The Chris Kyle biographical film American Sniper has made itself at home sitting at the top of the box office charts. It is breaking records and making bank but it is also a meaningful and powerful film about family, war, and dedication to one’s country. The role of Chris, played by Bradley Cooper, is shaped near the film’s beginning when the audience views glimpses into Chris’s upbringing. His father is played by Ben Reed in unforgettable scenes that help set the tone for the entire movie and powerfully affect the audience’s understanding of Chris. Hot2Molly.com spoke with Ben a few days before the Oscars about being part of and prepping for his role in the incredible Academy Award-winning movie.
H2M: First of all, congratulations on being part of such a amazing, huge, successful movie.
Ben Reed: Thank you. It’s a pretty special film.
H2M: When you first got word that you would be auditioning for the role, what were your thoughts or what went through your head?
BR: First of all, I had already read the book so that was exciting. And then I read the script, which I really liked. And Clint Eastwood directing and Bradley Cooper playing Chris Kyle, so who wouldn’t be excited about that opportunity?
H2M: And then when you first heard you had gotten the role, what did you think to yourself?
BR: Whenever I walk out of an audition, I kind of just forget about that job and go on to the next possibility. I hadn’t heard back from them for like a month a half, and I was driving back to my house and my manager called and says ‘You got American Sniper.‘ It was kind of out of the blue so I was kind of hit with a little shock at first. And then I was like, “Yes!” Very excited, ecstatic. It’s a great story about an American history and I was just very happy that I was going to get to shoot it.
H2M: Theses flashback scenes that you star in, they are so insightful for the audience in getting a deeper sense of the character of Kyle. Will you describe how you feel those scenes impact the audience’s education of Chris.
BR: It lets them see how Chris was raised and it sort of sets the tone for the film. I try to teach the boys value and discipline. Every father wants to show their children a path – not make it for them, but show them a path that they can take. As parents, we do the best we can. We try to lead by example and I think that’s what was in the script. Mr. Kyle was doing for the boys as father’s do everyday.
H2M: You spoke with your father to prep for the role, is that correct?
BR: Yes, I did. My brother’s a Special Forces Green Beret. I called my father up to pick his brain a little bit, because we never really discussed it before – what his thoughts were when he knew my brother was going to Afghanistan and Iraq and there’s a possibility that he could be killed. He was very insightful and I appreciated him sharing with me because, like I said, we hadn’t talked about it very much.
H2M: What an amazing resource, wow.
H2M: You’re Texas accent in the movie is impeccable. I can hear that you have an Oklahoma accent, and you went to college in West Virginia. How did you develop the accent you used in the film?
BR: Thank God for the internet because you can go and watch Chris Kyle in videos that he had, like videos where he is talking about his time in the Navy. So I just kind of listened in and picked up what I could from that, because there wasn’t a lot of stuff about his father. There were no videos that I could find of his father talking so I just kind of matched Chris’s inflections and everything and just ran with it and did the best I could.
H2M: You did a great job!
H2M: Had you ever been hunting before in real life?
BR: Oh yeah, I come from a long line of hunters. And we also deer hunt. And I have three boys so I’m trying to pass that tradition on to them as well. First of all, all hunters eat what you kill – that’s always been the motto in our family. This year, we went deer hunting and the deer we got on the first day, we had for dinner that night. It’s not like a sport per se, more of a tradition in our family.
H2M: It looks like an amazing bonding experience for fathers and sons.
BR: It is. I remember when I was twelve-years-old and I got my first deer with my father. We were out in the woods. He was way far from me and I was sitting right besides a tree. It was cold, probably 20 degrees, and I was sitting there shaking, twelve-years-old, and I wake up and I kind of hear some leaves breaking and crunching. I look up and right down the way was an eight-point buck. I don’t know if you ever heard of ‘buck fever’ but that’s what hunters get. Your nerves get up and you kind of start shaking – they call that buck fever and it hit me. I put my rifle up and shot the deer and I was kind of in shock after I did it, because it was the first deer I ever killed so I’m just sitting there. And then I just start yelling, “Daddy! Daddy! I did it!” And I’m running to him and he tells me, “Shhh, there are other hunters in the woods.” It was a lot of fun and good bonding.
H2M: It’s so cool you got to film that scene that shows that moment in a boy’s life.
BR: Yes, it’s very cool. As actors, we have to draw from our own life and this hit right at home.
H2M: You have a very quotable line in that scene – ‘Don’t leave your rifle in the dirt.’
BR: Yes. And the dining room speech about sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs was very well written by Jason Hall, the screenwriter, which is why he’s up for an Oscar. Lots of people who sees me on the street say, ‘Hey, Sheepdog!”
H2M: The Oscars are Sunday and American Sniper has 6 nominations, including Best Picture. How will you spend the day?
BR: Yes, it’s exciting. I’ll be going to the Oscar parties. Not everyone gets to be in an Oscar-nominated film so I want the experience of going to the after parties, because once those parties are over, it’s over. Everybody’s moved on and we’re all working on our next projects, so this is the last hoorah for Sniper.
H2M: Where will you watch the show?
BR: I’m going to watch it over at a friend’s house then head over to the Vanity Fair party and the Warner Brothers party. It should be fun.
H2M: What movies or performances were you amazed by this year?
BR: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and the way he captured Stephen Hawking. He’s going to give Bradley Cooper a run for his money for the Oscar. I watched Birdman and Michael Keaton’s awesome. And I really like Ed Norton in that as well. He was just over-the-top funny. I love his bravery, just the way he was naked and didn’t give a crap about anybody. I just love that. It’s really cool. Reese Witherspoon in Wild – the most amazing performance. She didn’t hold back anything. She just went for it, it’s beautiful. Go see the film. My film Starcrossed was playing at the San Diego Film Festival and the first night, they had Wild. We went there and in the first 15 minutes I thought it was maybe going to be a chick flick, as it was about her and a breakup and stuff, and then all of a sudden it took off, and I thought, “Oh my God, this is phenomenal.”
H2M: It’s really a survival story. Her and two sticks, a tent, and a pack of matches, that sort of thing. And overcoming hardship.
BR: Right. The emotions and the flashbacks – they really did a nice job.
H2M: I’m dying to see it. And Laura Dern is supposedly amazing too.
BR: Oh, she was great. She was at Laura Dern’s best. I call her quirky because she is just quirky. She has these little things that she does. She’s just so good and right on and so present. That’s the key to acting – to be present. When you don’t see the actor thinking or anything, they’re just there. And that’s Laura Dern in the film.
H2M: Please talk more about your new movie, Starcrossed. You are the executive producer and star in the film, so this is your baby.
BR: Yeah, my little baby that I produced and starred in with Mischa Barton, Grant Harvey, Kristin Carey, and Eric Roberts. Grant Harvey in this film – you know when people kind of stand out and jump out at you? Because I’d never seen him before until I auditioned him. He had a great chemistry with Mischa. Then, while looking at dailies at the end of the day, I’d be like like, “Damn, Oh my God, he’s so good.” He’s just kind of raw, which is really nice. He has a little Matt Damon quality to him. I don’t want to pinpoint that as that who he is, but he just has this nice natural way to him. The process has been so fun. It’s been so much stress. We’re working now on figuring out how we’re going to distribute it. Since its my first producing job, I didn’t know exactly all the different chapters of filmmaking there are. I normally just show up, shoot my stuff, and leave. But now, from insurances to international distribution and all this other stuff, I’m just learning so much and really enjoying it. I actually have a couple of preproduction scripts we’re working on right now.
H2M: So producing is something you’d be excited to jump into again?
BR: Absolutely. Now I know more. I know the mistakes I’ve made. The things I paid for that I didn’t really need to. Little things like that that you learn as you go, as you do in life.
H2M: You were in Face/Off, a movie that many people have on their list of all-time favorite action flicks. What was that experience like?
BR: That was great. I got to work with Nic Cage and he ends up blowing my head off. I worked on that for a month. Even though my screen time is, maybe 4 or 5 minutes, that scene we’re they’re trying to take off (in a plane) took a month to shoot. We were in Victorville, California. Nic Cage and Travolta were there. It was just great. When we were on the set, Nic was in character the whole time, so there wasn’t a lot of chitchat. But Travolta was great. As you’re waiting for lunch, you’re sitting around throwing a football. And Travolta does have a decent arm!
H2M: You would know! (Ben was a quarterback and led the football team during his college years at West Virginia University.)
H2M: Thanks so much, it was so nice talking with you Ben! And I am a big complimenter and I have to tell you that you are a drop-dead gorgeous guy.
BR: You’re very sweet and you probably need some glasses.
I think all of Ben’s fans and anyone with eyes would disagree.