Feds seek H’wood’s help

Helmers, scribes probe terrorism at U.S. Army's request

In a reversal of roles, government intelligence specialists have been secretly soliciting terrorist scenarios from top Hollywood filmmakers and writers.

A unique ad hoc working group convened at USC just last week at the behest of the U.S. Army. The goal was to brainstorm about possible terrorist targets and schemes in America and to offer solutions to those threats, in light of the twin assaults on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Among those in the working group based at USC’s Institute for Creative Technology are those with obvious connections to the terrorist pic milieu, like “Die Hard” screenwriter Steven E. De Souza, TV writer David Engelbach (“MacGyver”) and helmer Joseph Zito, who directed the features “Delta Force One,” “Missing in Action” and “The Abduction.”

But the list also includes more mainstream suspense helmers like David Fincher (“Fight Club”), Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”), Randal Kleiser (“Grease”) and Mary Lambert (“The In Crowd”) as well as feature screenwriters Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson (“The Rocketeer”).

USC’s Army contract

In August 1999, the Army awarded USC a five-year contract to create the Institute for Creative Technologies with a mandate to enlist the resources and talents of the entertainment industry, videogame-makers and computer scientists to advance the state of “immersive,” or virtual reality, training simulation for soldiers.

The entertainment industry brings a certain expertise in story and character, as well as visual effects and production know-how to the table.

But one USC insider describes the ad hoc group as focused “on the short-term threats against the country” and said that Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Bergquist had been heading the effort, which has met twice already via teleconference with the Pentagon.

Meetings ongoing

ICT creative director James Korris confirmed that the filmmaker meetings were ongoing with the Army but declined to elaborate as to what specific recommendations had been made to the Pentagon.

A call to the Army’s office of public affairs seeking comment from Gen. Bergquist was not returned as of late Sunday.