An Army sergeant filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the makers of The Hurt Locker, alleging that the main character is based on him.
In the suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in New Jersey, Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver claims that screenwriter/producer Mark Boal borrowed details from Sarver's life to tell the story of rash Army Staff Sgt. William James, played by Jeremy Renner.
Director Kathryn Bigelow, film distributor Summit Entertainment, producer Voltage Pictures and Playboy magazine, where Boal published the article that inspired the film, were among those named as defendants.
Sarver's lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, says Boal was embedded in Sarver's unit and that "virtually all of the situations portrayed in the film were, in fact, occurrences involving Master Sgt. Sarver" that Boal documented. The suit further alleges that the film's title came from a phrase Sarver coined.
Summit Entertainment denies that the Oscar-nominated film is based on an actual person. "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," Summit said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges that Boal breached a contract with the U.S. Defense Department by using more than a soldier's name and hometown for purposes beyond writing his magazine article.
It further maintains that "scenes and information" about Sarver embarrass him and family members, including the character's depiction as someone who loved war more than his son and as a "messed-up" soldier who took "reckless and uncalculated risks."
Such a portrayal would cause Sarver to lose respect among others in the military, possibly damaging his career and even endangering his life, the suit says.
The Hurt Locker, which has grossed barely $13 million, is up for nine Academy Awards on Sunday.