Army Bomb Expert Sues, Claims ‘Hurt Locker’ Movie Based on Him

March 5, 2010

An Army bomb disposal expert who served in the Iraq war is suing the makers of “The Hurt Locker,” claiming the Oscar-nominated film’s lead character is based on him and that they cheated him out of “financial participation” in the film.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger said at a news conference at his Southfield, Michigan office that he filed the multimillion-dollar lawsuit in New Jersey federal court on behalf of Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver.

Sarver, of Clarksville, Tenn., claims screenwriter Mark Boal was embedded in his three-person unit and that the information he gathered was used in the film, Fieger said. The film is nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best original screenplay.

Sarver says Will James, the film’s main character (portrayed by Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner), is based on him and that James’ call signal, “Blaster One,” was uniquely his during his tours of duty, Fieger said. Sarver also says he coined the phrase “The Hurt Locker.”

Fieger says Boal’s embedded reporting — over 30 days in 2004 — led to an article the following year in Playboy magazine about Sarver, and that the story later was adapted by Boal for “The Hurt Locker” screenplay.

“If you do take the time to read (the Playboy article) and if you then go and view ‘The Hurt Locker,’ you will see — and there will be no question in your mind — that ‘Blaster One,’ Sgt. Sarver, is the character in ‘The Hurt Locker’ called Will James,” Fieger said. “The caveat in the movie that the movie is fictional and all the characters portrayed in the movie are fictional is a fictional statement in and of itself.”

The movie’s U.S. distributor, Summit Entertainment, issued a statement saying it hopes “for a quick resolution to the claims made by Master Sgt. Sarver.”

“The film is a story about heroes depicting a fictional account of what brave men and women do on the battlefield,” the company said. “We have no doubt that Master Sgt. Sarver served his country with honor and commitment risking his life for a greater good, but we distributed the film based on a fictional screenplay written by Mark Boal.”

Boal did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment left with Creative Artists Agency, the Los Angeles company that represents him.

Fieger said he filed the lawsuit — which names as defendants Boal and Oscar-nominated director Kathryn Bigelow, among others — after voting for the Academy Awards had concluded. Fieger claims Boal was consulting with Bigelow while he was embedded.

Fieger said greed was the reason Sarver wasn’t permitted to participate in the film or be recognized for his role as the inspiration for the main character.

Now, he said: “They’re gonna owe him a whole lot of money and recognition.”

Sarver said he was never offered a role in the making of the movie.

“I could have helped out a little bit,” he said at Wednesday’s news conference. “But they chose not to (involve me).”

“(I’m feeling) just a little bit hurt, a little bit felt left out,” Sarver said. “Just hoping that Mr. Fieger can make things right.”

It’s been a rough start to the week for “The Hurt Locker.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences earlier penalized one of the film’s producers because of e-mails he sent urging academy members to vote for his movie.

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