With dust billowing in the air and the sound of gunfire ringing out sporadically, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, alongside other American troops, battled against the Iraqi insurgents surrounding them as they sat atop an abandoned date factory.
Unsure of their fate, the soldiers held their ground and refused to give up the fight, even as the opposition began entering the building, bringing the battle nearer and nearer. As the enemies drew closer and the assault became personal, only one thing could have saved each other from shedding blood — the yell of “cut” coming from the director’s chair.
The battle being fought was staged, and the building being shot up and ambushed wasn’t sitting in an Iraqi desert half a world away, but rather just south of downtown El Centro on Commercial Avenue.
And the man in the director’s chair was none other than Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood and crew, including Bradley Cooper, star of films such as “Limitless” and “The Hangover” series, have been in town all week shooting scenes for “American Sniper,” a movie based on Kyle’s autobiography by the same name, which follows his career as a Navy sniper, where he accumulated a confirmed 150 kills.
Though most filming has taken place in Morocco and the Los Angeles area, the scene being shot locally is a pivotal moment in the film, though details were scarce, as it is critical for the crew to keep specifics under wraps.
However, executive producer Tim Moore explained why the El Centro location was chosen and what it means to work in a small community.
“The look here matched a lot of stuff we shot in Morocco,” he said.”We knew the milk factory had been used before doubling Iraq.”
Explaining that film productions are like circuses in that they have to be set up and taken down quickly, Moore went on to say that the Imperial Valley community has been very supportive in their efforts.
“The people here have been great,” he said. “It’s not easy moving in and out. The community has been very cooperative.”
As for bringing “American Sniper” to the Valley, Imperial Valley Film Commissioner Charla Teeters-Stewart explained that the whole process took roughly four months.
“We looked at the building and contacted the owner so we could be granted access. They looked at it, they took it back to production and thought about it,” she said.
Teeters-Stewart went on to say that since the cast and crew have been in town, they have been a pleasure to work with and she sees it as very great opportunity for the Imperial Valley, both economically and as a chance to see a Hollywood production being filmed.
“I’m so glad that the public is excited,” she said.
As production moved forward and word spread throughout the community, onlookers made their way to the location to try and catch glimpses of the action and possibly a glance of Cooper and Eastwood. But not all were there in hopes of seeing stars.
Eighteen-year-old El Centro resident Julio Mojica Jr. said he showed up too see what his future might look like.
“I’m very interested in film,” he said. “I’m looking forward to becoming a filmmaker.”
Mojica said he wanted take advantage of the rare opportunity and see what kind of equipment was used and the technical aspects of filming a movie.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can,” he stated. “I’m glad that I came. It’s something that doesn’t really happen here.”
Staff Writer Heric Rubio can be reached at 760-337-3442 or firstname.lastname@example.org