New book: "Operation Hollywood"

It’s no accident the U.S. military looks so good in so many movies.

Experienced journalist David Robb has written a book titled “Operation Hollywood.” Mother Jones interviewed Robb about his book:

To keep the Pentagon happy, some Hollywood producers have been known to turn villains into heroes, remove central characters, change politically sensitive settings, or add military rescues to movies that require none. There are no bad guys in the military. No fraternization between officers and enlisted troops. No drinking or drugs. No struggles against bigotry…

…the producers of films like “Top Gun,” “Stripes” and “The Great Santini” have altered their scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests. In exchange, they get inexpensive access to the military locations, vehicles, troops and gear they need to make their movies.

During his years as a journalist for Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Robb heard about a quid-pro-quo agreement between the Pentagon and Hollywood studios, and decided to investigate. He combed through thousands of Pentagon documents, and interviewed dozens of screenwriters, producers and military officials.

…David Robb: The current approval process was established right after World War II. Before that, the Pentagon used to help producers, but it wasn’t very formalized, like it is now. They helped producers going back to at least 1927. The very first movie that won an Oscar, “Wings,” — even that got military assistance.

…[Y]ou have to 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. Then you wait and see if they like your script or not. If they like it, they’ll help you; if they don’t, they won’t. Almost always, they’ll make you make changes to the military depictions. And you have to make the changes that they ask for, or negotiate some kind of compromise, or you don’t get the stuff.

So then you finally get the approval, after you change your script to mollify the military, put some stuff in about how great it is to be in the military. Then when you go to shoot the film, you have to have what I call a “military minder” — but what they call a “technical advisor” — someone from the military on the set to make sure you shoot the film the way you agreed to. Normally in the filmmaking process, script changes are made all the time; if something isn’t working, they look at the rushes, and say, “let’s change this.” Well, if you want to change something that has to do with the military depictions, you’ve got to negotiate with them again. And they can say, “No, you can’t change it, this is the deal you agreed to.”

…After the film is completed, you have to prescreen the film for the Pentagon brass. So before it’s shown to the public, you have to show your movie to the generals and admirals, which I think any American should find objectionable — that their movies are being prescreened by the military.

Posted by James on Thursday, May 13, 2010