The actor and Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, introduced a special screening of American Sniper in Washington, D.C., Tuesday

By Rennie Dyball
Updated January 14, 2015 12:35 PM
Credit: Leah Puttkammer/Filmmagic

Taya Kyle reveals how American Sniper "brought her husband back to life" and why she trusted Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper. Subscribe now to get instant access to the real story behind Chris Kyle, in this issue of PEOPLE.

Bradley Cooper had an incredibly special woman on his arm at the Washington, D.C., premiere of American Sniper on Tuesday night.

The actor, who stars as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle – the most lethal sniper in American history by many accounts – escorted Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, down the red carpet and into the intimate screening at the Navy Memorial, where he stood with her in the back of the theater as the movie began.

The crowd, which included Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, along with a slew of veterans and members of Congress, gave Kyle a standing ovation.

“I’m blown away by how many people are here tonight and what you represent. It’s incredible. I’m going to let [director] Clint [Eastwood] know everything because he’ll be so happy,” Cooper, 40, told the audience.

Cooper plays Chris Kyle, who completed four tours as a SEAL before he was murdered on a shooting range by a veteran he was trying to help in February 2013.

“We just tried to get Chris’s story right,” Cooper said. “These people represent one percent of the population. There’s 99 percent of the population that has no idea what it’s like to be a soldier, to give up your life for your country. And we need to take care of our vets.”

Cooper added that he hopes the film will “allow people who have gone through this or are going through this to not feel alone.”

“And for those of us who have no idea what it’s about, maybe we’ll stop and take a second look next time a vet passes us in the airport. And not just say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ even though that’s a wonderful thing to say. But actually take it a step further and take action, whatever that would be. Babysitting their children, helping them with their groceries, whatever it is.”

As for Taya Kyle, she was visibly moved by the actor’s portrayal of her husband.

“You’ll see in this movie, Bradley is Chris,” she said. “I have no idea, literally no idea, how he pulled that off. People who know Chris well and have seen the movie have said one word over and over: ‘eerie.’ It’s almost eerie how much it really is Chris. And I’ll never be able to thank Bradley enough for that.

“Not only did he do his research and do the physical part of it and get the dialect, which is such an odd mix of different places that Chris lived. But then he took this man, who truly is one of a kind and is charismatic and soft and tough and strong, and has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. And he brought that to the screen in a way that that you will know Chris at the end of this movie.”

For much more on Taya Kyle and the real story behind American Sniper, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands Friday