Posted by: Jeff | August 6, 2009

Military Authorization Required

The U.S. military has been depicted in plenty of films. Tanks, planes, aircraft carriers, guns, personnel, the list goes on. But all those things have to come from somewhere, and sometimes the military itself will cooperate with a film production, providing the props and vehicles necessary to get the film made. And sometimes not. So what is the process – and the politics – behind how the military helps out Hollywood? Joe and I do some digging.

*ADDENDUM – We didn’t mention this in the podcast, but when the military demanded the changes to LeMay’s character, Kevin Costner and the other producers of Thirteen Days decided to leave the script as is and make the movie without the military’s involvement. So kudos to them.

Military Authorization Required

References for this podcast:

  • Interview with David Robb, author of Operation Hollywood, in Mother Jones
  • Interview with Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the director and writer of The Hurt Locker, in Vanity Fair
  • Article by Steve Rose in The Guardian, on David Robb, Operation Hollywood and the U.S. military’s involvement in film productions
  • Philip Strub’s IMDB page
  • Website for Lawrence Suid, author of Guts & Glory

Music used in this podcast:

  • excerpts from the score to Patton by Jerry Goldsmith


  1. Another great episode. I must disagree with your position, though.

    While the military branches are publicly funded and should provide access for auditing and other investigative purposes, I don’t think they have any responsibility to provide access for entertainment purposes. That’s the main difference between them and your national parks example—national parks exist for the public to enjoy; the military exists to protect the country.

    If the military does choose to participate, I don’t have any problem with their choosing only the projects that make them look good—they don’t prevent anyone from making a movie about them (well, not that I know of, anyway), so why should they willingly participate in something that makes them look bad? The point you made about the Army’s objection to the line of dialogue in _Thirteen Days_ is, admittedly, lame and hypocritical on their part—but still their prerogative in that they didn’t block the movie from being made. Also, I don’t think there’s any ambiguity in the military’s criteria for selecting projects they wish to aid, so it’s not like they’re trying to hoodwink the public by conspiring with Hollywood to make propaganda/recruiting movies (_Top Gun_ notwithstanding).

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