Ex-SEAL portraying himself in Eastwood's 'American Sniper' movie
In his years on SEAL Team 3, few things made Kevin Lacz sweat.
Not HALO jumps, not setting underwater explosives, not patching soldiers up as a combat medic.
But a few days ago in Morocco, the 32-year-old Navy veteran found his palms sweaty at the thought of a very different challenge. After all, it’s not every actor whose first speaking part comes with Clint Eastwood staring him down from the director’s chair.
That’s just what happened recently as Lacz, Bradley Cooper, Eastwood and a full cast and crew put in three weeks in Morocco shooting the new film “American Sniper.”
Lacz is doing double duty in the film, which tells the story of fellow SEAL Team 3 member Chris Kyle, a legendary sniper so lethal Iraqis dubbed him “The Devil of Ramadi.”
The tall, still-ripped Lacz, a veteran of two overseas SEAL deployments, is the film’s technical adviser and is playing himself in the movie.
I talked with him about all that last week at the home of his in-laws, where he has been able to join his wife, the former Lindsey Moore, and children Grady and Ailie for a short stretch before heading off to Los Angeles for more filming.
Lacz, a Connecticut native, said he was a typical political science major at James Madison University years ago until the events of 9/11 affected him deeply.
Wanting to serve his country, he met an inspired Navy recruiter who convinced him that was the service for him.
Raised with core values of integrity, service and attention to detail, he was interested in the challenge presented by trying to qualify as a combat medic with the SEALs.
In 2003, he started the lengthy and extreme training required by the elite combat force. It helped that he was a swimmer in high school and liked being challenged physically and mentally.
By April 2006, he had aced the basic underwater demolition training and began honing skills ranging from advanced combat medicine to sniper shooting.
He deployed then to Iraq, where his SEAL team was successful in a range of missions.
The young addition to the SEAL team — he earned the nickname “Dauber” because he resembled a character on TV’s “Coach” — was struck by the engaging personality and leadership of teammate Kyle.
Another deployment with SEAL Team 3 sent him later to Syria and Saudi Arabia. But after meeting Lindsey and realizing he wanted to start a family, Lacz decided it was time to leave the SEALs.
He stayed in touch with many of his former teammates, including Kyle, who had gone on to write the highly successful and well-read autobiography “American Sniper,” in which he claimed to be the most lethal sniper in American military history.
Like all of Kyle’s fellow SEAL team members, Lacz was devastated in February of last year when a fellow vet the author had taken to a shooting range in Texas turned his weapon on Kyle and another veteran, killing both.
As all of that was happening, Lacz and other members of Team 3 had become aware that Steven Spielberg was interested in making a movie of Kyle’s book, and Bradley Cooper was interested in playing him. Eventually Spielberg dropped out and Eastwood got involved.
Lacz’s wife, Lindsey, actually contacted the screenwriter for the project at one point, volunteering her husband to help with details about Kyle or SEALs in general.
Through working with the screenwriter on getting so many details right, Lacz soon enough found himself in L.A. teaching Cooper and others how to shoot and carry themselves as members of the elite combat teams.
One day, Cooper looked at Lacz and out of nowhere suggested he also play himself in the movie. Lacz auditioned via a video taken on his smartphone and got the role.
But nothing quite prepared him for the moment when, after one of his first speaking parts, Eastwood hustled over to tell Lacz he’d nailed it.
“He said, ‘Damn good job, son,’ which was pretty cool coming from a director like Mr. Eastwood,” said Lacz. “He’s so amazing: nice, smart and sincere. And he’s so prepared each day that most things are done on the first take.”
Lacz said he has been impressed with the professionalism by all involved with the film. When a long day of shooting in Morocco had some cast members losing concentration on a pivotal scene involving the death of a SEAL Team 3 member, however, Lacz provided a compelling reason to refocus.
“I told them that it may be just another line or two to them, but to me and the others on the team, it was one of the most important days of our lives,” he said. “What we lost deserved our best in capturing that moment.”
When Lacz finishes the film, he and his family plan to move to Florida, where he expects to serve as a physician’s assistant and member of a venture capital firm not far away in Alabama.
One story Lindsey likes to tell is the way her husband dated both of her older sisters in San Diego before she met him. When her mother visited San Diego, she met Lacz and said she was sorry it didn’t work with those sisters, but added, “I know you’d just love my younger daughter.”
Which is just what happened when a family-provided plane ticket from Florida to California allowed romance to blossom.