Wednesday 12 September 2007

HOLLYWOOD AND THE PENTAGON ~ A love affair from Hades

To keep the Pentagon happy, some Hollywood producers have been known to turn villains into heroes, remove central characters, often agreeing to changes in order to gain access to expensive military hardware or to be able to film on military property. They have changed politically sensitive settings, or added military rescues to movies that required none. Films are changed so that the US armed forces are shown in a more heroic fashion. The financial incentives are great because military hardware is enormously expensive and difficult to hire, with the Israeli air force being one of the few services that rents out its equipment. Agree to alterations or assistance is withheld.

There are no bad guys in the military. No fraternization between officers and enlisted troops. No drinking or drugs. No struggles against bigotry. The military and the president can’t look bad ~ although the State Department and everyone else can!

The only thing Hollywood likes more than a good movie is a good deal; that’s why the producers of “Top Gun,”Stripes” and “The Great Santini” altered their scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests. In exchange, they got access to the military locations, vehicles, troops and gear they need to make their movies. This current approval process was established after World War II. Before that, the Pentagon helped producers more informally. This goes back to at least 1927. The very first movie to won an Oscar, “Wings,” had military assistance.

To get Pentagon assistance, first one sends in a request for assistance, telling them your specific requests ~ ships, tanks, planes, bases, forts, submarines, troops ~ and when you want this material available. Then you send five copies of the script to the Pentagon, and they give it to the affected service branches ~ Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard. If they like your script, they’ll help you; if they don’t, they won’t. There are always changes to military depictions. You must make the requested alterations or negotiate a compromise, or you don’t get the stuff.

So, you mollify the military and add some stuff about the glory of serving and get approval. They send a “technical advisor” on the set to assure you film as agreed. Normally, script changes are made all the time; if something isn’t working; you check the rushes, and say, “let’s change this.” If you want to change anything to do with the military depictions, you must renegotiate. They can refuse and hold you to the original plan. As technical advisor, Maj. David Georgi of the Army, said, “If they don’t do what I say, I take my toys and go away.”

Before it’s shown to the public, your film must be prescreened by the generals and admirals of the Pentagon brass. Any American should find it objectionable to know their movies and entertainment are prescreened by the military!

When Clint Eastwood finished filming “Heartbreak Ridge”, he showed it to them, and they flipped. In one scene he shoots a defenseless Cuban soldier. They said, “Take that out. It’s a war crime. We don’t want that.” They hate war crimes in movies. Eastwood left it in. They said, “We told you to take that out.” Eastwood thought it was only a suggestion and didn’t know he had to. So they withdrew their approval. The film was still released, of course.

At the end of any movie that gets military assistance, there’s a tagline saying “thanks to the cooperation of the U.S. Army” or whatever branch. They said, “We’re not going to let you put that on there. We’re withdrawing cooperation.” They can and will stop it from being shown in military theaters overseas or on bases in the U.S., which can really hurt the box office of a film. They’ve done this to numerous films.

At that time, Eastwood was the chairman of Toys for Tots, the Marine Corps Christmas gift program for poor children. He wanted to screen the movie at a premiere to benefit Toys for Tots, and they said, “We’re not going to let you do that.” They can be very spiteful, they can hurt the box office of a film, and they don’t forget, either. It is perilous. They can’t arrest you, they can’t stop the film. But if you want cooperation again, and you’ve screwed them before, you’re not going to get it. People almost never screw the Army on these deals.

The most important criteria to the Pentagon are that the film must aid in retention and recruitment of personnel. It must reasonably depict military operations. If it’s based on history, they say it must be historically accurate, which is really a code. They’re less interested in reality and accuracy than in positive images. They often try to change negative historical facts.

Studio heads tell their producers, “We need military assistance to make this or it will be too expensive. Conform the script to their demands.”

What you don’t see is the self-censorship that goes with knowing you need their assistance and they will be your first audience. Writers write stuff to get that military assistance. So there are no documents saying, “In “Black Hawk Down,” let us omit the part about soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.”

Jerry Bruckheimer knows that if that was in there, the military will tell him to take it out. Ridley Scott, the director, said the movie could have been made without military assistance. “Yeah. We just would have had to call it ‘Huey Down’ instead of "Black Hawk Down” So there’s self-censorship. When you know the government is looking over your shoulder while you’re typing, it is a very bad situation.

They don’t like drinking or drugs in the military. In “Stripes,” producers had to remove all drug references; the original script had many. They don’t want to see pot smoking, even in Vietnam. After Navy Secretary James Webb, left that post, he became an author. He’d been a Marine in Vietnam, and one of his books was semi-autobiographical, with many of the things he experienced in Vietnam ~ fragging of officers, smoking pot, burning Vietnamese villages. He wanted to turn his screenplay into a movie. They said, “No, you have to change all this stuff.” He refused. The film was never made because he couldn’t get assistance.

Philip Strub, special assistant for the entertainment media at the Pentagon, said the military was often asked to help when a film was still in development. He said that after changes had been suggested, it was a matter of trust that the film-makers would honour the changes and he was not aware of any injunction ever being taken to stop a film being shown: "It would be anathema to us to interfere with the artists' rights and first amendment rights ... We regard it as a success when we work with a film-maker on a project and a lack of success when we don't."

The military also targets children by encouraging pro-military storylines in shows like “The Mickey Mouse Club”. Television and violent games are major recruiting tools. They recognize that children are the future recruits. With the “Mickey Mouse Club,” they used to show these little documentary films called “Mouse Reels.” Once they took the kids out on the U.S.S. Nautilus, which was the first nuclear submarine. There is a Pentagon document that says, “This is an excellent opportunity to introduce a whole new generation to the nuclear Navy.” It was all military propaganda to show how “child-friendly” nuclear submarines are ~ there’s hardly any radiation, the food is great; they even have a jukebox that plays the “Mickey Mouse Club March” in the cafeteria.

As far as reaching children, I think one of the best examples ~ and they’re very candid in these documents, because they ever expected anybody to be looking at this stuff ~ was “The Right Stuff” about the early days of the space program. The original script was filled with vulgarity and cussing, and the military sent the producers a letter. “The obscene language used seems to guarantee an ‘R’ rating. If distributed as an ‘R’, it cuts down on the teenage audience, which is a prime one to the military services when our recruiting bills are considered.” An ‘R’ rating means children under 17 have to be accompanied by a parent, so a lot of 16- and 17-year-olds couldn’t see this picture. And the Air Force wanted young people to see this so they’d get a good, positive image of the military and join up. So they changed it.

If you talk to soldiers and sailors and Marines, many of them will tell you they joined the military because of some movie that they saw. The former head of the Marine Corps film office, Matt Morgan, said he joined the military after seeing “Top Gun.” After “Top Gun” came out, there was a huge spike in recruitment for the Navy flying program. They know that it works. PEOPLE ARE GOING OFF TO WAR AND GETTING KILLED, IN PART BECAUSE OF SOME MOVIE THAT THEY SAW THAT WAS ADJUSTED BY THE MILITARY.

THIS ENTIRE SYSTEM COMPLETELY CONTRADICTS THE FIRST AMENDMENT! The First Amendment doesn’t just give people the right to free speech; fundamentally, it prevents the government from favoring one form of speech over another. There’s a 1995 Supreme Court case called Rosenberger v. University of Virginia that says, “Discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional. It is axiomatic that the government may not regulate speech based on the substantive content of the message it conveys. In the realm of private speech or expression, government regulation may not favor one speaker over another.” And yet that’s what they’re doing every day. Not just 50 years ago on “Air Strike,” but right now. This is a holdover from the Cold War, and it should be abolished. Or at least Congress, which has oversight over the Pentagon, should really look into what’s going on.

Congress has only looked into it twice, when Robert Aldrich made a stink about not getting assistance for the movie “Attack,” and then again in the 1960s when it turned out the government had footed the entire bill for all the military stuff on John Wayne’s “The Green Berets.” In these two investigations, the Pentagon basically said it’s not their intention to influence the content of movies. And Congress just accepted that. If they looked at these documents, they would see that clearly the intent is to influence the movies.


What can the ordinary citizen do about this? If just 50 people wrote their congressman and asked, “What’s going on here?” it would be a start; it will not happen otherwise. The Writer’s Guild, whose stated mission is to protect the creative and economic rights of its members, has never made a single protest that its members’ scripts are being manipulated and changed by the military. Congress has done nothing. Hollywood likes the way it is, and the military likes the way it is; they don’t want to change it.


Some films the Pentagon had been unable to assist. Saving Private Ryan was shot in Europe where the US had no Second World War equipment. Some projects, like the anti-war Born on the Fourth of July, never asked for help.


Air Force One

The Caine Mutiny

A Few Good Men

From Here to Eternity


Hearts in Atlantis, starring Anthony Hopkins, there is no military plot but the film-makers wanted to use land belonging to the army. The Pentagon agreed and suggested that the film could include a shot of an army recruiting booth in a carnival scene. And so it was...

The Longest Day

The Hunt for Red October

Pearl Harbour


Patriot Games

Top Gun ~ It is well known that overtly militaristic and patriotic films with Rambo-like heroes boost military recruitment. When Top Gun opened in the US, navy recruiting booths were set up in cinemas. Cooperation had been given after the character played by Kelly McGillis was changed from an enlisted woman to someone outside the service, as relationships between officers and enlisted personnel are forbidden in the navy.According to the navy, recruitment of young men into naval aviation increased by 500 percent after the release of Top Gun. “These kids came out of the movie with eyes as big as saucers and said, ‘Where do I sign up?’” declared Major David Georgi.

The Jackal, starring Bruce Willis and Richard Gere, received help after the marines were given a better role. Major Nancy LaLuntas had objected that the helicopter pilots had no "integral part in the action ~ they are effectively taxi drivers." A letter from film's director, Michael Caton-Jones, stated: "I am certain that we can address the points that you raised ... and effect the appropriate changes in the screenplay that you requested."

Hamburger Hill

The Longest Day

Golden Eye, the 1995 James Bond film, the original script had a US Navy admiral betraying state secrets, but this was changed to make the traitor a member of the French navy ~ after which cooperation was forthcoming.

The American President

Apollo 13

Tomorrow Never Dies

Tora! Tora! Tora!

A Time to Kill

Almost every Arnold Schwarzenegger abomination, er, film, made.


Apocalypse Now ~ According to Army Major Ray Smith from the film liaison office, Apocalypse Now’s central story line ~ a CIA mission to assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a rebel US military officer in Vietnam ~ was “not realistic”. Smith falsely claimed: “The army does not lend officers to the CIA to execute or murder other army officers. And even if we did, we wouldn’t help you make it.” He refused all assistance, forcing director Francis Ford Coppola to shoot his film in the Philippines.


Broken Arrow

Die Hard 2

Dr Strangelove

Forrest Gump ~ One internal army memo about Forrest Gump, which starred Tom Hanks, suggested that "the generalized impression that the army of the 1960s was staffed by the guileless or by soldiers of limited intelligence" was unacceptable. "This impression is neither accurate nor beneficial to the army." Of the scene when Tom Hanks shows a scar on his buttock to President Johnson, a navy memo states: "The 'mooning' of a president by a uniformed solider is not acceptable cinematic license."

Full Metal Jacket

GI Jane, the 1997 film starring Demi Moore, one scene in a foxhole originally showed a male serviceman having difficulty relieving himself in her presence. "While addressing issues related to the presence of women in front-line ground combat, the urination scene in the foxhole carries no benefit to the US navy," wrote US navy commander Gary Shrout to the director, Ridley Scott. Scott wrote back that "this scene has been eliminated" and agreed to other changes but the end result was still unacceptable.

Independence Day ~ Writer and producer, Dean Devlin told the Pentagon: "If this doesn't make every boy in the country want to fly a fighter jet, I'll eat this script." But a Department of Defense memo concluded: "The military appears impotent and/or inept; all advances in stopping aliens are the result of actions by civilians. Producers of the mindless blockbuster bent over backwards to gain access to Department of Defense heavy equipment. The Pentagon rejected these overtures, claiming that the movie did not contain any “true military heroes” and that Captain Hiller (Will Smith) was too irresponsible to be cast as a Marine leader (he dates a stripper). So forget any help in movies with aliens. (Personally I think there is something going on regarding the alien issue that Hollywood CANNOT expose or tell the truth about. Perhaps “aliens” will be the motive for the final application of the N W O.) The makers of Independence Day agreed to turn the secretary of defense, under whom military installations fell to alien invaders, into the White House chief of staff, but still did not win approval. Writer and producer, Dean Devlin told the Pentagon: "If this doesn't make every boy in the country want to fly a fighter jet, I'll eat this script." But a Department of Defense memo concluded: "The military appears impotent and/or inept; all advances in stopping aliens are the result of actions by civilians."

The Last Detail

Lone Star

Mars Attacks!

Memphis Belle

An Officer and a Gentleman was denied all access to military equipment and locations, because the Pentagon claimed that the movie’s depiction of a navy officers’ training program was “inaccurate”. The navy wanted a soldier who makes a Filipino girl pregnant out of wedlock removed, as well as an attack on a US soldier by a Filipino gang, on the grounds that both would harm US-Philippines relations. They objected to the rhyming boot camp chants by soldiers in the film. “Flyin’ low and feelin’ mean, Find a family by the stream. Pick off a pair and hear’em scream, Cause napalm stick to kids...” was one of the chants the Pentagon wanted deleted. Douglas Day Stewart, screenwriter and associate producer, knew the cadets were still singing this dehumanising chant when he researched the story, and refused to remove it.


Sgt Bilko

The Thin Red Line

Thirteen Days ~This movie accurately but negatively dramatises the conflict between John F. Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, particularly Generals Curtis E. LeMay and Maxwell Taylor, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. LeMay, a notorious war hawk, wanted Kennedy to immediately attack Cuba and risk a direct nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union ~ WWIII. (See: “The Cuban missile crisis in historical perspective: some thoughts on the film Thirteen Days”). During the negotiations with the producers, Peter Almond and Kevin Costner, the military tried to get them to tone down the warlike nature of Gens. Maxwell Taylor and Curtis LeMay ~ on who the record is very clear.JFK taped the conversations from October 1962. When he said “Let’s put up a naval blockade; we don’t want to get into war,” LeMay said “This is the worst sellout since Munich.” He actually said that, when he didn’t think anybody was listening. The military wanted to tone him down. The film was made without assistance.

THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE A REAL INTEREST IN THIS ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. They’re being saturated with military propaganda in their mainstream movies and TV shows, and they don’t even know it.
It is so successfully embedded in their psyches; most are incapable of accepting of even imagining such a thing. There is a very good argument that can be made that over the past 50 years, this chronic sanitization of the military and what war is, has affected the American character; that WE’RE NOW A MORE WARLIKE PEOPLE THAN WE WERE 50 YEARS AGO. Clearly, there are also other reasons, but I think when the world’s most powerful medium colludes with the world’s most powerful military to put propaganda in mainstream films and television shows, that has to have an effect on the American psyche.

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