EXCLUSIVE: Steven Spielberg has taken American Sniper out of his crosshairs, after declaring in May that he would next helm the film about decorated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, with Bradley Cooper playing the marksman. DreamWorks joined Warner Bros in a co-production when Spielberg said he would direct the script by Jason Hall. Spielberg has been looking for his followup to Lincoln, and this becomes the second time he changed plans. He was looking to move fast on Robopocalypse, the Daniel H Wilson science fiction novel that was adapted by Drew Goddard. Spielberg still intends to direct that film, but he wanted to re-develop it. It is probably not his next film and will instead come further down the line.

Spielberg and DreamWorks are pulling out completely, which is actually gracious. Some director-driven companies get involved with a director attachment, and when the director steps out, the company remains on, and it is an extra expense. Warner Bros is free to secure another filmmaker to keep this project together. Spielberg couldn’t square his vision of this movie with the budget. He’s always got a lot of projects percolating, but hasn’t decided what he’ll direct next.

Spielberg, who took 11 years to get Lincoln the way he wanted it before he committed, has been known to get close to projects only to step out for one reason or another. That included Harvey, the adaptation of the Mary Chase Pulitzer Prize-winning play that was to be a co-production with Fox. That one proved difficult to cast, after Tom Hanks said he didn’t want to play a role originated by James Stewart, the actor he’s so often compared to. That isn’t the case with American Sniper, which has Cooper not only starring but producing with Andrew Lazar and Peter Morgan. He’s arguably the hottest young actor in town, coming off an Oscar nom for Silver Linings Playbook and next starring in David O Russell’s American Hustle.