Based on a true story, War Dogs is an upcoming crime war comedy directed by Todd Phillips and written by Phillips, Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin, based on the Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson. The film follows two friends in their early 20s, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in the big money and start living the high life. But the pair get in over their heads when they land a $300 million deal to arm the Afghan military – a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. government.
The son of Chinese Immigrants, screenwriter Stephen Chin’s parents were not originally supportive of his dream of getting into movies. Being the dutiful son, he went to Yale Law School and became a lawyer until he gravitated towards the indie film scene back in the Miramax heyday. He produced Harmony Korine’s Gummo and Larry Clark’s Another Day in Paradise, which he also wrote. And he produced and financed Ron Shelton’s Play It to the Bone, starring Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson.
Still dreaming of becoming a screenwriter, Chin chucked his career as a producer. In 2004, he travelled to Iraq to seek the life rights of two young entrepreneurs who’d started the first radio station in post-Saddam Iraq. Chin snuck in with smugglers through the insurgent-controlled Al Anbar “Triangle of Death.” Posing as an Asian computer geek from California, he was able to enter the Green Zone, the Republican Palace, Fallujah and Baghdad. Sadly, no one ever questioned his cover story.
He essentially embedded himself with them and had a harrowing adventure worthy of Norman Mailer or George Plimpton. Chin spent a month with David Packouz in Miami before adapting Lawson’s Rolling Stone article, “The Stoner Arms Dealers,” into the screenplay. That experience became the script, “I Rock Iraq,” which landed on The Black List and led him to Warner Bros. to adapt the Rolling Stone story that eventually became War Dogs.
On a side note, he apparently had a massive martial arts movie poster collection that was so collectable it ended up at the Academy of Motion Pictures as part of their collection. It is literally known as The Stephen Chin Collection. Culled from numerous countries, the posters range from familiar kung fu-influenced films like “The Matrix” to pioneering classics from studios like Shaw Brothers, along with genre-melding titles wedding martial arts with blaxploitation, horror, science fiction, and slapstick comedy.
A lifelong kung fu movie fan whose day jobs have included President Bill Clinton’s 1992 transition team, independent film producer, and motion picture executive on such films as Scream and Swingers, Chin donated over 800 significant kung fu posters to the Academy in 2011, with highlights selected for the public to now enjoy.
He’s now using his Chinese heritage to his advantage for an upcoming project. He’s adapting a beloved Chinese property for a global audience and has spent a large chunk of time in China on a research and development mission to get it right for Chinese audiences AND everyone else around the world.
War Dogs is in theaters August 19th.