Vet sues filmmakers, says 'Hurt Locker' damaged credibility


In this film publicity file image released by Summit Entertainment, Jeremy Renner is shown in a scene from, "The Hurt Locker." (AP Photo/Summit Entertainment)

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver, an Iraq veteran who claims he is the basis for “The Hurt Locker,” says the movie has placed his life at risk and subjected him to ridicule about his bomb disposal prowess.

“Defendants have essentially placed a bulls-eye on the back of my Army uniform/bomb suit for my current and future deployments,” Sarver wrote in a sworn declaration wrote in a court filing signed in Afghanistan and filed Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Sarver said the film relies heavily on his experiences and background – a claim the filmmakers and screenwriter deny. But Sarver points to a story screenwriter Mark Boal did for a Playboy magazine titled “The Man in the Bomb Suit.” It was written while Boal was embedded with Sarver’s unit in 2004, and the soldier says many events in which he participated were portrayed in the story and subsequent movie.

And Sarver is none too happy, saying in his filing that “the actor portrays me as a reckless soldier and idiot, this portrayal is being reflected upon me at work, at home, and amongst friends.”

He also said some of the film’s scenes, which feature improper bomb disposal techniques, has led others to question his abilities.

It’s not hard to understand why.

As I wrote in a blog post last year, it was disappointing that “Hurt Locker” nabbed the Oscar for Best Picture. Not because the film, from a cinematic perspective, was unworthy. Indeed, its cast and crew certainly exceeded expectations in their respective professions. And it was great to see Kathryn Bigelow break the barrier and nab the first top prize for a female director (beating her ex-husband, James Cameron in the process).

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, left, and Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver are seen during a news conference March 3, 2010, in Southfield, Mich. Sarver, a bomb disposal expert who served in the Iraq war filed a lawsuit against the makers of the film "The Hurt Locker." (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

What is disconcerting is that the movie is so unrealistic. Sure, the troops wearing the wrong uniforms, but my issue goes far deeper. While Jeremy Renner provides a wonderful portrayal of the undisciplined maverick Staff Sgt. William James, the character is tough to stomach. The idea of leaving the confines on a personal  mission, endangering troops by having them split up to cover more ground, and taking off protective gear while disarming a bomb are laughable painful.

When Rambo fired a LAW out of a helicopter window without killing everyone with the 60-foot backblast — that was laughable. But the way the aforementioned actions are portrayed in this movie makes them believeable. And that is scary.

No doubt the way these strong characters make the story believeable is a key reason why the movie won the Oscar. Unfortunately, the Oscar win will likely give the film some de-facto credibility within a society that seems willing to believe everything it sees. This, in turn, will lead people to believe the film to be an authentic and accurate portrayal not only of military operations, but the military mindset.

It is neither.

As the old saying goes, it’s just a movie. Outside the Wire hopes people will keep it in that category.

In the meantime, Bigelow, Boal and the film’s producers are seeking a dismissal of the case. They say he is not the basis for “William James,” and have stated in court filings that the film is protected by California law and the First Amendment, and that Sarver cannot win the lawsuit.

A hearing on their dismissal motion is set for April 4.


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.


  1. You can google fm’s , ar’s , and youtube different fobs in iraq and afghanistan the hurt locker is just a movie and is not giving any valuable info compared to what you can find on wiki links . Its just a freakin movie I know you dont get paid enough so you need to find ignorant reasons to sue someone didnt you get a bigg ass sign on bonus for eod?

  2. I wouldn’t want anything of my life associated with this movie. It sucked. It was fantasy. Nothing was fact. It over glorified a job, however a small critical part, still overated. We all have jobs in the Army that could be glamorized to this point of fantasy. Should we all be compensated when something is similar to an actual event? This guy is just looking for money, plain and simple.

  3. The movie was just a movie. His lawsuit paints him as a thin-skinned, money-grubbing douche bag.

    He needs to re-read his Army Values and NCO Creed.

  4. I think SSgt James was a badass, wreckless or not. Good film, had a lot to do with the effects and addiction to war a lot less with the unorthodox bomb defusals.

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