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War-Film `Hero' Is A Rapist

by Megan Turner, New York Post, 18 Dec 2001


December 18, 2001 -- The Army pressured the filmmakers of Black Hawk Down to change the name of the war hero portrayed by Ewan McGregor -- because the real-life soldier is serving a 30-year prison term for rape and child molestation, says the man who wrote the book that spawned the movie.

In Ridley Scott's highly anticipated movie, McGregor plays Ranger John Grimes, a desk jockey who is called into battle during the botched Army operation in Somalia in 1993.

The character is based on real-life Ranger John "Stebby" Stebbins, but Pentagon officials asked his name be changed in an attempt to keep his shame a secret, claims author Mark Bowden, who also penned the original screenplay for the movie.

Stebbins' embittered ex-wife, Nora Stebbins, complained in an e-mail to The Post: "They are going to make millions off this film in which my ex-husband is portrayed as an All-American hero when the truth is he is not."

Army sources confirmed to The Post that Stebbins -- who was awarded the Silver Star, one of America's highest honors, for his bravery in the bloody Battle of Mogadishu -- was court-martialed and sentenced on June 8, 2000.

Janet Wray, a spokeswoman for Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas, confirmed yesterday: "We have a John Stebbins here. He arrived on June 9 last year and is serving a 30-year sentence for sodomy with a child under 12 and rape."

Black Hawk Down, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie which opens Dec. 28, is based on Bowden's best-selling book of the same name.

In the book, Bowden refers to Stebbins by his real name and says he surprised everyone with his heroics.

"He was a changed man, a wild animal, dancing around, shooting like a madman," wrote Bowden, who also penned the original draft of the screenplay.

But Stebbins will not get to see McGregor's portrayal of him in the $95 million film, which was filmed in Kenitra, Morocco, in March this year.

"As it happened, Stebbins got in trouble with the law," Bowden was quoted as saying recently. "The Army asked us to change the name."

A Revolution Studios spokeswoman would say only that the name-change was "a creative decision made by the producers."

"There were 100 men in the battle and only 40 speaking parts, so we had to condense some of the characters," she said. "[Grimes] is one who is a compilation of a number of soldiers who fought in that battle so his name was changed."

Stebbins, 36, a former baker from upstate Ithaca, had tried and failed to join the Army three times during the Persian Gulf War and finally made it into the crack Rangers unit, Bowden's book says.

But he worked as a company clerk, and was ribbed by his fellow soldiers as "chief coffee maker" and "paper pusher."

© 2001 New York Post
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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