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Fifty Shades of Grey Star Jamie Dornan: ‘I Don’t Have a Lot of Body Confidence’

Film Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Chuck Zlotnick—Universal Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

The former underwear model says he's more insecure than you might expect

Before he was the star of the much-anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey, Jamie Dornan was the creepy criminal in the British crime thriller, The Fall. Before that, he was a model — specifically, an underwear model.

But that doesn’t mean the young Irishman has truckloads of swagger when it comes to showing skin. “I don’t have a lot of body confidence,” says Dornan during an interview for TIME’s feature on Fifty Shades of Grey. “I would have the same hang-ups that most people would about their body. Maybe considering you’ll probably find pictures of my body quite easily online, that sounds weird, but those pictures wouldn’t be enjoyed by me, certainly.”

The semi-naked brooding modeling stints weren’t a complete loss, though — they came in handy for his role as hunky-but-damaged millionaire Christian Grey in the new film. “The positive thing to come out of the fact that I’ve had my picture taken a lot is you do attain a level of comfort in front of the camera, I guess,” he says. “There’s obviously a difference between a still camera and a motion camera, but there’s still a black thing with a lens on top of it. When you break it down, the fundamentals of it are pretty similar. So if you’ve been in front of that a lot, it can aid you as an actor.”

Dornan does show a lot less flesh than Dakota Johnson in the movie; reportedly, when the cast reassembled in Vancouver to shoot some additional footage, part of the reason was to show slightly more of Dornan’s physique. If that’s true, Dornan says, it’s news to him. “No one told me that. I don’t remember [what we shot]; it’s all [a] blur.”

And for a guy who’s tackled a number of erotically charged projects, Dornan actually comes off as pretty bashful. When he first saw the movie, he actually found his performance hard to watch, as many actors do. “I felt it was a great film — Sam [Taylor-Johnson, the director] had done a great job and Dakota was great in it,” he says. “But I’m certainly not in a position myself to say if I was any good.”

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Then and Now: Two Interviews With Fifty Shades of Grey Author E.L. James

"Fame is not something I sought," she says

When Erika Leonard first came up with the idea that became Fifty Shades of Grey, she called herself Snow Queen Ice Dragon — or SQID, for short — and wrote on a site for Twilight fans. Her erotic tales involving the characters Bella Thorne and Edward Cullen proved so popular she was persuaded to change some names and amass them into an e-book, produced by a teensy publisher in suburban Australia and written under the name E.L. James.

Kindles were a relatively new thing in 2011 and, as Leonard tells it, a group of women in Long Island, New York, found the e-books and began to tell their friends — of which there were many. As the book’s popularity grew, a group invited Leonard to come to a a reading. Photojournalist Gillian Laub was there for the occasion and grabbed an interview with the reclusive author.

Fast forward a few years, and Leonard is now a multimillionaire author and producer of the movie version of Fifty Shades, out Feb. 13. While media reports suggest that she hasn’t let wealth and fame change her too much, she doesn’t really need to give interviews. But she did consent to answer some (not all) of our questions via email.

TIME: What scene in the movie were you most worried about translating to screen and why?
Erika Leonard:
I was most worried about the scenes in the red room. I wanted them to be tasteful and erotic, and that was a journey, but we got there in the end.

Do you have favorite scene?
The glider scene and the post-graduation bar scene. For me those scenes really capture the spirit of the book.

What made you decide to become a producer?
Because I could. (Christian Grey would appreciate that comment.) I didn’t want to take the money and run — I wanted the movie to be one the readership would love.

What have you enjoyed most about the process of filming?
I enjoyed breaking down the book with the screenwriter Kelly Marcel and deciding what should and should not be in the movie. That was fun — hard work, but fun.

Your life must have changed so much in the last three years. Do you have any reflections on fame?
Fame is not something I sought, and happily I’m still not that famous — I can still roam the streets anonymously, at home and in the States, and I love that. But I have had some amazing experiences, and for that I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who bought and loved the books.

Is there anything you would differently if you wrote the books again?
Yes. Quite a few things, in fact — but the books seem to be so well loved by so many I’ve let all that go…

Do you have plans to write more books?
Yes, I do. But like most authors I’d rather do it than talk about it.

These books are an exploration of a fantasy. Have you been surprised by how much they’ve resonated?
Surprised doesn’t quite cover it. I get the most extraordinary, heart wrenching emails from readers who have been deeply touched by the books. I’m honored that so many people have shared their moving stories and their love of the books with me.

TIME movies

Meet the Unusual Director of the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie

Strowger Trust Fundraiser For Teen Cancer America In LA
David M. Benett—Getty Images Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Johnson attend the Teen Cancer America Fundraiser on Oct. 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, Calif.

An interview with the woman charged with bringing the season's most-anticipated film to screen

When Universal and Focus Features were looking around for someone to make the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey, they interviewed a lot of candidates, but it didn’t take them long to choose the relatively untested British director Sam Taylor-Johnson. “It was so fast,” says Taylor-Johnson of the hiring process. “I’d put together a whole load of ideas, flew down from Vancouver… Eight o’clock the next morning, my phone was ringing off the hook—‘You’ve got the job. We’re announcing it today.’ Suddenly I was on a bullet train, doors were shut, and off I was going.”

Here are the six most surprising things about the woman charged with bringing the racy book to the big screen. (Some of these might explain why Hollywood jumped at the chance to give her this movie.)

1. She’s a highly respected artist. Taylor-Johnson was part of the Young British Art crowd in the 90s. Her photographic work has been exhibited at the Tate and National Portrait galleries and she’s been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize. In 1997, she was given the award for Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennale.

2. She’s rich. When she split with her first husband, the art dealer Jay Jopling, they were reportedly worth $154 million. Some of her photographs have sold for upwards of $100,000. (She’s not as rich, however, as Erika Leonard, who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey under the pseudonym E.L. James, and is now reported t0 be worth about $80 million.)

3. At 47, she’s a mother of four. Taylor-Johnson’s oldest child Angelica is 17 and her next three are all under 8. Her 17-year old has already seen the movie. “Watching it through her eyes was really interesting because I could gauge where I felt uncomfortable with her watching it,” she says. “So then I sort of revisited those areas and thought, is it more graphic than I think it is?”

4. The father of her two youngest children is 24 year-old actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who has starred in, among other things, Godzilla and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. She got pregnant with their first child together when he was 19, after they worked together the movie she made about John Lennon, Nowhere Boy. And she wants her next movie to be with him as well: “What I’d like to do is something where I’ve developed it, where I’m working with Aaron on something and we’re in control of it,” she says.

5. Like Christian Grey (and Lennon), she was raised in an unconventional home. Her father, who was a biker, left home when she was 9 years old, and her mother Geraldine moved the family to a commune-like situation, until she departed as well (and secretly moved to a house further down the same street). At 15, Taylor Johnson had to more or less look after herself. Her mom now runs a spiritual healing center, GrailHaven, in rural Queensland, Australia, where, under instruction from what Geraldine calls “an angelic vision in the gardens,” she sells flower essences, oracle cards and bottles of sacred water that will “assist the birth of the 5th Ray.”

6. Taylor Johnson is a two time cancer survivor, having beaten both colon and breast cancer. After the breast cancer she did a series of photos in which she was tied up and suspended by a guy called Master Rope Knot, who, says Taylor-Johnson, was a bondage expert by night and I.T. man by day. “I think it was a sort of celebration of my sort of physical self and being under strain,” she says. The bonds were later erased in the photos so it looked like she was floating effortlessly. The experience gave her a taste of the appeal of bondage. “On a very basic level you get fight or flight panic, which releases adrenalin and serotonin. And then you suddenly go into this sort of slightly sort of chemical other world through that sort of giving over to being restrained I guess,” she says. “But it’s not something I took up after this.”

Read next: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Christian Grey?

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How the Notorious Red Room Was Built in the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie

Film Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Universal Pictures Dakota Johnson and Jamie Doran star in Fifty Shades of Grey

They needed a lot of leather

Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James, whose real name is Erika Leonard, had more influence than most writers over the way her racy book was transformed into a movie. But there was one scene that she was particularly concerned about. “I was most worried about the scenes in the Red Room. I wanted them to be tasteful and erotic,” she says. “That was a journey, but we got there in the end.”

The Red Room, for those novitiates to the cult of Fifty Shades, is the room where the moody millionaire Christian Grey indulges his appetite for less mainstream boudoir behavior. Leonard was worried that it would come off looking like a cheesy dungeon, so she gave quite specific instructions to the production design team.

“She actually had these things drawn up,” says producer Dana Brunetti. “She literally had drawings of them that she gave to our production designers.”

The design team was headed up by husband and wife David and Sandy Wasco, who weren’t inexperienced in this area; they worked on Pulp Fiction, which features a memorable character known as the gimp, who’s into bondage. “Erika was able to do a little doodle on an eight and a half by eleven piece of paper,” says David. “She said, ‘This would be where the spanking bench would be, this would be where the sofa would be.’ And we used that.”

The Wascos knew the Red Room would be the most challenging set to design. “We really anguished over that the most,” says David. “We had to,” adds Sandy. “You could interview everyone that read the book and they’d have a different version of it.” The Wascos met with experts—dominants and dominatrices, who have wealthy clients “just like Christian Grey,” says David. “It was much more sophisticated than anyone going through the internet is led to expect—much more respectful.”

From these consultants, the design team learned such useful tips as using leather on the floor, because people spend a lot of time kneeling. “So we ended up with real leather, and with shoe tacks that were brass every two inches,” says David. They used leather on the bed, with no sheets, because—after all—the bed’s not for sleeping.

If Leonard was in charge of the room’s layout, director Sam Taylor-Johnson had some strong feelings about the finishes. She told the designers she wanted something dumbfounding. “She was always mentioning Kubrick movies. She wanted this room to be something that you’d never forget once you saw it,” says Sandy. “She wanted it to be more related to a high end stable. So [the equipment] was built in brown, with brown leathers, and brown burled woods and other woods, versus the black that you see that’s more common. It was pretty.”

If it sounds odd to call a room where floggings might take place ‘pretty’, then the way the designers talk about the equipment will seem equally unusual. “The items that we ended up making were very bespoke, and very beautiful,” says David. Most of the furniture and implements—the custom-made stirrups, horse saddle chair, and the beds were custom made and shipped from England. Extremely soft ropes had to be ordered and dyed red.

“People [working on the film] couldn’t keep their hands off the stuff,” he adds. “Some of them are tails and fuzzy. They’re really fun.”

Read next: Sex Scenes Make Up One-Fifth of Fifty Shades of Grey

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Here’s How They Shot the Sex Scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Gray
Chuck Zlotnick—Universal Pictures Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star in Fifty Shades of Grey

Hint: Think wildlife documentaries

Nobody signs up for a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey without understanding that they’re going to have to do a few things that they wouldn’t normally do in public. But there’s a big difference between knowing that you’re going to have to strip down in front of a camera crew and actually doing it.

“I don’t know if you can ever truly prepare someone for the actual time when it comes around,” says the movie’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson, who has herself been naked in front of cameras on multiple occasions for her fine art photography. She decided to save the more intimate scenes between the movie’s two stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan until closer to the end of filming so they knew each other — and the crew — a little better.

“But when it came to the day, it was the sudden realization of, ‘Oh, this is the day we’ve been discussing,'” says Taylor-Johnson. “I think the most important thing really was the sense of trust. The trust of how [cinematographer] Seamus [McGarvey] and I were going to shoot it. And the trust of Dakota in Jamie that he would take care of her, and the trust of Jamie in Dakota that she would take care of him. And that between us, this would be something not graphic — not porn, but much more sensuous.”

MORE These Were the Hardest Scenes to Shoot for the Stars of Fifty Shades of Grey

Neither of the stars are shy, per se. Dornan was an underwear model; meanwhile, in two of Johnson’s prior movies, The Social Network and The Five Year Engagement, she has bedroom scenes with Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, respectively.

“I’m not afraid of nudity. I think women are beautiful,” says Johnson. “But it’s not easy to take off your clothes in front of a ton of people. It doesn’t become easier, but everybody understands it. Nobody’s weird about it. At least, not on set.”

McGarvey says he occasionally shot the sex scenes using the same techniques wildlife photographers use to not spook animals: keep your distance. “It was on the end of a zoom and we’d let them move,” he says. “And with that tighter lens sometimes you can get a more impressionistic, abstract view of bodies.”

To reduce the number of times the actors had to try and simulate an intimate moment, McGarvey also shot with two cameras wherever possible. On particularly close work, he’d shoot it himself, or use a remote control device to give the actors some space. “The camera is being operated off of a device 20 feet away from where the camera is, just so the actors don’t have a hairy old operator breathing down their backs,” he says.

Another important requirement for successfully shooting intimate scenes? Keep your sense of humor. “I took a great picture: the two of them in bed together, everything going on, with this great big bearded guy standing next to them with a reflector,” says Taylor-Johnson. “It’s a very unsexy moment.”

Read next: How the Notorious Red Room Was Built in the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie

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These Were the Hardest Scenes to Shoot for the Stars of Fifty Shades of Grey

Universal/Focus Features

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson explain the surprising challenges they faced as the lead players in the hotly anticipated film

You might have heard that the movie version of the notorious book Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Feb. 13. In case you’ve been in away in another galaxy, this is the adaptation of the hit novel, released in 2011, that explores some, uh, non-standard boudoir practices.

TIME got an early look at the movie, and a chance to talk to its stars, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, about which scenes were the most difficult for them to shoot — and it’s not necessarily the ones you might think.

“Anyone will tell you that sex scenes, regardless of the content of the film, are always a tricky experience and relatively uncomfortable,” says Dornan, who plays Christian Grey. “But I guess the scene that had for me personally the most pressure on it, was the interview scene.”

This is an early scene in the film where the main protagonist, Anastasia Steele, arrives to do an interview with Grey for her college paper; she’s filling in for her college roommate, who has the flu. In movie parlance, it’s called the meet-cute. “It’s the first time that we see Christian, and we see him in his highly impressive office, very much in charge and in a position of power,” says Dornan. “And all of that has to come across, but we also have to quickly feel the connection between the two right away.”

Dornan notes that the cast had two days to shoot the scene, “which means that I wasn’t the only one thinking that we really needed to get it right.”

Johnson, perhaps not surprisingly, found one of her scenes in Grey’s bondage lair the most taxing. “There’s a scene in which Christian uses a flogger on Anastasia,” she says. “Filming a sex scene is not a sensual or pleasurable environment. It’s really hot — not in a steamy, sexual way. It’s just sweaty and it’s not very comfortable. And on top of that, my hands and legs were tied, and I was blindfolded, and I was being hit with this bizarre tool.”

Not only did Johnson have all her senses taken away, but she had to do the scene several times, for several hours. How did she handle it? Not as badly as many of us might have. “It was emotionally taxing,” she says. “At first I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the worst thing ever,’ and then I was like, ‘All right, let’s get on with it.'”

Read next: Fifty Shades of Grey Director Cut the Book’s Most Talked-About Scene

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Read the Full Interview With American Sniper Chris Kyle That Didn’t Make it to Press

As American Sniper picks up steam at the box office (and courts controversy along the way), revisit a conversation with the man whose story inspired the film

In late 2011, just before his book American Sniper came out, TIME did a lengthy interview with Chris Kyle. Portions of that interview made on onto the back page of the magazine for the 10 Questions feature. Other parts of the interview were edited into a video that lives online.

But Kyle had more to say — about his shooting methods, his favorite sniper movies and his faith. Here is the full length transcription of that interview, edited only for clarity and repetition.

Mr. Kyle, thanks for coming.

Thanks for having me.

So you’ve got this new book American Sniper. Don’t special operations forces guys usually not talk about their stuff?

Yes. It is kind of frowned upon.

So why did you decide to do the book?

Well, because I’m not trying to glorify myself. In fact, when we started the book I didn’t want to put the number [of kills] in there. I wanted to be able to get it out about not the sacrifices that the military members make, but the sacrifices that their families have to go through about the single mothers now raising their children and doing all the day-to-day house chores. But then also stories about my guys who deserve to be out there. They didn’t get the Medal of Honor so you don’t know about them, but they died heroes and people should know about them.

You had four pretty much back-to-back deployments. And you saw a lot of fighting. Do you feel that you have dealt with a psychological fallout of all that yet? It’s only ’11.

It definitely makes it hard to come back from that to learn to be a civilian now, and there’s different rules being a civilian. Everybody gets battle stress; maybe not PTSD, but you get a little stressed from constantly being in combat, but then you come home and you recharge your batteries.

As you speak, the Americans have pretty much just pulled out of Iraq. There are now officially no American soldiers there. Are you optimistic about the future of that country?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m glad they’re out. We should have declared victory awhile back and gotten everyone out of there. Let them prove now that they can run it. We’ve trained them and we’ve done what we needed to do. In fact we spent all the American money to rebuild them. Now it’s their time to prove it.

In your book you say actually that you don’t give “a flying F” about what happens to the Iraqis. Is that still your feeling?

I still feel like, sooner or later, we’ll have to go back.

You think we’ll have to go back?

I’m sure we will.

Because it’s not all done?

They’re crooked. No matter how bad you think of our politicians, those people over there are worse. It’s honorable to lie to someone’s face instead of to look bad.

So let’s talk a little bit about being a sniper. What are the qualities that a successful sniper needs?

It’s definitely not patience, because I’m not a patient person, but it’s professional discipline. Just being able to sit there and have the professionalism to observe everything. And it’s not just being a monkey on a gun—anyone can pull a trigger. But’s it’s observing the area. Knowing the culture. Knowing exactly what’s going on. Being able to pick out an oddity. You know, someone’s not acting right, so that draws your attention to them, and then you start really trying to define exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Anything as far as observing movement, shades, You know, anything that shines back at you. Trying to pick something out that’s out of the ordinary.

I thought you’d say, you have to be a good shot, but that’s not the most important thing about being a sniper?

I’m not the greatest shot there is. In fact, I almost failed out of sniper school. I’m the luckiest guy right now, but there’s definitely a lot better snipers out there. I just happened to be the one that was put in there, got lucky enough to see plenty of combat, and been able to take the shots. But observation is probably the most important skill.

It’s interesting that you should say lucky, because a lot of people would feel, ‘I don’t know how lucky that is, to have to be there and kill all those people.’ Let’s talk, because this is the bit that the vast majority of us has no experience in, about actually killing people. What goes through your mind when you’re shooting a guy?

Well I mean you’re not sitting there trying to analyze him and trying to figure out you know if he has a family or what kind of person is he. You’re there to protect your own guys, and I’m not there just trying to rack up numbers and see how many people I can kill—I’m trying to protect all the troops. So the more people that I can protect, that means there’s more people I have to kill. Cause every time I kill someone that means he can’t plant another IED or he can’t ambush a convoy. So I’m not going out purposely trying to kill someone, and the first time of killing someone, you’re not even sure you can do it. I mean you think you can, but you never know until you’re actually put in that position and you do it, and then you’re double-thinking yourself, like can I really do this? Am I going to be OK? And then you’re asking your leadership, Am I clear and hot to be able to do this? Am I going to be in trouble? You know, this guy’s really bad. And then you’re worried when you get home, are the politicians going to hang you out to dry and put you on trial for murder?

You write about that first time as being quite—all these things are going through your mind. Does it ever become more routine?

I’m not over there looking at these people as people. I’m just over there trying to do a job, trying to keep my guys safe, and you just view these guys as the terrorists that they are. You see the actions that they do. And I call them savages in the book, but if you see the way these people act, you don’t know how any civilized person can do what they do. So you’re not really viewing them as a person. They’re out there, they’re bad people, and you just take them out and you don’t think twice about it.

Snipers sometimes talk about a hunger for a kill. Is that something you felt? The hunger for the kill? Often when you got on the rifle and you just relieved a guy and you killed somebody, the others would say, Oh you lucky bastard. Was it luck or hunger or what [that made you so successful]?

Well I mean if you’re out there, you definitely don’t want to be just sitting there. I mean same reason when I said I was lucky to be in combat. When you sign up, you sign up because you want to go to war. Or at least the SEALS, we do. We don’t sign up to go be the best just so we can sit at home, walk around the bars and say, Hey, look at me, I’ve got a trident on. I’m a SEAL. We do it because we want to go to war. And then when you go to war you don’t want to just sit there. I mean what’s the point of deploying if you’re just going to sit there? You want to actually do your job or bring me home. So when your guy, it’s his turn to be on the gun, he wants to do his job. I mean we know the whole country was full of bad guys, and then our guys are constantly getting killed day after day, so we want to do something to make it safer.

MORE Who Was American Sniper Chris Kyle?

The first kill that you write about in the book, you actually kill a woman and she has in one hand the hand of her toddler, and then in the other hand she has a grenade. Was that the hardest of the kills you had to do?

Probably. It was difficult. I mean first of all it’s a woman, and there is a child involved. But just like the story played out in the book, I had to do it to protect the Marines, so, do you want to lose your own guys or would you rather take one of them out?

In another story that you tell there’s a gentlemen, an enemy combatant, with a RPG [Rocket Propelled Grenade] and you floor him and then of course somebody wants the RPG so they come and pick him up and then you shoot that guy, and then they send a child to pick up the launcher, and you decline to shoot the child. Is there some line in the sand for you?

No. It also depends on our Rules Of Engagement and at the time anyone with an RPG, or any kind of a crew-served weapon, which meant machine guns or anything, mortars, that you could kill them on sight. That day I just couldn’t kill the kid.

How young was he?

Probably 10. 12. Something like that. I’m not sure. He’ll probably grow up and do it too as an older kid, maybe have to fight us, but at the time I just didn’t want to do it.

Do you have a favorite gun? Or is it more purpose-driven thing?

It’s purpose-driven. I mean, on my deployments, the .300 Win Mag [Winchester Magnum] did become my favorite, until we started getting a .338, but I would look at imagery, try to figure out what my longest shot would possibly be, and if it was you know a thousand or more, I would take my .300 Win Mag cause of the capabilities of the weapon system. So that for the most part that was the weapon that I would take, and then I would also have my M4, the patrol rifle I would take with me.

Sometimes you stopped being a sniper and went down on patrol, which I guess people must have taken a dim view of back at command, because you’re trained to be a sniper and you’re kind of valuable for that.

Well that was for Fallujah to where they had a problem with it, and that was just cause the Marine Corps put out a request for forces, and in that request that asked for SEAL snipers. I was sent and attached to the Marine Corps as a sniper, and that’s how I was to be employed. So it was not favorable for my head shed that you know nobody was coming out on the streets anymore that I decided to get down on the streets and help the Marines go through the door. But, as a SEAL, you’re never a master of anything. You’re kind of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Cause being a sniper, I don’t solely go out there and just sit on the shooting range and shoot my sniper rifle. I still have to keep up with my diving and jumps and do my patrolling and pistol work, everything else, so part of my job is also being down there on the ground. I was the point man and navigator, so I knew what was going on. I was usually number one man through the door with my guys, so, and I wanted to help out the Marines. I got tired of seeing them go into a house and then as they were coming out they were carrying one of their own out.

Do you have two sets of heads: your I’m-back-in-America head and your I’m-at-war-head?

Two different people. You turn it on and turn it off. You’re a little more aggressive when you’re at work and then when you come home you relax and try to be the different person, and my wife always said that when I came home from work I’d take my cape off and put in on the door, cause I’d stub my toe or break my toe or something at home, but at work I was fine.

Does your wife still have to say your name before she gets back into bed?

It’s not as bad. But that was even before I was in the military. I’ve always been extremely jumpy when I’m asleep.

And the reason your wife has to say your name before she gets back into bed?

I will come up swinging. Depends on how tired. If I’m out cold then you can ring the doorbell and I’ll be asleep.

I guess everybody who’s done what you do gets asked this, but do you have bad dreams?

Yeah, everybody has bad dreams, right?

Do you get bad dreams that specifically refer to the fact that you were a sniper?

Sometimes you do. Sometimes you might read a book or watch or TV or something will jog your memory and you think about it right before you go to bed and something will come up.

And you wake up and it’s gone. It’s not something that bugs you?

No. I mean I’m not a messed-up person. I don’t have PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]; I’m fine. Every once in a while you might have a dream or remembering an event that you were involved in and then goes away.

Are there any kills you regret?

No. Not at all.

Because you felt like it was either you killed them or they killed other Americans?

Yes, ma’am.

When you’re at home do you get out your gun much?

I do. Well, part of my job is training, so I have to make sure that I stay on my fun when I’m training, especially sniper course. Someone will eventually challenge me to a shoot, so I at least want to be able to compete with them when I’m out there, and if I’m telling them they have to do something a certain way, I want to be able to do it myself and prove that it does make a difference.

I’ve read tales on the very reliable Internet of snipers leaving their first kill alive so that their buddies come in to help them and the sniper can shoot more evil-doers. In the sphere of war, do you think this is OK?

I think so.

So you would do it?

I never have. You don’t have to leave them alive for someone to come help them. Especially with the Muslim faith, if they die they need to be buried before either the sun goes down or the sun comes up. So they’ll come get the body.

But the rules of engagement don’t necessarily let you shoot the guys who come unless they’re armed, right?

Right. Well I mean they can’t be just coming to pick up a body. If that was the case, thousands of kills. If they’re just coming to pick up a body that’s fine. Now, there were times during the ROEs did state that the guy’s bad, anyone who comes to his aid’s bad. But they know our ROEs better than we do, so they understood, and during that time they would not come out and help.

I’m guessing they learned them the hard way.

I’m sure they did.

MORE Wife of Chris Kyle ‘Overwhelmed With Gratitude’ After American Sniper Success

So which of the sniper movies do you think are the most accurate that you have seen? Shooter? Enemy at the Gates? Rambo?

Ah, shoot. I like Enemy at the Gates. As far as accurate? I don’t know. I mean it’s all Hollywood.

Are there any that you watch and you just go, That is ridiculous?

Oh, most of them.

How have technology and digital communications changed the way that snipers work since that Finnish guy, I think his name was Simo Häyhä, killed all those Russians?

I’m not just out there shooting. Now I’m going in early, ahead of my guys and I’m the forward observer now. I’ll take a picture and send it back over satellite, back to my guys so they can see real time the target that they’re fixing to hit or the way the people are where they’re standing, where the guards are, their different routines. Or if I actually have the high-value target that we’re going after, I can take a picture and send it to them so they know exactly who they’re looking for.

So you take a picture, send it and they go, Yeah, that’s the guy we want. Take him out?

Right. But most times for something like that, there’s the follow-on force coming in to do an assault, to actually grab the guy, take him back. So I’m there trying to give them heads up, give them their Intel brief before they get there, to let them know the routes coming in, which ones are safe, which one I wouldn’t take, different obstacles that might be in their way.

There’s actually been quite a lot of Navy SEAL and sniper books out since this war, which is unusual. Why do you think that so many special operations forces guys are coming out from the cover of darkness?

It’s popular right now. It’s very popular. We always make fun of all the guys saying, Oh, you’re going to take your trident and sell it, huh?

Is it because of SEAL Team 6?

No. I don’t think it’s just 6. Six has the most notoriety of all of them. They definitely have you know a more high-valued job, not downplaying what the rest of the SEALs do at all, which I was never 6 anyway, so.

But it does seem like this tradition of ‘we don’t really talk about what we do’ is kind of being laid by the wayside.

I think a lot of it with the media being embedded overseas, there’s a lot more stories of SEALS coming out anyway, so the public is a lot more knowledgeable. When I first went in I didn’t even know what SEALs were, and then I thought, Wow, they do that and no one ever hears about them. They got to be awesome. I want to go do it. And now everyone knows what SEALS are. Everybody either knows a SEAL or knows someone who is a SEAL, or knows someone who knows someone, and then there’s also a bunch of frauds who are out there saying they were SEALs.

You were not a fan of the journalists embedded among military. Would you like to explain why?

Right. Back in World War II, if they would have had the media embedded then, there would have been so many war criminals. The fact is Congress should decide, if they’re going to send us to war, O.K., you give me the go-ahead. We’re going. Now the generals and the admirals are going to decide. Are we going in to win or are we just going in to play patty cake and do your little rebuilding and kind of hang out. Politicians shouldn’t have any say over what happens after that. Let’s go in. Do our job. Now, there will be crimes that happen, and those do need to be punished. I’m not saying that we need to just say alright, let’s go in, do what we got to do and shit happens. But the media does cause more tension and a lot more problems than they do good.

You say in your book that most Americans can’t handle the reality of war and the reports journalists sent back didn’t help us at all, which actually sounds a lot like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth.” Is that how you feel? Are you on Jack’s side in this one?

Yes, ma’am. For the most part the public is very soft. You live in a dream world. You have no idea what goes on the other side of the world, the harsh realities that these people are doing to themselves and then to our guys, and there are certain things that need to be done to take care of them.

So you don’t think there’s any value at all in… Wasn’t the problem with Vietnam that the American people lost faith in the war and therefore pressured the politicians to get the troops out probably early, in the military’s eyes?

No. The problem with Vietnam was the politicians never wanted to win it and they wouldn’t turn the Americans loose to actually do it, cause we could have won that war. The troops on the ground had it done. Now when the politicians start hamstringing you by making up these ROES, the rules of engagement, and changing how you play cause they’re sitting in their fat ass in the air conditioned room on a leather chair smoking a cigar and having a drink while I’m out there getting shot at, that doesn’t belong out there. And then the media comes in and during Vietnam the army was putting out their own spin, which, it was found out that they were lying about a lot of things, so that hurt, and then the public realized that the army was putting out their propaganda that was full of lies. And between the politicians not letting the military win it, and then the army/media putting their own spin on things, and then the American public… I mean, good stories for the most part don’t sell. You need something that has tragedy to really get someone’s attention to turn it on. I mean, most of these movies that you go to watch are not Disney anymore unless you got kids. You’re out there to see some violence.

So you weren’t over there to protect American rights, like a free press?

We weren’t over there to protect America’s right to do anything. We went in to help free some people, to form a democracy for them, to liberate them. And then I was over there fighting for my guys. I was fighting because my country told me to, and then I was fighting for my buddies and my family.

The war has cost $824 billion so far and roughly 4,484 American lives, and then who knows how many Iraqis, and two of those lives were very good friends of yours, Marcus Lee and Ryan Job. In your opinion, was it worth it?

I think it was worth it. Now it’s never worth it when you lose a guy. I’m not trying to devalue their lives and say that, Yes, this whole thing was worth their life, but going over there we did the right thing. It’d be a lot cheaper if we didn’t stay over as long, and if you make us come in, we shouldn’t have to pay to rebuild.

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You were investigated at least one time, for a kill. Would you like to explain about that?

Well there was one that was outside of Habbaniyah, where a convoy was coming along and a guy was maneuvering to go hit the convoy. He was going to ambush him. Well I shot him. And then his wife came out, a whole crowd came out. They got the body, because at the time the ROEs did not allow me to shoot anybody else, even if they did pick up that weapon. So I had to let everybody go, and they moved the body. She started screaming and crying. The army sent investigators out there, a tank commander. He went out and the woman was saying—right there on the street, right where I shot him—she was saying her husband was just walking down the street carrying a Koran. And at that time he was saying, OK well what happened? She said, Well an American shot him. I know it was an American. I saw him—his uniform. So the army captain pointed up at my building where I was hidden, and he said, Did it come from the direction? She said, Yes, yes. That’s him. Which at the time I wasn’t wearing a uniform, so she couldn’t see me. I was covered with the jacket and everything else and I was two rooms deep. I had my screens up. You couldn’t see in, not even if you were standing in front of the building. So the woman was lying. The army pulled me and said that I could not leave the base to go on any more missions for a while until the investigation was done. And it pissed me off. They were going to take the word of a woman who was out there lying that I’m just out there killing innocent people. And then [the army captain] gave up my position.

You don’t generally have a lot of respect for what you call “the head shed.”

In the military, being enlisted, we like to give the officers crap, and we always frown, make jokes at them and tell them you know I actually work for a living and make fun of them saying they make a million dollars a year, which they don’t. But no, I have had some outstanding officers who I loved working for and they were outstanding, brave one who did the job and did it right. In the book, it does come out that I had some of them that I did not like at all. Thought they should have been on the other side of the war, but that’s not true throughout the whole chain of command. That was just certain people in it. Now when you start getting up higher the chain in command up home here, that’s when you start getting the bureaucracy and the politics come in. That’s when I don’t like that.

You’re a SEAL, but you don’t actually like the water. Do I have this right?

Yes, you do.

One would think you maybe should have joined a different branch. Was the name SEAL not a bit of a giveaway there would be water?

If I see a puddle I will walk around it. I hate the water. But during BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training] you’re, for seven months long, you’re cold and you’re wet. Every time we get in the water, it’s not like you’re out in the Bahamas and it’s crystal clear and you’re just enjoying yourself. It’s usually cold. It’s pitch black; you can’t see your hand in front of your face and things bumping into you, you have no idea what they are. That’s out of my element. I mean, I’m the prey in the water. I don’t like that.

In asymmetric warfare like we practiced in Iraq where one side has much better weapons, much better training, much better organization and much better funding, did you ever find it possible to respect any of your adversaries?

There were some. The hardened fighters who were well trained. I mean it’s a lot easier to respect someone like that who’s actually going to give you a challenge and they’re going to put on the uniform and want to come fight you. It’s a lot easier to respect that instead of someone who’s going to dress like the public, blend in, and use women and children as shields.

That is the nature of asymmetric warfare though, that they are sort of almost forced to use women and children as shields, because understanding the rules of engagement, they know you wouldn’t shoot.


So that must be a very frustrating situation.

Yes, ma’am.

You prefer just to fight a real fight.

Yes, ma’am. Then I can pick out my targets.

You talk in your book a little bit about your faith, which is interesting. You have a God, country, family set of priorities, and in my understanding of the Christian faith, we are all created in the image of God, and we are all fallen from that image, and then we have been redeemed. Given that we are all created in the image of God, do you see no conflict in your faith because the guy that you’re going to shoot is not any different in God’s eyes to you? That you’re both sons of God?

Well even in the Bible, God sent the Jews to war. I am not going to murder someone, but if it is in war, I do not think God has a problem with that.

You actually say in your book that you think God might have some things to talk about with you.

Oh, I know he does. I have sinned my entire life, so we definitely have things we’re going to have to sit down and talk about, or I get a talking to about, but shooting those guys is not going to be one of them.

Your conscience is completely clear.

Yes, ma’am.

But if people did start out with the impression before they read your book that a person who has killed upwards of 150 other people was a violent person, maybe a bloodthirsty person, I’m not sure that the book would free them from that feeling. How would you respond to that?

I really don’t care what they think of me. I mean I’ve got my family. I’ve got my friends. I’m not trying to make new friends. If you actually spend time with me you’ll find out I’m just a fun-loving guy. Now, yes, I have been trained to be a little more aggressive if I need to be, but I don’t go around thumping people as I’m walking by.

You do talk about an awful lot of bar fights.

Yes, ma’am. And it’s a lot of easier to do it when you’re active duty and the Navy’s willing to help you out of problems. If there’s no consequences for your actions then you can do a lot more. But being a civilian now, there’s consequences to my actions.

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What was the hardest part about coming home?

Well the first deployment, it was coming home and seeing that everyone’s doing their life as normal. The world just kept turning, and it seemed like no one was paying any attention to the fact that guys were overseas dying for us, and then the fact of being in the crowds again. When I came home it took a little bit of time. You just kind of hang out for a few days before I could go out and be in crowds again. And you have to act completely different. It’s not more, I mean… You’re not going to be walking around with your M4 slung over you anymore.

You have the God, country, family priority list, and your wife has the God, family, country priority list, and that became something of a point of conflict, to the point where she was very disappointed that you redeployed after she became pregnant with your first child. Would you redeploy again? Under what circumstances?

If my wife did not give me the talking to, then I probably would still be in. I would deploy again. My feeling is as long as I am able-bodied, I should be out there fighting that war instead of sending someone in my place.

And what is it that your wife said that made a difference?

She was going to take the kids and go to her parents, and I could not lose my family.

Do you think that that is a common problem among…?

Definitely. Even when we’re home, you know, doing your training before you deploy, you’re not at home. You’re all over the states doing your different training activities, getting ready to deploy. So you don’t get to see your family. I am thankful now I’m out. I have a great relationship with my kids and my wife and I are awesome now, so it has brought something new to me. I lost the teams and I lost the guys, but I gained my family.

And what would you advise other people facing redeployment?

Don’t get married.

Really? Your wife’s going to read this in Time magazine, you know that right?

Oh, she knows.

How many tours of duty should we ask of a guy with a family?

How many he’s willing to give. I’m not saying how many, or giving rules you got to be putting on someone. Each individual’s going to be different. Some of the wives, they’ve gotten used to that way of life now, and sometimes it’s easier when their husband’s gone. So they have two separate lives, but they’re married. And a lot of people then have problems when that guy finally gets out of the military and then he’s home now, and then all of sudden daddy wants to be in charge again and it causes problems at home.

So kids don’t tend to take orders as well as others?

I’m not saying so much as the kids as the…

Wives don’t take orders at all.

That’s hard, especially if you’re a SEAL. You’re an alpha male. When you come home, you want to be the one in charge, and if your wife’s been the one in charge, leading the family, taking care of all the day-to-day activities, it’s hard for her to give it up and trust that you’re going to be able to take it over. She knows how the kids are operating, you know what they think, how they’re feeling, the best way to get things done, and now she’s going to probably watch over your shoulder to make sure, see how you’re doing it until she finally trusts that, OK, you can handle it.

If you never got to kill another person again, would be OK with it?

I’m fine. I don’t have to kill to live.

But you were good at it.

I was decent at it.

Well you were the most “decent at it” of anybody apparently in the current engagement.

Like I said though, I was lucky; every time I deployed it was into harm’s way. It was a conflict and heavy battles.

What if killing people turns out to be the thing that you were better at than anything?

I know that’s not true. I’m a better husband and a father than I was a killer. I mean I got a job now I’m pretty good at. I’m pretty comfortable with not having to kill anyone. Now, don’t take deer hunting away from me.

Chris Kyle, thank you very much.

Thank you.

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Read next: The True Story BehindAmerican Sniper’

TIME Parenting

Please Stop Acting as if Maternity Leave Is a Vacation

Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about increasing family leave for working Americans with Mary Stein, right, and Amanda Rothschild, left, after having lunch in Baltimore

It's not

When Valerie Jarrett took to LinkedIn to announce that President Obama would sign a presidential memorandum giving federal employees at least six weeks of paid sick leave when a new child arrives, everybody thought the same thing: “Valerie Jarrett’s on LinkedIn?”

After people got past that, the general online response was even more juvenile, to wit: If people want to have kids, we, the taxpayers, shouldn’t have to pay for their time off.

Look, I know parents can be annoying, always acting as if some non-accomplishment — “he grew another hair!” — is the equivalent of inventing the next Uber.

But, quite apart from the fact that the future of the species depends and, barring some spooky cloning breakthroughs, will always depend on people making new people inside their bodies, the truth is that family leave is not a vacation.

Do not worry, child-free federal workers, that your parenting co-workers will be off having a nonstop party with their newborns in those six paid weeks of leave while you are at your day job. I assure you, they are working.

If it helps, think of family leave not as a vacation, but as a job swap. The new parents are swapping the jobs they know for shift work in an excrement-making factory with a co-worker who cannot communicate except by weeping or kicking. Plus, the shift never ends. And the chances of promotion are zero.

Meanwhile, we the workers who remain in our day jobs, are getting paid to have real conversations with people who know where their thumbs are. It’s not even a close call on who has the better deal.

This attitude — looking after completely helpless newborn=vacay — may be why the U.S. is the only Western country that has no federally mandated maternity leave. New Guinea doesn’t have any either; neither does Libya. So, the U.S. is rolling with a cool crowd.

Moreover, what’s the alternative? Having a co-worker return to his or her job right from the delivery room or as soon as he or she needs money? Do we really want that?

New parents are undergoing a huge emotional shift. It doesn’t always make them the best colleagues. They’re a bit like teenagers when they fall in love for the first time crossed with bros after they discover Crossfit: preoccupied. We probably want to give them a bit of cooling off time, almost like a quarantine except it’s a “parentine” (see what I did there?), so they can regain their senses.

Yes, parents choose to have children. But they’re doing it for all of us, like jury duty, or being the designated driver, or talking to the sad sack in the corner at the party so he doesn’t kick us all out of his apartment; they’re taking one for the team. So we should make sure the exercise doesn’t make them completely broke within the first month and a half. After all, if nobody had kids, who would invent the next Uber?

*I’m a parent. I have no time. But I’d like to keep up with parenting news. Sign me up for Belinda’s newsletter!

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