"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" -- From Acclaimed Novel to the Big Screen

Friday, October 28, 2016

Based on the acclaimed bestselling novel by Ben Fountain, TriStar Pictures presents Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, from three-time Oscar®-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi).




Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s perceptions.
In his first major motion picture, Joe Alwyn plays Billy Lynn. Also starring are Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Makenzie Leigh, with Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin.



“The genesis of the novel,” says novelist Ben Fountain, “ began in 2004 during a Cowboys Thanksgiving Day football game. This was three weeks after the general election when George W. Bush had beaten Kerry. I felt like I didn’t understand my country. Then, we had a bunch of people over at our house for Thanksgiving. We had the game on. Halftime comes and I’m sitting on the sofa. And everybody else gets up, ‘cause nobody watches the halftime show. But I stayed and started watching the halftime show—I mean really looking at it. And it’s very much the way I write it in the book: a surreal, pretty psychotic mash-up of American patriotism, exceptionalism, popular music, soft-core porn and militarism: lots of soldiers standing on the field with American flags and fireworks. I thought, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. But everybody else was okay with it, the announcers on TV and everybody around, just another normal day in America. Since there were lots of soldiers in the field at that time, I wondered what it would be like to be a soldier who had been in combat who gets brought back to the US and dropped into this very artificial situation. What would that do to your head? I wanted the reader to feel like he or she is in Billy’s skin. And I think that’s what Ang’s trying to do too.”
“Adapting the novel,” notes producer Stephen Cornwell, “was a big challenge. And like any adaptation, it evolved. One of the big questions was how to place Billy at the center of the story. How to find a way of creating this character whom, in the novel, engages the reader with his internal dialogue. How do you make that work cinematically? How do you place this character, his experiences, observations and point of view in the center of the story without resorting to narration, something we didn’t want to do. So as we adapted it, we went on a journey of trying to find the best way to express Billy’s point of view: how do you realize that first person experience in a cinematic context? How do you evolve cinematic language and the way we experience film in ways that allow us to get inside Billy’s head and go on this journey with him?”



Initially, it was Billy Lynn’s story that captivated director Ang Lee, his literal and emotional journey and the complicated juxtaposition of the glorification of returning war heroes and the horrific nature of the war they’ve fought. It was the kind of story that he thought lent itself to a new filmmaking approach he had been considering, one that could really connect the audience to Billy Lynn in an immersive, organic way, the cinematic equivalent of the first person, internal narrative of the book.
Ang Lee explains, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was a very compelling book. His observations of the absurdity of the over the top welcome home these warriors receive, the juxtaposition of this extravagant celebration of his heroism intercut with his battlefield service in Iraq, the irony of those two experiences side by side, it’s kind of an existential examination of what’s real and what’s not, there’s a sort of Zen quality to that comparison that fascinated me. I was attracted to the situation of the storytelling as well, the halftime show to celebrate the soldier in 2004 juxtaposed against the real battle – the drama, the conflict, a kind of coming of age story of a young soldier who has to sort it all out.”
Opening across the Philippines on November 09, “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

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