12 Weirdo Changes To Movies The Government Asked For
When a Hollywood film features a bunch of tanks or aircraft carriers or tankcraft carriers (best of both worlds), they probably got that stuff thanks to the U.S. Department of Defense. But in order to get access to those cool toys, movies have to hand some measure of influence over to the DOD. A couple of investigators had the DOD produce documents listing all the films they've ever supported, and sometimes their demands have gone a lot further than "Make sure we look super badass." For instance ...
The Military In Jurassic Park III Went From Bumbling Hunters To Rescuers
Do you remember Jurassic Park III? Eh, probably not, so I'll run down the major points: Alan Grant, spinosaurus, " It's a bird cage." Boom, there you go. But originally it had a subplot about a whole military force (an "evil" military force, notes the DOD memo) that tries to kill the dinosaurs and fails miserably. When the movie approached the DOD for assistance, the government objected and had them totally rewrite the script to remove all military references.
Thus the military characters were changed into a small group of inept mercenaries who barely outlast the first act. And now at the end, the Army and Marines bring in choppers and aquatic tanks to save the heroes. The DOD were overjoyed at this revision, presumably because it would be catastrophic for the nation's morale if we thought the military couldn't save us from the very real threat of genetically engineered velociraptors.
They Really Didn't Want Iron Man To Reference Soldier Suicides
A lot of Marvel movies are made with assistance and approval from the Department of Defense, and some, like Captain Marvel, are outright used for recruitment. That explains why in Iron Man, a movie about Tony Stark realizing the weapons he gives the U.S. military can be used for evil, we don't actually see the U.S. military do anything evil.
Besides general supervision, the DOD demanded a specific change from Jon Favreau's original script. An officer, maybe Rhodey, said people would "kill themselves for the opportunities he has." The DOD said that line had to go because they didn't want any reference to soldier suicide, which is kind of a thorny subject with them (even though, you'll note, that line wasn't about soldier suicide).
Favreau suggested a change to "people would walk over hot coals for the opportunities he has," and was surprised when the military accepted this. Eventually he cut the line, possibly because half that movie ended up being improvised by Robert Downey Jr. anyway.
TheTerminator's Robot Uprising Was Caused By The Military?
General Brewer in Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines is the father of John Connor's love interest and a general in the Air Force. Higher-ups push him to activate Skynet, he does, and the machines, as the title daringly predicts, rise. He dies, but helps the heroes with his last act. The Department of Defense looked over the script, made some unspecified changes, and approved it -- also approving of Brewer himself, whom memos described as "loving."
Then the filmmakers decided to go a different route and change the general into "a negative character." And thus the DOD withdrew all support after having formally given it in writing. Did the general purposely help the machines? Was he secretly a machine himself? Did they make him into a nerdy audience surrogate who kept making meta jokes? We don't know, because the filmmakers eventually reverted to the "benign general" anyway. And so America was saved. I mean, not from the machines. They still killed, just ... everybody.
Meet The Parents Initially Referenced CIA Torture
Most of these examples are changes demanded by the Department of Defense, but the CIA also has an entertainment liaison office. Most famously, they were the ones who prettied up the torture in Zero Dark Thirty. They also edited the torture in a slightly more political film: Meet The Parents.
In the movie, Ben Stiller's character meets his future in-laws and learns his fiancee's father worked for the CIA. Originally, he was supposed to discover this secret by finding torture manuals in Robert De Niro's character's possession. The real CIA asked that those be removed, so all Ben finds are photos of De Niro with important people. This ends up being hilarious, because they still use the same ominous music, as if he was seeing torture manuals, but it's just pictures of the guy with Colin Powell and Bill Clinton. I don't know if "You hung out with the 65th secretary of State!" is the third-act twist a movie like this needs.
The Government Edited Forrest Gump To Downplay Their "Moron Corps"
Forrest Gump isn't totally pro-military, but the version we ended up with is apparently "much better" than the early script the filmmakers presented to the Department of Defense, which they rejected on the grounds that it had a "nihilistic" view of the military. We don't have exact details, but excerpts from the original novel might hold some clues.For example, there are more scenes of Americans killing the Vietnamese in the book. There's also a bit where Forrest's platoon hides in a ditch, naked and covered in human shit. Then the U.S. drops napalm, accidentally hitting their own troops. They're basically slapstick assholes.
The DOD does confirm one edit, which they call a "very important change." Originally the script featured an "entire company of men like Forrest and Bubba," a reference to the real-life Project 100,000, aka the "Moron Corps," for which the military recruited low-IQ people and sent them into combat (and death) more than regular troops. The final movie didn't erase all references to the Moron Corps, but it did integrate these guys with the other soldiers. That somehow makes it more acceptable, apparently.
Hulk Was A Military Experiment ... Or Was He?
It's a little hard to keep track of what's up with the Incredible Hulk, as the role has been recast three times over the span of three movies. In The Avengers, Steve just says "Doctor Banner was trying to replicate the serum that was used on me." But in 2003's Hulk, the Hulk is explicitly a military experiment -- which makes sense, since all the Avengers are military when you think about it. At least, he was a military experiment, until the real military had their say.
The DOD insisted that the desert facility where Banner goes be non-military. So who's running it, then? We don't know, but it's not the military. The baddie in the film is Major Glenn Talbot, but the DOD had them make him a former soldier. They took out a line about " all those boys, guinea pigs, dying from radiation and germ warfare," because this referenced real military experimentation on human subjects, which isn't something they want to remind people of.
And they changed the name of the operation to retrieve Hulk to "Operation Angry Man." Ang Lee had named it " Operation Ranch Hand," which was the name the military had actually used for their program spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam. So they basically left everything the same, but made the names cuter. They may as well have renamed the Hulk "Muscles McTemper." You won't like him when he's a lil' grumpy.
The Military Must Be The Best At Sniping
Sometimes the military will freely open their facilities to a crew as long as the final product doesn't label the facilities as such, which is like a McDonald's demanding that you refer to it as Wendy's once you step inside. But occasionally the DOD will ask that military references be added. 1997's The Jackal, starring Bruce Willis and Richard Gere, is all about snipers and the FBI, and originally featured some FBI snipers. The Pentagon agreed to let them film on DOD locations only if the film depicted Marines doing more stuff, and also changed the snipers to Marines. Because Marines are the best.
"Film principally depicts FBI in a positive light," cryptically notes the DOD memo, as though they were equally invested in ensuring that the FBI was portrayed well, when they clearly weren't.
The Military Must Never Crash Their Vehicles
The Tina Fey movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot features a scene in which an Army vehicle's brakes fail, sending it careening into a group of civilians shopping in Kabul. The military assisted on the film, but agreed to do so only if the vehicle was changed from a U.S. Army transport to some car operated by a different organization. The real reason they were keen to support the film, though, was a scene later on.
Fey's character visits a Marine who lost both legs while deployed. And instead of this being a really sad scene about how much of an overflowing toilet his life is, it seems he's doing all right. He absolves Fey of the guilt over her actions leading to him getting transferred and maimed, so she ends the movie happy. And I mean, that's a nice ending, but it's still weird that even with a positive portrayal, the main message is "Yeah, whatever. Lost both legs, but smiles. What REALLY matters is that the 30 Rock lady gets her groove back."
Aliens Are Fine, But Not UFOs
The Department of Defense has lent assistance to quite a few films about aliens invading Earth. Though they turned down Independence Day (even America saving the goddamn world at the end constituted an "anemic US military response," they said), they gave equipment or personnel to lots of other films, such as War Of The Worlds and Battle: Los Angeles. As they said in their notes on The Day The Earth Stood Still, they support the idea that "if an alien appeared, the military would defend the nation."
But they refused assistance to films like Star Man, Cocoon: The Journey Back, and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The objectionable content here? UFOs. Not alien spacecraft; they're apparently fine with those. But anything which is (for some part of the film, anyway) not identified as alien spacecraft isn't OK. Because the Air Force had long denied the existence of UFOs, you see.
Of course, literal unidentified flying objects do exist. And recently, the Pentagon at last admitted that they've been monitoring UFOs for years, and are now going to make it easier for people to report seeing them. The weirdest thing is that most of those UFO movies are about friendly or redeemable extraterrestrials. So the military only joins in when they can clearly and succinctly blow some martians the fuck up.
James Bond Couldn't Joke About The Vietnam War
Tomorrow Never Dies was the James Bond movie that opened the same weekend as Titanic, so real smart move on the producers' part right there. It was also the only Bond film with scenes that take place in Vietnam. In the original script, there's a line where a CIA agent warns Bond of the consequences if he is caught in Vietnamese waters: "You know what will happen. It will be war, and maybe this time we'll win."
The Pentagon ordered this line to be removed. We know what you're picturing, and we're picturing it too: Some furious general pounding his fist on the table, saying, "This time we'll win?! WHO THE HELL DOES REMINGTON STEELE THINK HE IS?" But the actual stated reason was just as dumb: America and Vietnam had restored diplomatic relations in 1995, and the Pentagon thought the line could lead to an international crisis. This was a severe overestimation of American paranoia, and an even more severe underestimation of a Vietnamese person's ability to take a joke.
The Real-Life Ministry Of Truth Edited The Ending Of 1984
We've previously mentioned how the CIA interfered with the Animal Farm movie, but that's somehow only their second-most ironic tampering with an adaptation of a George Orwell work. The first would be the 1956 film adaptation of 1984, a story even more explicitly about government censorship and media control.
The film originally ended with a character joining a crowd yelling " Long live Big Brother!" The CIA made them change that drastically. Instead of surviving torture and being converted, the main character and his love interest both end up executed, with their last words being "Down with Big Brother!"
The CIA probably wasn't trying to inspire rebellion or insurrection. Instead, it seems they wanted to paint Big Brother as more obviously evil and easily resisted, rather than a stealth dictatorship that could fool you into patriotism. But to really confuse things, they ordered their edited version to be released in Britain, while America got the uncensored one. So maybe the CIA was trying to sow insurrection ... against Her Majesty the Queen! Someone needs to go back in time 60 years and warn her.
The Core's Weapon Was Changed From A Madman's Device To A Wise Defense
Let's say a country builds a superweapon that can create earthquakes. The only small flaw is that said weapon may also stop the Earth's core, leading to the end of the world. Now let's say other countries decide the best response is to all build their own earthquake machines that may similarly end the world. This could be a Strangelove-style anti-military satire ... or it could be a film plot explicitly demanded by the military.
Originally, The Core's superweapon was straight-up invented by America, and that was it. But after "lengthy script negotiations," the DOD changed it so some other country invented it, and the U.S. retaliated by making their own (which malfunctioned horribly). "They built it first," says the guy responsible. "I built it better."
The Department of Defense really seemed to care about the politics of this sci-fi film that runs on nonsense sauce (the ship is literally made of "unobtanium"). It's unclear why they thought you have to build a weapon second for it to be moral. When it came to real-life mutually assured destruction, I'm pretty sure the country that built nukes first was us.
For more, check out 6 Weirdly Conservative Messages Hidden In 'Ghostbusters' - After Hours:
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