Steven Spielberg decided that American Sniper wasn’t the right project with him after all. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he celebrated director/producer disagreed with Warner Bros. over the proper, well, scope of the project. Spielberg apparently envisioned the project as one that would require a larger budget than Warner was prepared to commit.
It’s a bit of an oddity considering the players involved; Spielberg still commands significant box office draw in his own right, and throw in the never-hotter Bradley Cooper, attached to star, in a true story about the deadliest sniper in Navy SEALs history and you’d figure it’d be pretty hard to budget too high.
Spielberg’s departure more or less hits reset on pre-production, as his DreamWorks SKG, which was on board to produce, leaves with Spielberg. It’s unclear whether this affects the film’s funding, or if Warner Bros. is planning on footing the entire bill. What may save the project from getting cycled back too far is that Bradley Cooper is also producing the film, making it less likely that he abandons ship as well. This is the second of Spielberg’s projects to stall out recently, following Robopocalype, which was intended as a major tentpole for next year. That project had been even further along than American Sniper, with distribution from Disney and Fox lined up plus Chris Hemsworth and Anne Hathaway in talks to star.
It’s also unclear at this point what Spielberg’s next directing gig will be. Not that he won’t be busy; he’s a producer on a number of high profile projects, perhaps most notably Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Among the possibilities are a biopic of James Hunt, one of the subjects of Ron Howard’s Rush, due out next month, a biopic of famed musician George Gershwin, an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s book Pirate Latitudes, and Chocky, a script with a logline rather reminiscent of E.T., but none of these properties are past script phase at the moment.