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In life, like in the movies: why the Pentagon and Hollywood collaborate

Why did the US Department of Defense stop working with Marvel, what help Michael Bay received during the filming of Transformers and what is “military porn”.

Фото: Depositphotos

КиноПоиск talks about the influence that various state institutions have on cinema. This article focuses on the cooperation of the US military and Hollywood.

"Mutual exploitation"

In 2017, Hollywood and the Pentagon celebrated the anniversary of the joint work, which began 90 years ago during the filming of the film “Wings” about two pilot pilots in love with one girl. The shootings involved 300 pilots, including members of the United States Air Force. The process was supervised by representatives of the army, who quarreled day after day with director William Wellman. The military insisted on their vision of fighting, which the director was extremely dissatisfied with. As a result, after the exhausting filming, the tape still appeared on the screens, lasted there whole 63 weeks and later won an Oscar in the Best Film category. It was then that the army thought that cooperation with Hollywood is extremely useful. It is believed that the era of collaboration between the film industry and the military, which was eventually dubbed “mutual exploitation”, began with Krylia.

The term “mutual exploitation” was coined by historian Lawrence Sude, who specializes in military research. He wrote the book “Glory and courage: Creating the American military image in cinema” and derived the following definition of partnership: collaboration, in which the army provides equipment, consultants, equipment, information, or even funding, and in return gets a job on its image and tool for attract volunteers. Formally, the Pentagon and the Ministry only make recommendations, but in some cases, the military unobtrusively bend their line. In fact, the role of the military is much wider: they are not just as a source of reliable information; now the military are co-producers and investors.

Unlike the CIA, which recognizes work with filmmakers, but denies any interference in production, the Pentagon conducts its activities openly. The Office of the Ministry of Defense annually opens its own booth at the Producer Guild conference and organizes a press approach with the participation of representatives of the most sought-after branches of the army. For example, employees in the coast guard, navy and air force participated in one of the latest conferences.

“Our job is to help tell a story. We are all partners in this business, ”says John Pruitt, an officer and head of the coast guard movie office. His department has been working for 15 years for the good of the army, along with the CBS television channel, which stamps the episodes of the "Marine Police". The scenarios of each season of the series are evaluated by Pentagon experts before they leave for work. The goal of the army is to look in the eyes of the public as a professional and credible organization.

Baruch and Starb

The last 50 years of the post of military supervisor in Hollywood was occupied by two people - Donald Baruch and Phil Strab. The first before the service worked as a theater producer in New York. If the studio wanted to see real tanks, airplanes, military personnel or a consultant on the film set of her film, she turned to Baruch, who made sure that the military were not portrayed as amateurs. He ruled the scripts, sometimes rewriting the dialogues, made the characters even more courageous and heroic. For the most part, Baruch chose pictures of military subjects, initially representing the army in a favorable light. On his account, in particular, films such as "According to the method of Harma" and "The best shooter."

In 1989, Baruch was replaced by Phil Strab, who began working in a different way. When it came the heyday of the era of "mutual exploitation." He expanded the presence of army rhetoric to the movies. Often Strab is personally present at the shooting of the most ambitious projects. “I’m interested in the story and character more than in the special effects,” Strab says. “But in general, Hollywood has long lost its charm for me.”

Before joining the Pentagon, Strab himself was a documentary filmmaker and made films on medical topics (for example, about heart surgery). He then moved to Washington and got a job in the medical research department at the Department of Defense. His next job was an office at the Pentagon — no windows, but with a poster of the movie “The Battlefield” (1949) on the wall.

Now Strab receives scenario applications and ready-made scripts from all Hollywood studios. The Pentagon is building a purely contractual relationship with film studios. Producers of the project that has received approval from Strab sign a special Production Assistance Agreement. The studio receives the necessary services or equipment from the Ministry of Defense, and Strab receives access to the script and thanks in the final credits.

A few years ago, Strab nearly fell under the reduction. The Ministry of Defense suddenly decided to get rid of the chief supervisor and force the film figures to communicate directly with representatives of various types of troops. But Hollywood Straba defended: an open letter came to the Pentagon with a request to leave the system of work the same, because Strab was familiar with a huge number of people, and, most importantly, the industry trusted him.


“The American army needs you!” Reads the slogan on the famous Uncle Sam poster of the First World War. Approximately the same message is concluded in some films shot with the support of the Pentagon. Thus, the best-selling blockbuster of the American hire 1986, the “Best Shooter” with Tom Cruise in the lead role, increased the number of volunteers in the Air Force 5 times and is still considered the most successful recruiting film. The Pentagon did not hide the fact that with the help of the tape, Tony Scott, who was specifically allowed to remove two real launches of combat missiles, was luring new cadets into the ranks of the Air Force. In the cinemas with the greatest maneuverability, recruitment points were organized, where army representatives told about the advantages of serving in the air force and the navy, and then explained how to apply.

Thanks to the film “The Law of Valor” (stories about the difficult everyday life of the elite group of sea lions charged with pulling CIA agents out of captivity), recruiting into the army with the help of the cinema came to a new level in 2012. If in the “Best Arrow” the military still remained behind the scenes, here they came to the fore: the real paratroopers played the main roles in the film. Usually, the names and appearance of the participants in the operations are strictly classified, but for the sake of the film Mike McCoy and Scott, the army took an unprecedented step. First, the soldiers do not hide their faces. Secondly, all their names are indicated in the credits. True, no names.

In and McCoy allowed to shoot real training special squad, gave access to the protocols of operations, provided this weapon and showed several types of landings - on the water, in the air and on the ground. Fleet spokesman Amanda Greenberg did not conceal that the goal of the “Law of Valor” was to get new volunteers: “We want to inspire a new generation to serve in the navy and in the ranks of special forces.” And it doesn't matter that the critics later pasted the label “military-porn” to the film. The tape has collected more 80 million dollars at the box office for the 12 million-dollar budget.


If the "Law of Valor" was supposed to inspire potential recruits, then Clint Eastwood's "Train to Paris" sought to demonstrate the impeccable image of a civilian military man. After the premiere of the film, the Department of Defense stated that one of the tasks of the tape was to acquaint Americans with exemplary (albeit former) representatives of the US Army. “The film in the game style tells about the situation when ordinary people went to unusual actions to save perhaps hundreds of lives. This is the message of the film, and this message is successfully delivered to the audience, ”reported the Deputy Director of the United States Air Force for Media Relations, Davelin Watson.

The “train to Paris” is based on real events that took place in August 2015, when three childhood friends after demobilization from the American army set off on a journey through Europe. On the way to Paris, they stopped an armed terrorist who was walking around with a machine gun on a train, and became known to the whole world. In the film, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alec Scarlatos played themselves. Since Eastwood wanted to show not only the feat on the train, but also the military life of friends, the Pentagon joined the case. So, the filmmakers got real military men for extras, several SUVs and a consultant. Moreover, the film crew was admitted to the real military base of the Air Force in Georgia.

A show of force

So that viewers do not forget that the US Army is ready to repel any threat, the Pentagon often resorts to cinema. For example, the film "On the Hook" with Shaya Labaf and Rosario Dawson demonstrated the power of American unmanned aircraft. In the tape of DJ Jay Caruso, the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft first appeared. A deadly vehicle in one of the scenes flies into the tunnel and shoots a stream of cars. “This is an incredible machine. Everything that you see in the frame is real, because the Ministry of Defense allowed us to reach the object. We shot in real locations. The drone did fly in the tunnel and in the desert over the heads of the actors, ”the director said.

But one drone is nothing compared to what the Transformers franchise received. At the disposal of the director Michael Baya Xasum XLUMX types of aircraft from four different military bases. The film crew was allowed to shoot inside the Pentagon building. In “Revenge of the Fallen,” the spectators were shown the F-12 fighter, the E-16 AWACS command aircraft, the A-3 tank killer, the T-10 supersonic bomber and the X-NUMX million F-38 Raptor bomber that can drop guided bombs (extra fame he was added the fourth "Terminator" and the second "Iron Man").

Strab is particularly proud of the episode with the participation of John Voight, who played the Minister of Defense. After filming the scene where the American soldiers were attacked by the Decepticons, the actor known for his conservative views, it seemed that his character had to say some bright, meaningful phrase. Voith, Bay, and other participants in the process staged a brainstorming session, but nothing suitable came to mind. Strab, who witnessed the conversation, said softly: “Bring them home.” Voight approvingly nodded, and the line from Straba entered the final version of the film. The director and representative of the Pentagon worked so closely together on the movie about aliens with Cybertron that after that they began to call themselves good friends. After each part, they send each other autographed movie posters.

Strab claimed that if the newcomers appeared on Earth, the US Army would act exactly as shown in the film. At the same time, Air Force spokesman Brian McGarry said that one of the goals of the film is “recruitment and intimidation.”

Reputation restoration

Recruitment and intimidation are certainly important tasks for the Pentagon. Nevertheless, the main function of his cinema office is the struggle for a flawless image.

The film “Pearl Harbor” of the same Michael Bay about two pilot pilots, in love with one girl, not only copied the plot of “Wings” 1927 of the year, but also greatly ennobled the images of some participants of those events. The prototype of Alec Baldwin, who played Lieutenant James Doolittle, was in fact a rough and clumsy, always screaming fighter. On changes in the character of the character insisted Jack Green, representing the Historical Museum of the US Navy. He asked the writing team to make Doolittle striking and charismatic. “Dolittle was rewritten and made like a hero, whom he really is,” the USA Today newspaper explained to Green. Instead, the Ministry of Defense turned the island of Ford Island into a film set and provided 20 ships that had been idle in the harbors since the 1960s. The apogee of cooperation was the premiere aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, which was specially towed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor.

Not everything is unambiguous with the story on which the fresh drama "Cavalry" is based with Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon. 12 soldiers are sent to Afghanistan on a suicidal mission to answer Al-Qaeda for the destroyed twin towers. Their task is so secretly and hastily planned that on the spot the military work together with the Afghan commander and ride horses, and not on powerful military equipment. An important detail: the squad leaders are volunteers (from among the CIA agents and US special forces), avenging a country out of a sense of duty. According to the writer Doug Stanton, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Chris Hemsworth in every way sought to smooth corners and emphasize that the mission of the heroes of the “Cavalry” was not part of the operation to invade the American troops in Afghanistan. “[Our] heroes do not fight with Islam,” explained the film director Nikolay Fulsi, “but with a common enemy, religious extremism.”

The “Cavalry” scenario was read by Pentagon specialists, who were satisfied with everything. They delivered their visa and provided a consultant, “sea lions” as extras and two helicopters. “Every helicopter you see in the frame is a real machine from the 160 unit of the special aviation operations,” explained Robert Bokholt, a representative of the special operations units of the US Army. “These are exactly the helicopters that deliver the military to the enemy’s territory.”

With the support of the Black Hawk Down by Ridley Scott, everything was even more difficult, because the operation in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, is considered to be one of the loudest failures of American troops. The United States has not counted 18 military, a helicopter and several pieces of equipment, not to mention the losses among the civilian population. Nevertheless, Scott sent a request to the Ministry of Defense and received an affirmative answer. The shooting of the film worked 100 real soldiers and 8 helicopter gunships. Needless to say, the military drove the aircraft, and the director only explained what he wanted to achieve.

According to the official version, the leadership of the American army wanted to turn failure into a fearless rescue mission. “The Pentagon liked the project. They saw a chance to show the courage of the soldiers and demonstrate the difficult choice that the United States sometimes faces during the decision to intervene, ”explained Strab.

But there is another version explaining the participation of the Pentagon in this project. According to her, the military strongly rewrote the script and changed the name of the real soldier John Stebbins to the fictional John Grimes (Ewan MacGregor). Such meticulousness is explained by the fact that in the film Stebbins / Grimes is a hero, but in reality it is not. After returning with the Silver Star, Stebbins in 2000 was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of his six-year-old daughter. The film by Ridley Scott was released just a year after the high-profile court proceedings, so the Pentagon did not want Stebbins to be associated with the US Army.

The Pentagon was guided by similar motives during the shooting of the film “Tomorrow Will Never Die.” In the episode when James Bond Pierce Brosnan is going to parachute from a military aircraft, it turns out that the aircraft is flying over the waters of Vietnam. In the original script, a Bond friend from the CIA makes a joke: “If you get caught, you know what will happen. The war will begin, and maybe this time we will win. ” This line was removed at the request of the Ministry of Defense.

Marvel Superheroes Support

Before 2012, Marvel Studios and the Pentagon worked closely together. The military provided equipment, and instead made changes to the script. For example, in the Hulk (2003). The filmmakers wanted to call the operation to catch the green giant "Ranch Hand", but the Pentagon asked for a different name. The fact is that “Ranch Hand” is the name of a real operation from the time of the Vietnamese war: the US Air Force threw pesticides and poisons into the enemy’s territory in order to poison the soil and spoil hectares of farm land. Also in “The Hulk” was supposed to sound the following remark: “All these guys, guinea pigs, dying from radiation and chemical wars.” The Pentagon saw in these words a reference to the experiments of the military in public and asked to delete the phrase from the script.

Joint work on the "Iron Man" went less smoothly. Phil Strab almost fell out with director John Favroiz for the remark that the military character was supposed to say: "People will kill each other for the opportunities that we have." When Strab asked to remove the phrase, the director got angry. “His face was all red and red. I was freaking out no less, ”Strab recalled. - The situation became quite awkward, and Favreau suggested replacing the words “kill each other” with “ready to walk on hot coals”. I replied that this option will come down. Favreau was only surprised that I agreed so easily. ” A compromise was reached, but the line about coals was still not included in the final version.

In 2012, the collaboration between the Pentagon and Marvel Studios was interrupted. The Ministry of Defense had questions to the organization “Shch.I.T”: how is it accountable to the state and to whom is it responsible? According to the plot of Avengers, the team of superheroes was in itself, could do anything and anywhere without any consequences. As a result, Phil Strab refused to support the army: “We could not accept the unrealistic organization of“ Shch.I.T ”and its place in the hierarchy of the Ministry of Defense. The discussion was a dead end and did not make sense. We simply did not know what to do with the film, ”Strab explained. As a result, since the Marvel kinovselennaya does without the help of military consultants and thanks in the final credits.

Pentagon Stop List

According to Phil Strab, he rejects 95% of applications coming to his office. The remaining 5% either receive support immediately, or after making the necessary edits. For example, in the Jurassic Park 3 there was a scene in which Air Force planes shot dinosaurs. Strab judged that everyone would hate the military and would sympathize with the animals. As a result, the film received support, but the role of the army was reduced only to the large-scale appearance of technology on the beach in the final picture.

The author of the book “Operation“ Hollywood ”” David Robb has compiled a list of factors that may frighten the Pentagon. In short, the film should not contain drugs or alcohol, which would be abused by the military, hazing, war crimes, fanaticism and intolerance, antiheroes among employees, abuses and killings on the territory of military bases. Special attention is paid to films about aliens, since the army is often seen as helpless when meeting with them. Therefore, many films, especially about the Vietnam War, were left without the support of the Pentagon. The creators of the tapes “Apocalypse Today”, “The Thin Red Line”, “In the Valley of Ela”, “Platoon”, “Three Kings” and others received a quick refusal.

Sometimes the Pentagon gave its consent, but withdrew it at the last moment. Catherine Bigelow and Mark Boal filed one script to Phil Strab, and they were going to shoot a completely different one. The Ministry of Defense found out about this only before the start of filming. Especially the military was worried about the scene in which Jeremy Renner was carelessly going to the city and leading the battle almost single-handedly.

The “Lord of the Storm” divided the Pentagon into two camps. Some claimed that it was the best film about the hostilities in Iraq, others - mostly sappers - were offended that they were presented as irresponsible, unbalanced, psychologically unstable and prone to post-traumatic stress. “Filmmakers tend to use proven stereotypes - we often come across this. Script writers and directors will always have a loner, going against the rules, not obeying orders and wanting to get justice or revenge by any means, ”explained Strab.

Some films lost the support of the Pentagon after the completion of filming. Such a fate befell the “Pass of Broken Hearts” by Clint Eastwood. When the film was shown to representatives of the Ministry of Defense, they were outraged by the scene of the shooting by soldiers of a wounded and defenseless Cuban, because this is a war crime. When the director was asked to remove the dubious episode, he refused: "I thought it was a recommendation, not an indication." As a result, the Pentagon has withdrawn the cooperation agreement.

Some producers believe that it’s time to change the existing system, because the Defense Ministry does not ask, but orders. However, in the near future the concept of “mutual exploitation” is unlikely to change: the fate of the film on military themes often depends directly on the support of the defense ministry. If the film does not receive it, studio bosses are more likely to curtail the project.

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