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Inside Green Zone

New Matt Damon movie opening May 12 is based off Campolindo High alum's non-fiction book on reconstruction efforts in Iraq.


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courtesy of universal

LOOK CLOSELY at the poster for the new movie Green Zone, and you’ll notice a Campolindo High alum. He is the author of the nonfiction book that inspired this latest powerhouse collaboration of Bourne Supremacy star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass.

In Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone, Rajiv Chandrasekaran describes the “great American screwup” in its immediate post–Saddam Hussein reconstruction efforts. Chandrasekaran’s insights came from working as the Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief in 2003–04. This detached Americanized world around Saddam’s former palace provided the setting for Green Zone (in theaters March 12), in which Damon’s fictionalized army officer leads a search for weapons of mass destruction.

“Paul had been wanting to make an Iraq war movie for some time,” says the Moraga-raised Chandrasekaran, who now covers U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Greengrass read the book while he was finishing The Bourne Ultimatum and told Chandrasekaran that his book “unlocked” the story for him.

While Chandrasekaran didn’t work on the script by Academy Award–winner Brian Helgeland, he visited the Morocco set and spent several evenings with Damon. At the time, Chandrasekaran was overseeing the Post’s coverage of the 2008 presidential election, and Damon, a political junkie, wanted to dissect poll numbers coming out of the Ohio and Texas primaries.

Chandrasekaran, 37, doesn’t mind that Green Zone doesn’t directly follow his book. “I suppose you could have taken my book, turned it into a documentary and a thousand people would see it. What Paul has done is get to the essential truths of it with drama and action, which I think will break it through to a much larger audience.”

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