Lorne Michaels is a legend in sketch comedy circles. As the creator and long-time executive producer of “Saturday Night Live,” he’s attained legendary status as a well-connected television and film producer over the span of decades. However, Michaels’ latest project may seem like a significant departure from his previous body of work: partnering with Universal Pictures and famed Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill on a movie adaptation of O’Neill’s book, “The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama Bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.”
Michaels may seem like an unusual choice of producer for a film about the life and career of the man credited with killing the most wanted terrorist in history. Michaels has a long list of film producing credits under his belt, ranging from 1986’s “Three Amigos” to 2016’s “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” but his filmography tends to lean toward comedy, and his television work on “Saturday Night Live” often puts Michaels’ show at odds with more conservative-leaning audiences–which tend to be the primary demographic for films about special operations war-fighters.
O’Neill’s book quickly became a bestseller upon its release in April of 2017, due in large part to the revelation that O’Neill was the Navy SEAL who fired the shots that killed bin Laden. The book spans much of O’Neill’s life, from his childhood in Butte, Montana all the way through the rigorous selection process all SEALs must undergo and on into a decade’s worth of service on the nation’s elite SEAL teams, including his time as a member of the Navy’s premier SEAL Team 6.
O’Neill will serve as executive producer on the film, providing him with a great deal of authority over the picture’s development. “The Newsroom” writing alum Michael Russell Gunn has been brought in to convert O’Neill’s biography into a screenplay.
It’s unclear how much direct involvement Michaels may truly have in the production of O’Neill’s biopic, as “producer” is one of those titles that tends to have a constantly-evolving definition in Hollywood. Traditionally speaking, a producer plans and coordinates various elements of film production, which can range from selecting a script to assisting in creative decisions. However, it’s also a title commonly attributed to those who secure funding for a film’s production, and because Universal has already assigned Kristin Lowe and Mika Pryce to oversee production on behalf of the studio, it seems unlikely that Michaels will be reaching too deep into his legendary bag of Tinseltown connections to get this film made.
In reality, Michaels’ company, Broadway Video, will likely play an active role in the film, but Michaels himself may well be offering little more than his name’s production credibility. It will be difficult to say until the filming ball gets rolling.