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On Having Jarhead Made Into A Film
"After I'd finished writing Jarhead in the summer of 2002, the possibility of interest from Hollywood was first discussed. Ron Bernstein, my agent in Los Angeles, first read the book in manuscript form, and during November he began distributing the book in Hollywood. While most parties responded positively to the story, the readers were unwilling to take a chance with the book while the country was preparing to go to war. In April of 2003, interest in optioning the book increased. I met with Doug Wick while I was in L.A. for the Los Angeles Times book fair. He lived around the corner from my hotel, and he arrived for our meeting on his three-speed bicycle. I thought this was super cool, antiestablishment and smart. And I wanted someone super cool, antiestablishment, and smart producing an adaptation of my book. With a script of Jarhead in Doug's bicycle basket, rather than sitting on the passenger seat of another producer's sports car, I thought it might have a chance of being made and avoiding high-speed collisions.

Shortly after my meeting with Doug, he and I had a conference call with Bill Broyles. I admired Bill's work, both his journalism and scripts, and I immediately felt he was the writer to adapt Jarhead. He knew the book extremely well, quoting characters, narrating scenes, naming page numbers as if it had once been his own story. And in a way, this was true. He told me about joining the Corps and going to combat in Vietnam, and I understood that in the men that I'd served with and written about Bill recognized some of his own fellow Marines—the same dark absurdities, the same brilliant moments of despair and love and honor, the life-altering pitch of battle. The three of us agreed that there were certain scenes in Jarhead the book that had to make it into Jarhead the movie.

I was happy to read Bill's drafts and undertook a self-study of the craft of scriptwriting while reading draft to draft. By May of 2004, Sam Mendes was attached as director, and I was thrilled. Sam's prior films showed mastery of the form and a deep understanding of storytelling and characters; these earlier films were artful and risky— elements I knew Jarhead the film required. That month, I met for a day with Sam and Bill in New York, and Sam worked like a sponge—soaking up any and all information I told him about events that didn't make it into the book, or further characterizations of some of the members of my platoon. Sam's excitement for the film was infectious. He, too, quoted me back to myself, and he knew the book scene-to-scene. I sensed that he would direct the best possible adaptation of Jarhead: a film borne from the source, but still its own work of art and entertainment.

Late in the summer Jake Gyllenhaal was cast for the role of Swoff, and I was pleased with this development. I'd loved Donnie Darko and The Good Girl, and I felt that his onscreen presence was such that he would capture the controversial bloodlust and existential angst of the young jarhead going to war.

I visited the set during the last week of rehearsal and met Jake. He was committed to playing the role authentically and intensely. It was bizarre to meet the other actors and guess who would be playing whom: for certain, they all looked like young jarheads. One morning while waiting for Sam to call a meeting, the actors joked back and forth and insulted one another, and I felt like I was among some of the same men I'd served with—nervous, hungry, lonely and committed to a cause. I visited some of the sets, including my high school bedroom. On watching the swirl of activity, sets being built, young actors being thrashed by Jim Deaver, Broyles looked at me and said, "Crazy to think all of this came from a book you wrote alone in a room, sitting in your underwear.”

I didn't visit locations or the set during filming, and I think Sam and I agreed this was best without needing to speak about it. I wouldn't want<


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