Launching in April of this year The CIA and Hollywood is a new series by Pearse Redmond and Tom Secker. The first season will have seven episodes where we will mostly focus on modern films, with guest appearances on five of the shows.
The full list:
Episode 1: The CIA and George Orwell
Pearse and I introduce the series and look at how George Orwell’s two major works – 1984 and Animal Farm – were both adapted into 1950s films by the CIA for propaganda purposes. Using files from MI5, the CIA and the FBI we outline in detail the people involved in the productions and how they fit into a wider picture of what was going on in Hollywood at the time.
Episode 2: The CIA and Robert De Niro – Guest: Guillermo Jimenez
In the first guest episode we welcome Guillermo to talk about Robert De Niro’s lengthy connections to the CIA. From Wag the Dog, where he plays a character based on CIA Entertainment Liaison Chase Brandon to the Meet the Parents film franchise which was assisted by Brandon, to his epic rewriting of CIA history in The Good Shepherd, De Niro has for over a decade had some kind of relationship with the Agency.
Episode 3: The CIA and The Recruit – Guest: Aaron Franz
From one screen legend to another, Aaron joins us to discuss The Recruit starring Al Pacino. This film was co-written by Chase Brandon and the character Pacino plays is clearly based on Chase Brandon. This tale of a young man inducted into the secret world of the CIA is a perfect set up for inducting the audience into that same world, though what we find there is simply more layers of manipulation and doublethink.
Episode 4: The CIA and Enemy of the State – Guest: Adam of Themes and Memes
The film that predicted the entire Edward Snowden story is next on the list, when Adam joins in the discussion. The Gene Hackman character, based on a role he played in the 1970s thriller The Conversation, foreshadows everything about Snowden, including his name and where he grew up, and the film’s depiction of mass surveillance has much the same effect on audiences as Snowden’s ‘revelations’ some 15 years later.
Episode 5: The CIA and The Social Network – Guest: Thomas Sheridan
The only film featured in this series that was not explicitly sponsored by the CIA, but which bears all the hallmarks of CIA involvement. Thomas Sheridan joins us to examine this fictionalised account of the founding of facebook, possibly the world’s greatest ever surveillance tool. We examine Aaron Sorkin’s career and the key information he left out of his screenplay about the early investors in facebook.
Episode 6: The CIA and Charlie Wilson’s War – Guest: Sibel Edmonds
One of Chase Brandon’s final films mythologised one of the most important events in understanding modern history – the Soviet-Afghan War and the CIA’s support of the Mujahideen. Sibel lends us her expert knowledge as we dismantle this piece of CIA unhistory – which is also scripted by Sorkin – and construct a true version in its place.
Episode 7: The CIA and Argo
To round off this season Pearse and I take a look at the Oscar-winning Argo, produced by the unholy trio of Clooney, Heslov and Affleck, all of whom have long-standing ties to the CIA. We examine the film not only as a deliberate mis-telling of real historical events but also as a celebration of the CIA’s very useful relationship with the Hollywood dream factory. We reflect back on what we have learned through doing this first season, and briefly explain what to expect from season two.