NEW YORK – Everyone said it: The attacks made it seem like real life had turned into a movie.
Now, in its fight against terrorism, the Army is working with screenwriters to investigate whether the opposite is true too, that movie plots could be a blueprint for planning — or preventing — the next terrorist strike against America.
Screenwriters of such anti-terrorist fare as Die Hard, MacGyver and Delta Force One teamed up last week with the U.S. Army at the University of Southern California to think up possible plots terrorists might hatch, and the ways the government could stop them, Daily Variety reported Monday.
"There is a group of entertainment folks, I hesitate to limit it to writers, who have been meeting with the ICT (Institute for Creative Technologies) and the Army," Jennifer Fredrick, a spokeswoman for ICT told the New York Post.
It's a telling shift for the ICT, which USC started on Aug. 18, 1999, as part of a five-year Army contract. The current brains-for-peace project is a far cry from the institute's original mandate, which was to create virtual-reality trainers for soldiers. The group, which aims to eliminate "short-term threats against the country," is headed by Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Bergquist, and has met twice on a teleconference with the Pentagon, a university source told Daily Variety.
Bergquist is the president of the Joint Special Operations University in Hurlburt Field, Fla., a school founded to help coordinate joint operations of the various military branches' special-operations units.
The ICT Web site describes how it planned to accomplish its original mission:
"The ICT will work with the entertainment industry, which brings expertise in story, character, visual effects and production; game developers, who bring computer graphics and modeling resources; and the computer science community, which brings innovation in networking, artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology. In awarding this contract to USC, the Army recognized that the University's wide range of expertise complements the ICT's mission."
ICT's creative director, James Korris told Daily Variety the meetings were ongoing but didn't say what was discussed.
Calls to Korris from Fox News were forwarded to a public relations firm, where a spokesman said news of the project was prematurely leaked and that a public statement would be forthcoming.
Bergquist could not be reached by telephone yesterday. A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said most military personnel not working on the strikes in Afghanistan were out of the office Monday for the national holiday.
Screenwriters in the anti-terrorist working group include Die Hard's Steven E. De Souza, MacGyver's David Engelbach and Paul De Meo as well as Danny Bilson of The Rocketeer. Directors include Joseph Zito, responsible for movies like Delta Force One and Missing In Action, Fight Club's David Fincher, Spike Jonze of Being John Malkovich, Randal Kleiser of Shadow of Doubt, and The In Crowd's Mary Lambert, according to reports.