(Reuters) - The U.S. state of Texas declared Feb. 2 "Chris Kyle Day" on Monday, honoring the late Navy Seal marksman portrayed in the film "American Sniper," two years after his death.
The movie, starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle who was killed by a disgruntled U.S. veteran on a Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013, has been a box office hit and stirred debate between liberals and conservatives.
"Today, we commemorate (Kyle's) passing, and we honor his service and the service of his comrades in arms who have joined him to defend our great nation," Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said in his proclamation.
The film has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, and has grossed $250 million. It tells the story of Kyle, whose 160 kills in Iraq is considered the highest count ever in U.S. military history
Critics contend however that the film glorifies war and sanitizes Kyle, who called Muslims "savages" in his memoir. Some have also drawn issue with Eastwood's interpretation of the history leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said the movie has led to "violent threats" against its members, and asked Cooper and director Clint Eastwood to denounce the hateful language.
Oscar-winning Eastwood, who is a staunch supporter of veterans, has said "American Sniper" has nothing to do with party politics.
Cooper, who earned a best actor Oscar nomination for his performance, said on Monday that he did not foresee how the Iraq war biopic could become a charged political conversation.
Cooper, who is also a producer on the film, added that he wants the spotlight to be on soldiers.
Jury selection in Kyle's murder trial is set to begin on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Macfie)