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American Sniper Interview with Actor: BEN REED

Monday, January 19, 2015

Every year there's at least one movie at the Oscars which I intentionally miss because it just doesn't appeal to me; normally, it's because the movie deals with war, like Glory, Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty. This year that movie is American Sniper.  

That being said, next thing you know, I'm being asked if I'd like to talk to one of the actors from the movie for Tinsel & Tine?  Yes! It's an Oscar nominated movie directed by Clint Eastwood, starring and produced by Bradley Cooper!  So, despite my aversion to war movies, I set about preparing to interview Ben Reed, who plays Chris Kyle's father, Wayne Kyle in "American Sniper". - Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

Interview with Actor Ben Reed


In the true story of Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) he experiences flashbacks involving his father (played by Ben Reed) which prove to be monumental moments from his youth. As Cooper recounts the Navy S.E.A.L (1999 - 2009) hero's amazing and gruesome military career throughout AMERICAN SNIPER, these vivid memories of father and son give the audience a glimpse of the values and discipline which inevitably shape Chris Kyle into the man that he became (most successful sniper in American military history) Reed drew inspiration for the role from his brother, who in real life is an esteemed member of the Navy's Special forces.

"American Sniper is not an ordinary war movie". Ben tells me. "It explores how the family deals with PTSD. Kyle does four tours and each time he returns he comes back a little different - more introverted, depressed, less able to communicate. When my brother who is in the Army Special Forces read the script, he said it really hit home."

Ben also expressed how grateful he is to have gotten the part. "It's a good role. It's a nice start to the film and I just think the screenwriter Jason Hall did a beautiful job on how he presented everything."

Not having seen the movie, I asked Ben what are some scenes that set the tone for who Chris Kyle later became in life?

Ben described a scene where young Chris Kyle played by Cole Konis is out deer hunting with his father for the first time and resists shooting the deer and gets reprimanded "You never throw your gun in the dirt!". He also explained his character Wayne Kyle is a deacon in the church and teaches his sons discipline and tells them there are 3 different types of people in the world: Sheep who follow, thinking someone else is going to take care of their problems; Wolves who prey on the weak; And Sheep Dogs who protect the flock. With 160 registered kills, it's hard to imagine Chris as a fluffy sheep dog, but that is what a sniper does, he sits on top of a building taking out any threats to protect fellow soldiers coming into a village - he's protecting his flock up there.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Reed grew up living in a small farming community before attending West Virginia University where he was the starting quarterback during his junior year. Acting was never in his plan until a spring break trip to Miami his senior year of college when he saw an audition flier for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts' 6-week summer program. Reed kept the audition a complete secret from his friends and family until he was accepted into the program. His parents were less than pleased, but Reed moved to Pasadena for the program and never looked back.

T&T: What has kept you acting for over 20 years?

REED: I like the ups and downs and roller coaster ride of this business. It keeps me passionate.  And I feel confident about what I bring to the table.  When I auditioned for American Sniper, walking back to my car I'm going over everything I just did and I felt good.  I have some actor buddies who will say they gave a bad audition and then get the part.  When I come out of an audition feeling like it was the worst audition I'd ever done, it's because it was the worst audition I'd ever done (laughs).

T&T: What's Clint Eastwood like as a director?

REED: Well, he speaks just like he does in the movies, but without the intensity.  My audition was on video, sent to Eastwood, so the first day on set was the first time I met him.  He came over, shook my hand, said he really enjoyed my audition tape and then we just chatted for a bit, he set me at ease. He's the type of director to make suggestions rather than just tell you how it should be -- 'Why don't you try it like this - while you're at the dining room table, look at the younger boy and then as you end that sentence stare at Chris and end that last word on him'.  But it's just a suggestion, almost conversational.

Reed cont. The set is like a well-oiled machine. His crew is made up of people he's worked with for the last 20-30 years, so it's very calm and quiet, people talking in whispered voices.  Eastwood is precise in what he wants. He knows how he's going to edit every scene so he gets the shots he needs and that's it.  Sharp as a tack!

The premiere of American Sniper took place in New York, the same night Ben's son, a 23 year-old musician, was playing a gig and 13 year-old son had his first basketball game. Ben said he'd much prefer to be there for his family than walk a red carpet.  Ben and his wife have 5 children (3 boys / 2 girls).  I got the impression he's been very hands on as a father since the beginning, and that he's found good balance between family and career. I asked if any of his children have caught the acting bug?  He said no, but two are musicians, the son I mentioned, and another daughter who lives in Nashville as a songwriter.

T&T: What's coming up next ?

REED: I have a movie which opened at the San Diego Film Festival and will screen next month at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival (February 11th - 25th) It's called Starcrossed, it's a dark romantic drama. This was my first time producing, which is something I've always wanted to do.

T&T: How did you get involved in STARCROSSED ?[click for trailer]

REED: The director Chase Mohseni came to me with a script and together we tweaked it.  Then I brought it to Mischa Barton and Grant Harvey, an amazing young actor. I kinda feel like I discovered him. The movie also features Eric Roberts and Kristin Carey, who plays my wife. It's about two young people lost in their lives on their individual paths, but when they meet each other, it creates a chance to get out of their ruts and gives them hope for a brighter future. There are also twists and turns which little by little get revealed to the audience.

T&T: Would you want to be a Producer again, or was it a big headache?

REED: I loved it! I am doing it now. Chase and I are working on a Cop/Drama, and a Civil War piece that deals with an escapee from one of the civil war prisons. 

Thanks Ben for talking to Tinsel & Tine. Since I still don't plan to see American Sniper, I look forward to seeing you in these other films!

While You're Here 

Check Out T&T Blog Contributor, Mikhail Revlock's Review of American Sniper

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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