7 years ago

The little-known Alabama connection to Clint Eastwood’s upcoming ‘American Sniper’ film

"American Sniper" became a #1 bestseller upon its release in 2013 (Photo credit: Elena Cone)
“American Sniper” became a #1 bestseller upon its release in 2013 (Photo credit: Elena Cone)

Clint Eastwood’s new film “American Sniper” is set to begin production today in Morocco, and it will feature an Alabama connection that few people are aware of.

The movie will focus on the life of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, commonly referred to as “the most lethal sniper in American military history” with 160 confirmed kills and 255 claimed kills. So legendary were his exploits on the battlefields of Iraq that insurgents dubbed him the “Devil of Ramadi.” His longest confirmed kill was from an incredible 2,100 yards — roughly 1.2 miles. He was shot twice and involved in six IED attacks during his four tours in Iraq. For his service and valor he received two Silver Stars, five bronze stars, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and a Marine Corps Commendation.

Upon returning to his home state of Texas, Kyle took an active role in helping fellow veterans — especially those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — get re-acclimated to life at home. But in February of last year, Kyle and a friend of his named Chad Littlefield were gunned down at a shooting range by 25-year-old Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, while they were trying to help smooth his transition back into civilian life.

Before he was tragically killed, Kyle penned an autobiography called “American Sniper” detailing his transition from Texas rodeo cowboy to sniper. The upcoming film of the same name is being directed by Clint Eastwood and will star Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, The Hangover, Limitless) as Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) as his wife, Taya Renae Kyle.

Bradley Cooper (left) will portray Chris Kyle (right) in the upcoming movie adaptation of Kyle's 2013 autobiography "American Sniper."
Bradley Cooper (left) will portray Chris Kyle (right) in the upcoming movie adaptation of Kyle’s 2013 autobiography “American Sniper.”

In addition to the movie stars, at least one real-life Navy SEAL will play a significant role in the film. Kyle’s close personal friend and fellow SEAL Team 3 sniper Kevin “Dauber” Lacz (pronounced “lace”) is serving as one of the movie’s technical advisors. In short, Lacz will be showing the actors how it’s done in real life. On top of that, he’ll have an on-screen role in the film playing himself.

Lacz is Alabama’s connection to what is undoubtedly the year’s most anticipated military-related film. Now retired from the SEALs, Lacz currently works for Birmingham, Ala.-based defense contractor XTreme Concepts.

XTreme focuses primarily on providing venture capital to early stage companies focused on defense initiatives, but they also offer security services and employ a host of former U.S. special forces operatives, including SEALs and Green Berets.

“It’s important to us that we play an integral role in putting veterans to work,” XTreme Concepts CEO Landon Ash told Yellowhammer. “The sacrifices these guys and their families make secure the freedoms the rest of us enjoy. So when they come home, we feel like it’s our responsibility to provide a job for as many of them as possible.”

Ash said “American Sniper” is moving forward quickly, as is usually the case with Eastwood-directed films.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be involved in this project,” said Ash. “Dauber’s already in Morocco where they’re shooting a lot of the film. We know it’s in good hands with Clint Eastwood at the helm.”

Kevin "Dauber" Lacz
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz

Yellowhammer also had an opportunity to speak to with Lacz’s wife, Lindsey, Sunday evening. She detailed the unlikely sequence of events that led to her husband not only becoming the technical assistant on the movie, but also landing an on-camera role.

“Back in early 2012 when Warner Brothers optioned the rights to the film’s script, I was bored and Googled the screen writer and ended up finding him on Facebook. I sent him a message and told him my husband was in the book and basically asked him not to screw it up,” Mrs. Lacz said. “These men are impressive enough as they are, there’s no need to make it something it’s not. I figured I’d never hear back from him, but he actually messaged me back almost immediately and Kevin and I developed a friendship with him. Several months before Chris (Kyle) was killed, Kevin began helping out a lot on the technical stuff for the screen play. After Chris died, they moved Kevin into the advisory role. When he went out to train Bradley Cooper, they ended up asking him to audition to actually be in the movie. That wasn’t at all what we expected.”

Mrs. Lacz also filled us in on more of the back story between her husband and Chris Kyle, and on how Dauber ended up in the SEALs to begin with.

“One of Kevin’s best friend’s father was killed in one of the towers in 9/11. At the time he was going to school at James Madison University, but he decided he wanted to go into the military. He had no idea what job he wanted to do, though. When he went to the recruiter’s office, he saw a SEAL poster on the wall. He always says, ‘When I saw the poster of a frog man coming out of the water I knew that was it. That’s what I wanted to do.’

“He ended up in SEAL Team 3, Charlie Platoon, which is where he linked up with Chris,” she continued. “They deployed together to Ramadi. Mickey Monsoor, who was awarded the Medal of Honor, was over there, too, in their sister platoon. Chris ended up getting moved to Delta platoon, but he wanted to make sure someone he was already close to would be there with him. He tells a great story in his book about how he went into the office and moved Kevin’s name on the board over to Delta platoon with him, so they could be together. He wanted to serve with him.”

Kevin "Dauber" Lacz and Lindsey Lacz in Birmingham, Ala.
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz and Lindsey Lacz in Birmingham, Ala.

Mrs. Lacz said that Dauber got connected to the Alabama-based XTreme Concepts team through the company’s COO, Bradley Stegmeier, who is also a former SEAL. Stegmeier was in a leadership position inside SEAL Team 3 while Dauber was serving.

“We got a call from Brad and part of what they were looking for was someone with some medical experience,” she said. “Prior to becoming a SEAL, Kevin had been a corpsman, part of the Navy’s medical personnel. When he got out of the SEALs, he went to the University of Connecticut and got his bachelors degree in political science, but then decided to go to PA (physician’s assistant) school at Wake Forest. So when Brad was looking for someone with some background in medicine, it was a good fit.”

Mrs. Lacz said Dauber is enjoying the opportunity to be in the movie and tell their story.

“Overall, Kevin just really enjoys being involved with the SEAL community. Being on the SEAL teams is so demanding and requires so much time away from home. So we decided if we were going to have kids, we’d need to go in another direction. But he loves having those experiences with them. This movie is a great opportunity to continue that connection.”

A release date for “American Sniper” is not yet set, but it could be in theaters as early as the fourth quarter of this year.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 hours ago

Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill into law allowing alcohol delivery in Alabama effective later this year

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Monday signed into law SB 126, which will legalize the home delivery of alcohol in the state of Alabama effective October 1, 2021.

Sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) and Rep. Gil Isbell (R-Gadsden) in the respective chambers, SB 126 will create a licensing process that ultimately allows liquor, beer and wine sold at retailers to be delivered to residences, including by services such as Shipt, Instacart or DoorDash.

The new law contains limits on the amounts of each beverage that can be delivered, and deliveries can not be made to dry counties and dry cities.

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Deliveries of sealed alcoholic beverages under the law may occur from grocery stores, restaurants, breweries and other retail establishments licensed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Any alcohol delivered from a restaurant under the provisions of SB 126 must accompany a meal.

All delivery drivers carrying alcohol will be required to undergo a background check and must be at least 21 years old. The bill requires that a person age-21 or older must receive all deliveries of alcohol.

SB 126 received final passage by the legislature last week.

“Our legislation allows for alcohol delivery with strict, multiple layers of checks and balances in place. The legislation explicitly regulates that alcohol deliveries are made only to adults of legal drinking age,” Waggoner has said in a statement.

Isbell added, “Passing common sense rules for safe alcohol delivery in Alabama is smart all around – giving more options to consumers relying on delivery services while providing a boost to delivery workers and local retail businesses during a pivotal time.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

The Frontier Industrial Innovation Conference set for April 13-14

The past decade has brought tremendous changes to businesses in industrial and energy sectors. Taking advantage of those changes to uniquely position and empower each sector to shape the future industrial economy is the objective of The Frontier Conference. The two-day event is being held virtually this year from The Frontier‘s home in Birmingham.

The Frontier is the only conference of its kind to focus on emerging technologies for all key industrial subsectors. Its goal is to forge connections and collaboration among industrial innovation stakeholders. The conference will include an exciting mix of innovators, executives, entrepreneurs, investors and up-and-coming leaders of the industrial world to think, talk and hear about ideas and technologies that are shaping the future of industry.

“The Frontier Conference is about solution-seekers who are shaping the future of industrial innovation,” said The Frontier founder Hank Torbert. “Our goal is to contribute to that process and help companies succeed by sharing ideas and innovations across sectors. That also helps us stay focused on emerging development and trends and ensure that we continue to provide all who attend with valuable information, access and opportunities.”

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More than 200 people have registered for the conference, representing 130 organizations and 17 major industries from more than 20 states and five foreign countries. Attendees include business leaders seeking capital, partners, customers, new lines of business and innovative solutions for specific functions, such as economic development.

The 2021 conference is the first for The Frontier since its move from New Orleans to Birmingham in 2019. Torbert called Birmingham “the ideal home for The Frontier,” given the city’s industrial history and its emerging status as an epicenter for development of future industries.

“Throughout its history, Birmingham has been a city of pioneers, builders, innovators and entrepreneurs,” Torbert noted. “Today, it is a major epicenter of industrials, as is Alabama as a whole, whether you’re talking about automotive, chemicals, transportation, aerospace or manufacturing in general. That energy fits with our goal of building an industrial innovation community across all sectors that allows for the collaboration and expansion of emerging ideas and technologies.”

Torbert said Birmingham benefits from both private and public leadership that understands the economic evolution underway worldwide and is committed to an approach to economic growth that is diversified, innovative, strategic and collaborative. That’s a key factor in Birmingham’s emergence as a national leader in creating and attracting jobs of the future, he added – an assessment that is endorsed by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

“We understand that the industrial world is undergoing rapid transformation,” Woodfin said. “Birmingham’s commitment to innovation is part of our vision for helping our industrial sector remain competitive by transforming the ways they operate, compete and do business. We’re pleased to have The Frontier as a partner and a resource in our efforts.”

The growing energy for innovation in Birmingham extends to the rest of the state. Alabama continues to position itself for sustained success in the economy of the 21st century.

The state ranks third nationally in auto exports and has a strong presence in the chemical industry, where over 200 companies employ a total of more than 10,000 people, with annual exports exceeding $2 billion. Alabama also ranks among the top 10 states in the growth of biotech research funding, led by major research facilities in Birmingham and Huntsville.

In just the past five years, Alabama’s biotech startups have attracted well over $100 million in venture capital. At both the state and local levels, public and private entities are investing in workforce development initiatives to ensure a well-educated labor pool for new and expanding industries.

“Increasingly, Alabama’s innovation community demonstrates its commitment to the idea that we are here to work, learn and grow together,” said Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA). “Collaboration is an essential ingredient in our overall success, and we’ve seen that The Frontier is committed to helping those partnerships flourish.”

Along with EDPA and 30 other corporate and organizational partners, Alabama Power is a sponsor of The Frontier Conference. The conference will provide benefits from connections made and information shared, in addition to promoting the benefits of doing business in Alabama.

“We are constantly identifying new initiatives, products and services to meet our customers’ evolving needs,” said John Smola, director of Business Transformation and Administration for Alabama Power. “The Frontier conference provides an opportunity for us to learn from, engage with and gain best practices from other industry peers focused on innovation and customer offerings.”

To learn more about The Frontier, or to register for The Frontier Conference, visit thefrontier.co.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

Seven-ton elephant statue takes its place outside Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuska, a 19-foot-tall, seven-ton bronze elephant statue, was installed Monday in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama.

The newly named Tuska Plaza is at the southeast corner of Tuscaloosa’s University Boulevard and Wallace Wade Avenue. The project includes new landscaping, a large pedestal for Tuska to stand on, sidewalks surrounding the statue and lighting elements for nighttime viewing, UA announced.

The statue was recently donated to UA by the Tuscaloosa-headquartered Westervelt Company, along with a generous gift from Bill and Mary Battle.

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The statue was sculpted by English artist Terry Mathews and has resided at nearby NorthRiver Yacht Club for the past 20 years.

Tuska’s installation comes just in time for Alabama football’s annual A-Day scrimmage, which will kick off at noon on Saturday, April 17.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Regions lighting up Birmingham headquarters building for annual Regions Tradition golf tournament

Regions Bank, title sponsor of the Regions Tradition, will light up the Regions Center in downtown Birmingham with the image of a golfer in preparation for the upcoming golf tournament.

Starting on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. CT, all four sides of the Regions Center will be lit with images of a golfer, allowing a 360-degree view from anywhere near the building. The 20-story light display will be lit daily from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and again from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. through May 9.

This year’s Regions Tradition will be held May 5-9 at Greystone Golf and County Club. Enhanced protocols will be in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The tournament – even last year when it was canceled due to coronavirus – continues to be a major generator of charitable support and donations. In fact, the total amount raised in 2020 represented the largest amount raised in one year in the history of the tournament. Children’s of Alabama is the primary beneficiary, and other area nonprofit organizations also significantly benefit.

Overall, the event generates an estimated annual economic impact of $25 million statewide.

The Regions Tradition remains one of the premier stops of the PGA TOUR Champions, which is the men’s professional senior golf tour for those aged 50 and older. In fact, it is one of five majors on the tour.

The event will once again feature Hall of Fame-caliber golfers, as well as a celebrity pro-am with some of the biggest names around.

On the professional side, this year’s lineup is slated to include the likes of Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Bernhard Langer, John Daly and Vijay Singh.

Celebrities set to participate include Nick Saban, Bo Jackson and Kirby Smart.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Allowing lottery purchases through a cellphone is a terrible idea but the Alabama Legislature might do it

Another week is here, and that means we are into another week of gambling conversation.

Many discussions have already been had about what type of gambling we will have in the state of Alabama and who will benefit.

Will it just be a lottery and nothing more? Will it be casino gaming? Will there be sports betting? Will I be able to bet on WrestleMania? Will the Poarch Band of Creek Indians be happy? Will illegal casino owners across the state be happy? Will out-of-state investors want to come to the state and build casinos? Will the money go to the General Fund? Will the money go to education? Will the money go to ISIS?

Most people of the state of Alabama don’t really care about the particulars here. They don’t know that the Alabama Senate is about to substitute a “simple” lottery bill by Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) while Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has a more complicated and comprehensive bill that would open up gambling in the state of Alabama.

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Personally, I don’t think the votes are there for any of this. There are too many competing factions that will not allow gambling legislation to move forward unless their side benefits, but at the same time they don’t want the other sides to benefit. This is why we are in a never-ending stalemate.

But missing in all of this is a very bad idea wrapped in a very vanilla idea.

No one is really concerned about the lottery. Over 70% of the people in the state appear to want a lottery of some kind, and support for other types of gaming is less but still there.

Most people view the lottery as a relatively benign thing. They want to be able to buy lottery tickets at their local grocery store and gas station while picking up other items. The average person will buy whatever they need at the store and then plop down a couple of one-dollar bills on chances to win a couple million in return. It’s a long shot, but it is simple fun and generally harmless.

Unless it is not.

The Alabama legislation, as currently proposed, would allow Alabama residents to purchase lottery tickets through their phones. While this seems generally harmless, I will remind you that to purchase lottery tickets this way you will need a credit card, a debit card or a direct link to your bank account.

So what?

What is the difference if I buy a lottery ticket with a $5 bill at the grocery store or if I do it via a smartphone app?

Good question with a simple answer.

If you allow people to buy lottery tickets on credit, people will buy lottery tickets on credit.

If you make it easy for people to drain their bank accounts to buy lottery tickets, people will drain their bank account to buy lottery tickets.

It is just human nature. No one in their right mind would go down to their local convenience store to buy $1,500 worth of lottery tickets, but if you allow them to do that by entering a passcode on their phone, they will do it.

Use of the transaction, the lack of the shame that is created by bringing in hundreds of dollars to risk on a pick 6 and the ability to do it all in the dark, make it far more likely.

This is a terrible feature of all the lottery legislation that has been proposed.

And conversations with McClendon and others make it clear that this feature — it is a feature and not a bug — will stay in the bills.

McClendon laid this out during a recent radio interview on WVNN in Huntsville.

Partial transcript as follows:

We have an entire generation that does life on their phone. They order lunch on their phone, they get their plane ticket on their phone, they call their Uber on their phone, they meet their girlfriend or boyfriend on the phone. This generation of people, they’re not going to stand in line at the “handy mart” to buy a ticket. And this business of buying an iPhone like lottery ticket is very common throughout the rest of the country, that is no big deal and it’s pretty sophisticated too…You download your charge card.

So simple, so easy, so … bad.

Our neighboring states, which we love to talk about because they already have the lottery, ban this practice.

In fact, of the 45 lottery states in the United States, only 21 allow this stuff to be done over the phone. This means that 24 states understand this to be an issue.

To make this even more clear, some merchants won’t allow this practice at their locations even if the state does.

It is because this is such a bad idea. Think about it — faceless corporations heard they could make money off of lottery tickets by accepting credit cards for them and said, “No, that’s a little sketchy and not good for the customer.”

There is a message here.

The lottery has been called “a tax on stupid people,” but that doesn’t mean we should allow the state to take advantage of them.

I know, I know, personal responsibility and all that. If someone wants to get a new credit card and max it out on Mega Millions, let him. After all, it is his money and his problem, right?

Kinda. But we should do all we can to help people make less disastrous decisions.

Look at it this way: We build roads on mountains and tell people that they need to go slower and be cautious because the risk is greater as we drive near the edge. The risk is yours if you head up there, so be careful.

But, we also put guardrails on the more treacherous parts of the path.

They operate as protection for both the dummies who want to whip around the roads for a thrill and for the Johnson family of five out for a weekend drive whose dad takes his eyes off the road to tell Timmy to stop hitting his sister. We don’t just shrug our shoulders and say, “Sorry, Timmy, you’re dead.”

For that reason, part of the bill needs to be tweaked in whatever form gambling takes in Alabama to put those guardrails up.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.