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‘American Sniper’ Screenwriter Jason Hall: Finding Purpose in Tragedy

By February 15, 20158 Comments

“There’s a lot of ways to succeed and you don’t always know what’s going to make you happiest — what’s the most fulfilling — if you can’t get past your ego and your own idea of what you’re supposed to be.”

Jason Hall, Oscar-Nominated Screenwriter of “American Sniper”

Jason Hall is having a moment. The country is having a moment.

Although hardly an overnight success story, it’s fair to say American Sniper is this talented screenwriter’s big break. A break so big he just might win his first Oscar a few days from today. But the celebratory mood is tempered by one inescapable fact: it is constructed from the tragic demise of a man named Chris Kyle. The soldier who not only serves as this contentious movie’s protagonist, but was also a man Jason called friend.

In an era when studios shy away from war movies as box office poison, American Sniper is an unsuspecting juggernaut. Breaking records left and right, the Bradley Cooper starrer seems to have touched a national nerve, packing theatres across the U.S. to the tune of over $300 million domestically and a fast approaching $400 million worldwide grossNot only is American Sniper Clint Eastwood’s most successful film to date, it’s the highest grossing war film of all time.

And yet the film is not without its critics and controversy. Propaganda or protest movie? War polemic or character study? The glorification of a highly skilled killer or the tragic tale of one man’s demise? 

Let the pundits pontificate, Jason Hall would say. The important thing is that people are now talking about things that need talking about.

Irrespective of your personal feelings about this film, you cannot deny that it is a work that demands to be reckoned with. A reckoning that has catalyzed a productive dialog around a litany of important issues such as:

  • the incidence and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in today’s soldiers;
  • the physical, mental and emotional impact of multiple deployments on soldiers, their families and society; and
  • how to systemically improve the much needed care and support we provide our troops.

This is the dialog that interests Jason – a guy with his feet on the ground who really gets that the success of this movie is not about him. It’s about service. It’s about the responsibility we collectively shoulder as a society – irrespective of politics — to do a much better job of taking proper care of the men and women who voluntarily enlist to place their lives on the line daily, and without reservation.

This is a compelling conversation about many things, from the machinations of Hollywood to the fragility of life. But to me, this is about the responsibility to make your journey about something bigger and more important than your self and your ego.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Thank you to this week’s show sponsors:

  • : find the health care plan to suit your lifestyle in just minutes
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Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson. Thanks boys!


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  • Tommy F says:

    Rich, the new website looks awesome! Can’t wait for my pre-ordered copy of THE PLANTPOWER WAY, to arrive in the mail.

  • Julia Hanlon of Running On Om says:


    Thank you for this podcast with Jason! It was definitely one of the most powerful ones of the 130 RRPs I have tuned into. It moved me to think about grief, our military, and the film industry in a new way.

    Thank you for bringing these stories to light!

    Peace & Love,
    Julia Hanlon of Running on Om

  • Loren says:

    Thank you for Jason! This was a powerful one I agree. I had to listen twice. I am so happy their are people in the world that truly care.

  • Michel Hone P.Eng., PhD says:

    Hell Rich: This is not the right platform for what I have to say, but I do not know how to reach you otherwise. The other side of the plant-based diet coin is don’t eat meat. Matthieu Ricard is a French Buddhist monk and a cellular biologist. He has written a book entitled Plaidoyer pour les Animaux, in which he documents the suffering we impose on the animal world just so that we may eat meat. It is absolutely horrifying. Unfortunately it is in French, so you might have to be creative to get around that problem. Maybe one of your numerous readers would translate the book… Reading the book would propel thousands of people into your fold. Keep up the good work!

  • lauraknapp says:

    Rich, Thanks for this great podcast! I am a long-time Rich fan, AND an Army officer, and I really appreciated the way you discussed the military in this show. Very well done! I also eat healthy and enjoy learning about nutrition, but honestly it was quite refreshing to hear you do a show where you did not once mention veganism. I appreciate your having some topic diversity. You have a unique interview style that is one of the best in podcasting–keep it up!

  • Tommy F says:

    Matthieu Ricard has also been studied as “the happiest person alive”. We could definitely learn a thing or two from him. 🙂

  • Erica says:

    Great discussion. I truly look forward to listening to your podcast each week.
    Is there anyway to get some more information on the grief recovery workshop Jason attended? I’m interested in attending something like this but can only move forward on personal recommendations. After losing my mother at age 26 and now my father at age 38 I’m very aware of the lack of “personal” conversation around the grieving process. Which makes it difficult to vet the resources available. Jason’s story struck a cord with me so I thought I should reach out.

  • David Barr says:

    What a great movie director interview. Awesome, two thumbs up, five stars. Best I have ever heard. Lots of the usual data but then you throw in the personal dimension it goes to another level.

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