Scripts can often be the first casualty in Hollywood's theatre of war

Top Gun versus Sergeant Bilko? No contest, says the Pentagon.

Scripts can often be the first casualty in Hollywood's theatre of war.

By Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles

Wednesday August 29, 2001.

Hollywood film-makers have frequently changed plot lines, altered history and amended scripts at the request of the Pentagon, according to recently released military documents. Producers and directors have often agreed to changes in order to gain access to expensive military hardware or to be able to film on military property. On many occasions films have been changed so that the US armed forces are shown in a more heroic fashion. Film companies agree to the changes because doing so saves them millions in production costs. If film-makers do not agree to alterations, assistance is withheld. Among films that have been given approval and help by the Pentagon are Armageddon, Air Force One, The Jackal, Pearl Harbour and Top Gun. Those that have failed the test include Forrest Gump, Mars Attacks!, The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, Sgt Bilko, Platoon and Independence Day.

The documents indicate that the Pentagon sees the film business as an important part of public relations. "Military depictions have become more of a 'commercial' for us," said one memo quoted in an investigation by David Robb in the current issue of the media magazine Brill's Content.

The film companies are often shown in the documents to be more than anxious to help. "We firmly believe that with the support of the US military, Armageddon will be the biggest film of 1998, while illustrating the expertise, leadership and heroism of the US military," wrote Disney executive Philip Nemy to the Pentagon.

The financial incentives for film companies 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.

Philip Strub, special assistant for the entertainment media at the Pentagon, said yesterday that 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.

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