“Shooter” the Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden reveals to Esquire what he thought of the Hollywood version of the events that he experienced personally as a member of Seal Team 6.
The Shooter is sitting next to me at a local movie theater in January, watching Zero Dark Thirty for the first time. He laughs at the beginning of the film about the bin Laden hunt when the screen reads, “Based on firsthand accounts of actual events.”
His uncle, who is also with us, along with the mentor and the Shooter’s wife, had asked him earlier whether he’d seen the film already.
“I saw the original,” the Shooter said. As the action moves toward the mission itself, I ask the Shooter whether his heart is beating faster. “No,” he says matter-of-factly. But when a SEAL Team 6 movie character yells, “Breacher!” for someone to blow one of the doors of the Abbottabad compound, the Shooter says loudly, “Are you f**king kidding me? Shut up!”
He explains afterward that no one would ever yell, “Breacher!” during an assault. Deadly silence is standard practice, a fist to the helmet sufficient signal for a SEAL with explosive packets to go to work.
During the shooting sequence, which passes, like the real one, in a flash, his fingers form a steeple under his chin and his focus is intense.
But his criticisms at dinner afterward are minor.
“The tattoo scene was horrible,” he says about a moment in the film when the ST6 assault group is lounging in Afghanistan waiting to go. “Those guys had little skulls or something instead of having some real ink that goes up to here.” He points to his shoulder blade.
“It was fun to watch. There was just little stuff. The helos turned the wrong way [toward the target], and they talked way, way too much [during the assault itself]. If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way.”
The tactics on the screen “sucked,” he says, and “the mission in the damn movie took way too long” compared with the actual event. The stairs inside bin Laden’s building were configured inaccurately. A dog in the film was a German shepherd; the real one was a Belgian Malinois who’d previously been shot in the chest and survived. And there’s no talking on the choppers in real life.
There was also no whispered calling out of bin Laden as the SEALs stared up the third-floor stairwell toward his bedroom. “When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name.”
“They Hollywooded it up some.”
The portrayal of the chief CIA human bloodhound, “Maya,” based on a real woman whose iron-willed assurance about the compound and its residents moved a government to action, was “awesome” says the Shooter. “They made her a tough woman, which she is.”