American Sniper has been one massive whirlwind of controversy since it's initial release in theaters. From the troubling personal politics of Chris Kyle, to director Clint Eastwood playing fast and loose with history, and even the presence of a fake baby, Sniper has been the epicenter of heated debate that has polarized many. Such negative publicity has yet to throw a wrench in its success within certain film circles or at the box office, as Sniper lasso-ed in an Academy Award on Sunday and has officially become the highest grossing war movie of all time.
It's that latter element that has birthed a new wave of contention. The $400 million earned by American Sniper the film, coupled with the royalties [estimated at $6 million] from the slain Navy SEAL's memoir of the same name, has caused some behind-the-scenes friction between Chris Kyle's wife Taya and other grieving military families who were promised financial support yielded by the success of the Sniper properties. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Taya Kyle has not honored her fallen husband's requests and has been withholding money from families who also lost loved ones in battle.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
When he was alive, Chris Kyle told friends and business associates that he viewed any profits from his memoir American Sniper as "blood money." The legendary Navy SEAL, whose account of his four tours of duty in Iraq was adapted into the Clint Eastwood movie that is now up for six Oscars including best picture, maintained that he wanted the money to go to support struggling military families. After Kyle and a friend were shot and killed in 2013 by a veteran Kyle was helping, The New York Times retold this widely known point of view: "Though his book became a best-seller, he never collected money from it, friends said, donating the proceeds to the families of two friends and fallen SEAL members, Ryan Job and Marc Lee."
Yet today, with more than $6 million banked from the American Sniper franchise (boosted by the sale of more than 2 million books) and millions more on the way as the Warner Bros. film nears $400 million worldwide, a quiet dispute festers over who is entitled to that windfall. At the center of the discord is Kyle's widow, Taya, 40, who is alleged to have ignored her late husband's wishes and withheld money from the bereaved families he publicly had promised to support.
Neither the Lee nor Job family has motioned to make this a legal matter, and I hope it remains that way so this can be settled civilly and quickly. The last thing veterans and their families need is further public indignity, especially as the VA shamefully neglects to provide the proper assistance to the men and women who have returned from duty. All parties involved deserve better.