Mark Boal (born January 23, 1973) is an American journalist, screenwriter and film producer. Before he became a prominent figure of cinema, Boal worked as a journalist for such publications as Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Salon and Playboy. Boal's 2004 article "Death and Dishonor" was adapted for the film In the Valley of Elah, which Boal also co-wrote.
In 2009, he wrote and produced The Hurt Locker, for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2012, he wrote and produced Zero Dark Thirty, teaming again with director Kathryn Bigelow, about the tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden. The film earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture and a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay. The pair collaborated a third time for 2017's Detroit.
As of 2013, Boal has won two Academy Awards (four nominations), a BAFTA Award, two Writers Guild of America Awards, a Producers Guild of America Award and four Golden Globe Award nominations. He has also won several critics awards.
Mark Boal was born on January 23, 1973, in New York City, the son of Lillian Firestone and William Stetson Boal, Jr., a producer of educational films. His half-brother is Christopher Stetson Boal, a playwright and screenwriter. His mother was born to a Jewish family and his father converted to Judaism. Boal attended Bronx High School of Science and was on the high school's Speech and Debate Team. He earned his undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Oberlin College in 1995.
Boal's 2004 article "Death and Dishonor", about the 2003 murder of veteran Richard T. Davis after his return to the United States, was published in Playboy magazine. It inspired writer/director Paul Haggis, who adapted it for his fictional screenplay as the film In the Valley of Elah, which he also directed. Boal and Haggis have writing credit for the story.
As a journalist, Boal was embedded with troops and bomb squads in 2004 during the Iraq War. He wrote an article about one of the bomb experts, Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver, in an article entitled, "The Man in the Bomb Suit", published in September 2005 in Playboy magazine.
Boal went on to write an original screenplay, titled The Hurt Locker, about a fictional set of characters and events based on his interviews and observations in Iraq. He was also a producer for the 2009 film adaptation set in Iraq, about a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) bomb squad. The film was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, his business partner and co-producer.
In March 2010 (five days before the Academy Awards ceremony), Master Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver announced he was suing the producers of The Hurt Locker because Boal allegedly based the main character and "virtually all of the situations" in the film on events involving him. Sarver also claimed to have coined the phrase "the hurt locker".
The producers' spokesperson has reiterated that the screenplay is fictional. Citations for the phrase, "the hurt locker", date back to 1966 during the years of the Vietnam War. The phrase has been used among military members for decades. In the December 8, 2011 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, it was reported that Sarver's lawsuit was thrown out by the court, and a federal judge ordered him to pay more than $180,000 in attorney fees.
Boal wrote the film Zero Dark Thirty, which was released in December 2012. The film opened to much critical acclaim. Some commentators criticized its implication that torture revealed evidence that strongly contributed to the capture of bin Laden. Others, who deemed the production design inaccurate and oversimplified, criticized the film for its depiction of Pakistan, and found the Arabic-speaking locals in the film (Pakistan's national language is Urdu) to be problematic.
Boal was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He lost to Quentin Tarantino who was nominated for Django Unchained. Boal was nominated for 'Writing in a Drama' by National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers for his work on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.