Local Hero: Lt. Col. Steven Cole Is Liaison Between Army and Hollywood

Lt Col Steven Cole
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Lt. Col. Steven Cole likes to say that the U.S. Army has been working with Hollywood before Hollywood even existed. The longstanding relationship dates back to 1927, when the Army provided an airplane for “Wings,” the first Academy Award winner for best picture. As the deputy director of the U.S. Army film and television liaison office, Cole is the middle man between the entertainment industry and the service, helping provide production companies access to military equipment, bases, personnel and information.

Road to Tinseltown

Cole joined the Army 18 years ago. After serving as an armor officer for eight years, he attended the U. of Maryland at College Park, and received a master’s degree in African history. He taught in the military academy’s history department for three years before becoming a public affairs officer for the armed service. He worked for a year at global communications firm FleishmanHillard to prepare for his current PR gig in Los Angeles.

Slate of Arms

The shows the Army has supported in recent years include “Hawaii Five-0”; “Married to the Army: Alaska,” a reality series following military wives; Lifetime’s “Army Wives”; Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel”; Jackie Robinson biopic “42”; Claudia Myers’ drama “Fort Bliss”; and Peter Berg’s SEAL team feature “Lone Survivor.”

Army’s Arbiter

Cole said bizzers are often hesitant about approaching the Army for support. “A lot of people are probably fearful that we’re going to be Orwellian censors and keep people from being able to do what they want; nothing can be further from the truth,” he said. “We don’t get into the art of making a television show or movie, all we’re really interested in is the depiction of the Army.”

Enlisting A-Listers

Before production began on David Ayer’s WWII drama “Fury,” Cole’s office sent Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and their co-stars to Fort Irwin, Calif., to research their roles. The cast spent the night embedded with a unit. “Our job is to educate Americans about our Army,” said Cole, “and even though Brad Pitt is only one guy, people pay attention to what he does.”

A Grunt’s Gripe 

According to Cole, it’s hard to accurately depict Army culture because Hollywood wants a specialist. “Being a plain old U.S. Army regular soldier doesn’t seem to be sexy enough a lot of times in film and television,” he said.

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  1. Eric Duckworth says:

    Great Piece on a Great American. Whatever can be done to accurately depict what we do on a regular basis is good for the Army, Hollywood, and the taxpayer that supports us. So many entertainment productions get it wrong so often and lose credibility with movie goers, and it is disappointing to see it and then have regular/non-service members think that’s how we do things in the Army- whether it is wear of the uniform, depiction of customs and courtesies, or the real depiction of tactics, techniques and weapon effects. Often if Hollywood gets the details wrong, it won’t matter how good the script or the acting is – the production will be dismissed at worst, or fall short of being really great.

  2. Great piece and long-due recognition for the unsung heroes of Army Public Affairs– we adore LTC Cole, Ken Hawes SFC Brown and the entire team– including LTC John Clearwater — lead MARRIED TO THE ARMY: ALASKA could not have happened without your support and enthusiasm– true professionals all the way!

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