"Zero Dark Thirty" And 9 Other Films That The Military Has Censored
New details have emerged indicating that Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal tweaked the critically acclaimed movie at the CIA's behest. But ZDT is hardly the first: Many big films, including Top Gun, have done the same thing.
A newly released memo has revealed that Mark Boal, the screenwriter-producer of the Kathryn Bigelow-directed film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, agreed to take out a number of elements of his original screenplay that the CIA said were inaccurate. It's well-known that Boal worked closely with the intelligence agency while researching his script, but the degree of the collaboration was not clear. Now, it's been revealed that, in an unofficial quid pro quo for access to top military officials (including a very lengthy chat with Under Secretary of Defense Mike Vickers and a Navy SEAL) and other substantive assists, Boal removed a couple of scenes that the CIA found objectionable when he ran briefed them the screenplay — including one that showed military members drinking and firing AK-47s on a rooftop in Islamabad, as well as any indication that the intrepid lead character, played by Jessica Chastain, engaged in "enhanced interrogation" (aka torture). Using dogs in torture was axed, too.
Though the movie was released after the November presidential election, it was accused as being a vehicle to promote President Obama's efforts in the War on Terror, and so the CIA's involvement came under scrutiny by many in Congress and the media. The truth, however, is that the American military has exercised influence on film since the first Oscars in 1927.
The Department of Defense makes available material and strategic support for movie productions — think tanks, planes, ships and consultation — at low rates. But there is another kind of price: creative freedom. The deal is that if you want the help, you've got to submit your script to the DoD, which subjects it to review and asks for changes to anything it finds objectionable.
If a filmmaker declines to make the changes, they're free to go make the movie on their own, but they won't get the help from the military that they had requested. Here are some of the biggest hits that have worked within the system — and some that haven't.
1. Top Gun
3. Blackhawk Down
5. The Hunt for Red October
6. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
7. Behind Enemy Lines
9. The Presidio
The Pentagon Refused to Help These Films Because They Didn't Like The Scripts:
Update: A representative for Boal says that Boal asked the CIA about the accuracy of the film. This item has been updated to reflect that.