Documentary on Pat Tillman opening on Friday

Tue, Aug 17
2:01
PM ET

Director Amir Bar-Lev took on a pretty heady challenge: tell the story of what really happened to NFL defensive back Pat Tillman.

You remember the story -- it was almost impossible to avoid. Tillman walked away from a promising NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army, in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Pat Tillman
Pat Tillman

He was killed in 2004, and was painted a war hero, given that the initial reports were that his life was taken my enemy fire. After weeks and months of wrangling, it was later determined he was killed by friendly fire, and his family feels they were sold a tall tale.

Bar-Lev's documentary, "The Tillman Story," opens on Friday, and he chatted with ESPN.com about what he hopes audiences take away from a film that took him three years to make.

What was the genesis of this movie?

"Just looking into the story a little bit, you find that actually Pat Tilman is pretty different than what most people think he is. So any documentary film kind of chomps at the bit to be able to correct the record, so to speak. And, of course, what his family has gone through and who his family is are both just wildly compelling to me and it's not just a tragedy, it's a tragedy for our time because it's about the way we kind of skew reality to fit certain narratives."

There were several narratives going on in the film. Where did that start?

"It's really three films in one. We edited this film for a year because it was really hard to figure out how to trim it down. You have Pat and his story, you have the soldier, the platoon members, his platoon, and their story and then you have what the family went through and the cover up. The biggest challenge for us in making this film was in trying to explain to audiences what happened the day Pat was killed. It's very, very complicated, not any two people agreed, no two people agree about exactly what happened that day."

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