story – the journey that Chris makes through life.

Were the producer and director receptive to your guidance/advice?
My job as the SEAL technical advisor was to give advice based on my real life experiences as a SEAL and Chris’ platoon mate. I was able to provide a lot of information to the filmmakers about the more technical aspects of combat / SEALs. Bradley Cooper, the producers and Clint Eastwood took my advice and expertise and used what I gave them to the best of their abilities. At the end of the day, I was an operator and they were the storytellers. It takes a lot of trust for someone in their position to listen to a guy they’ve never worked with before and use his information in their project. We trusted each other. I always felt my guidance was appreciated and respected.

Did movie requirements/requests end up compromising opsec?
No. Anything discussed was within the boundaries of Chris’ book, which was cleared by the Department of Defense before publication.

Did you encounter any problems in procuring the appropriate weaponry?
It wasn’t my job as SEAL technical advisor to procure weaponry. Fortunately, I was able to work closely with Mike Sexton at Independent Studio Service. They provided all of the weapons and gear. These guys were obsessed with details. They pored over my pictures and were in touch constantly leading up to filming to make sure they got everything right, down to the minutiae. It was pretty cool to see Chris Kyle’s and my experiences recreated to such a degree.

Please briefly describe your military background.
Here’s my professional bio:
Kevin Lacz was born and raised in central Connecticut. He enrolled at James Madison University in 2000 in pursuit of his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, claimed the life of a good friend’s father, however, he decided to leave school in favor of the military. A SEAL poster on the wall at a Navy recruiter’s office inspired Kevin to enlist in the Navy with orders for Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL training (BUD/s). He went on to graduate with BUD/s Class 246. As a hospital corpsman, Kevin also attended 18-D Special Operations Combat Medic School at Fort Bragg before checking into SEAL Team 3 in Coronado, California. Soon after, he attended Army Sniper School and returned to Charlie Platoon, where he began preparing for his 2006 deployment with Chris Kyle, Marc Lee, Ryan Job and Mike Monsoor.

In 2006, Kevin deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, with Charlie Platoon, Task Unit Bruiser. The work he did as a platoon sniper and medic contributed to his task unit becoming the most highly decorated special operations task unit since Vietnam. Kevin personally conducted numerous sniper overwatches, direct action missions, raids and tribal engagements in support of the effort to halt the spread of violence through Ramadi. For his actions on his 2006 deployment, including acquiring numerous enemy kills and braving enemy fire to carry a fallen comrade to safety, Kevin was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V device. In 2008, Kevin returned to Iraq, this time as a member of Delta Platoon. His focus was the Iraqi border with Syria and the interception of foreign fighters trying to infiltrate the country. He completed another deployment with Chris Kyle, this time as a platoon sniper, medic and breacher – a trifecta of certifications that made Kevin the only member of his platoon qualified to go on literally any operation they planned.

As a SEAL, Kevin gained extensive experience in special operations combat medicine, special operations dive chamber medicine, military free-fall HALO and HAHO operations, long-range target interdiction sniper work, survival evasion resistance escape (SERE) training, battlefield interrogations, close quarters combat (CQC), counter-terrorism operations and naval special warfare lead breaching operations. In addition to his Bronze Star, Kevin was awarded two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat ‘V’s and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Upon completing his enlistment, Kevin was honorably discharged from the Navy. He returned to Connecticut and enrolled at the University of Connecticut with the intention of continuing his career in medicine. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science in 2011 and began the application process for Physician Assistant School. While earning his undergraduate degree, he also married and started a family. In 2012, Kevin moved his family to Winston–Salem, North Carolina, to pursue his Masters of Health Sciences at Wake Forest University. He graduated in August 2014 and passed his medical boards. He is a certified physician assistant.

Kevin’s 2006 deployment has been discussed extensively in the media and in books, including Dick Couch’s The Sheriff of Ramadi, Jim DeFelice’s Code Name: Johnny Walker and Chris Kyle’s American Sniper. Because of his close working and personal relationship with Chris Kyle, Kevin was asked to contribute to American Sniper through interviews with Chris’ coauthor, Jim DeFelice. Chris also discussed Kevin frequently when referencing the 2006 and 2008 deployments (as “Dauber”), laying the groundwork for Kevin’s involvement in the production of and eventual casting in the Clint Eastwood biopic by the same name (starring Bradley Cooper). In early 2014, Kevin auditioned for the role of “Dauber” and was cast to play himself. He was also hired to provide SEAL technical advising for the film.

Currently, Kevin is preparing to begin work as a physician assistant with the Eagle Fund at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida. His past military service influences him greatly as he seeks to actively support service members and veterans in his community and around the country.

Kevin continues to work in the entertainment industry as an actor, stuntman, technical advisor and motivational speaker. He lives in Florida with his wife, Lindsey, and two young children.

 
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