Does Osama Bin Laden’s Death Help or Hinder Kathryn Bigelow’s KILL BIN LADEN? [Updated]

     May 2, 2011


First off, a little perspective: I am aware that the extent to which the long-awaited death of Osama Bin Laden affects movies is miniscule compared to the closure and sense of justice that death provides to those affected by Al-Qaeda’s terrorism.  If a sense of closure for families that lost someone on 9/11 is a “10”, then news about a Bin Laden movie is about 0.0001.  But we’re a movie news site and the death of this hated piece of shit has affected various movies in production, most notably, Kathryn Bigelow’s Kill Bin Laden.

As we’ve previously reported Bigelow and Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal want to do a smaller movie before moving on to the international drug crime drama, Triple Frontier.  In January, we reported that the indie thriller was about the hunt for Bin Laden, but then Variety updated their story to say the film had nothing to do with Bin Laden.  What could have led them to originally think that it did?  Apparently the script is called “Kill Bin Laden”.  And it actually does have something to do with the recent Al-Qaeda corpse.  Hit the jump for more.

osama-bin-laden-dead-signAccording to Deadline, the script is about an unsuccessful mission to kill Bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks.  Oddly enough, the film was making steady headway in recent weeks.  Megan Ellison (True Grit) was interested in funding the flick and as recently as this past Friday, Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) was being courted to play the lead role.  Before Bin Laden’s death, the film would have had a downer ending that would have served as a somber reminder of the scumbag’s freedom.  Now the ending of the film has become celebratory and every audience member knows that while the mission portrayed in the film failed, a team of Navy SEALs eventually busted into Bin Laden’s compound, shot him in the head, and dumped his body into the ocean.

But is that the story Bigelow wants to tell?  A story where Bin Laden is still free hammers home the point about the futility of the war on terror and how deeply 9/11 changed our country.  That story loses its power when it has the closure that is invaluable to the families of Bin Laden’s victims, but lacks the moral complexity that sticks with audiences.  Obviously, I’d rather Bin Laden be dead and have a movie not get made, but I also understand why Bigelow may want to move on.

It’s also not the only Bin Laden project on the market.  While Kill Bin Laden seems to be influenced by a failed mission to assassinate the Al-Qaeda leader, Paramount’s adaptation of Gary Bernsten’s book Jawbreaker, is actually about a 2001 mission to kill Bin Laden during the opening states of the war in Afghanistan.  That’s not to mention all of the Bin Laden projects likely to flood Hollywood as various publications gather details and write stories about this weekend’s successful mission.

And it’s possible that Bigelow and Boal may shift their focus to that mission.  Risky Business reports that “Bigelow and Boal are digesting the news and will spend the week figuring out their next move. We can be sure that Boal will be using his extensive intelligence connections to get the inside dope on the mission.”  While there may be a surplus of Kill Bin Laden-type projects about to go into development, I’m sure that Bigelow and Boal’s reputation and talent will give them an edge.

UpdateVariety is reporting that Boal’s script already focused on the team of operatives that were ultimately responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden this weekend.  Sources close to Boal say that he’s now updating his script to include the 40-minute firefight that ended with Bin Laden catching a bullet to the brain.  Kathryn Bigelow is still attached to direct and filming is planned for this summer.

There’s also more good news: because filming hadn’t begun and Boal was still working on the script, the announcement of Bin Laden’s death gives the screenwriter time to change the ending.  Boal and Bigelow will reportedly take some time to see how the Arab world reacts to the news.  Finally, Bin Laden’s death makes the project timely and therefore more attractive to potential financiers.

Casting is currently underway, but offers are being held until Boal turns in a finished script.  I’m encouraged by this project for several reasons:

1) It’s Bigelow and Boal and The Hurt Locker is great.

2) This script was already in development so unlike other projects that may be rushing to capitalize on Bin Laden’s death, Boal has been working on his script for months.

3) I’m sure Bigelow and Boal will bring a complexity and thoughtfulness to the story that makes it more than a patriotic pat on the back.

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