The DOD’s directive on working with Hollywood says that they can provide production assistance if it is deemed ‘in the best interest of the Nation’, but as with all their criteria for deciding whether to give support the Pentagon interpret this very broadly. They use the considerable influence that DOD support (or a refusal) entails in order to protect the cinematic public image of the entire US government, from the CIA to the White House.
The producers of Clear and Present Danger first approached the DOD in late 1991, and the Army reviewed the script. An army memo on the script records how:
My real difficulty is the way our soldiers are “shanghaied” into a black – superblack – operation. On a larger scale, I do not. see how we can support unless DOD – with the concurrence of State, CIA, Justice and the White House – agrees to support. The Army portrayed is not unfavorable but the issues are much larger than the Army. We must see concurrence documentation as indicated above.
This was still a concern when the producers came back in mid-1993, with essentially the same script. Further memos state that there were problems with the lack of a proper military chain of command, whereby the black operation is run through the National Security Council with the president’s unofficial knowledge. The Marine Corps responded by saying they wanted nothing to do with a film portraying a ‘Presidential conspiracy’ to run an illegal black op, as did the Air Force.
However, it wasn’t just the four main branches of the military who reviewed the script, but also the DOD’s Coordinator for Drug Enforcement Policy and Support, the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with the State Department, CIA and the White House. They weren’t only concerned with the negative portrait of the US government but also with how the Colombian government (which the original script shows turning a blind eye to major drugs trafficking) were depicted. A consolidated set of notes summarises many of their concerns:
The DOD’s handwritten annotations on the draft script show how they censored all of these problems out of the film, establishing an official chain of command for the covert operations against the drug lords, and including respect for the Colombian government.
While the DOD is officially only responsible for the military portrayal in films, the file on Clear and Present Danger makes clear they also liaise with other government agencies and enforce script changes on their behalf, whether it’s the CIA or the White House. They are the US government’s bulldog in Hollywood.
DOD Film Office file on Clear and Present Danger (abridged)
DOD entertainment liason of… by on Scribd