The U.S. military has been fodder for Hollywood since its earliest days. So how do actual military members feel about how they are portrayed by the entertainment industry?
Representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard sought to shed light on the issue, and how Hollywood works with the armed forces, during a moderated panel at the Comic Con International Convention in San Diego last week.
“A synergy is being created, and we’re going to see more and more projects that are military-orientated,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Francisco “Paco” Hamm, who acted as an Air Force advisor on projects including “Transformers,” “Iron Man 2” and “Army Wives,” told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column in an exclusive interview. “We strive for accurate and positive depiction of our military members and our assets and emissions in TV shows and films, and by providing authenticity and access to the filmmaker, we are able to support their creative vision.”
In his role as a liaison between the military and Hollywood, Hamm provides counsel and advice to filmmakers on military-related matters, but he said the onus is on the directors and producers to reach out.
“When an actor has a role and they’re not familiar, if they’re playing an A10 and they're not familiar with flying, we'll actually bring them to one of our bases that has an A10 and we'll put them with a pilot and they can shadow them and provide educational opportunities for them to learn a little bit more about their role through talking to an actual A10 pilot. We did this for the last ‘Terminator,’ ‘Terminator Salvation,’ and we also did it for the first ‘Ironman’ with Terrence Howard,” Hamm explained. “I specifically worked on both ‘Transformers 2' and '3’ and with ‘Transformers 2,’ I spent several weeks down at Holloman Air Force Space with the production and was basically part of the production and crew and spent a lot of time with the producer, Ian Bryce and working with Michael Bay and ensuring all the assets that were needed for the scene were there. I was able to see all the military aspects, the Army, Marines, and the Air Force, working together in a joint operation, which is very similar to what we do in actual combat. It was a fun time.”
And sometimes the troops even get a taste of Tinseltown.
“I specifically had some time with Josh Duhamel, and he was very into his role and making sure that what he was doing was accurate. When he wasn't shooting, he spent a lot of time just hanging out with the troops. We had over 300 extras, soldiers and air men, playing as extras [on 'Transformers 3'], so he spent time hanging out with them,” Hamm said. “Tyrese Gibson played our air force combat controller and he was great, and also loved hanging out with the troops.”
U.S. Air Force veteran Jon Huertas, an actor on ABC’s “Castle” and HBO’s “Generation Kill,” as well as chairman of SAG Armed Forces Task Force, said that the relationship between show business and the military has improved significantly in recent years.
“For years before I was even an actor, when I was in the military, I would turn on the TV or check out a movie that had some sort of military aspect. You turn it on and can be instantly taken out of the story when you see something that just isn't accurate and doesn't hold up the integrity of the military,” he told us. “The industry now is actually trying to get it right, it's better now. There have been a couple of bars set, like Jerry Bruckheimer with 'Black Hawk Down' he really set the bar, and to me, to date, that was one of the most realistic military films that I have seen in a while."
"I think that with projects like that setting the bar, the rest of Hollywood wants to get it right and they realize that today we've got so many families that have someone in the military and nobody wants to take away anything from what that person has sacrificed and volunteered to do," Huertas continued. "So I think Hollywood feels a responsibility now more than ever with the amount of technology that we have to make our movies, it's just easier to get it right.”
And it seems the more Hollywood spotlights our servicemen and women, the more they appreciate it.
“Overall, our troops feel pretty good about the films that are coming out. I've deployed to Iraq twice and one of the things I noticed in my deployment, is that downtime is spent playing video games and watching movies, and a lot of the films that are watched are military related films,” Hamm added. “There's nothing better than watching a film and seeing soldiers portrayed on screen. There's a big morale boost that happens when they can connect with themselves up on screen.”
- Deidre Behar contributed to this report.