White House asks Hollywood execs to fight terrorism
THE PATRIOTS President Bush continues to enlist Hollywood in the fight against terrorism. First there was the think tank at the University of Southern California, where the army has been gathering screenwriters and directors to help devise counterterrorism scenarios for training soldiers. Then, last week, Fox put together and aired a special ”America’s Most Wanted” episode at the president’s request, showing the mug shots of 22 terror suspects and receiving 1,400 tips from viewers in response. Most recently, administration officials met behind closed doors with 25 Hollywood players. Wednesday’s meeting included actors Sally Field and Ron Silver and several film and TV executives, such as CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, HBO execs Chris Albrecht and Colin Callender, Warner Bros. TV President Peter Roth, Fox TV chairman Sandy Grushow, Showtime chief Jerry Offsay, and Academy of Television Arts and Sciences chairman Bryce Zabel. Bush officials said they’re not trying to influence the content of Hollywood product or get producers to make World War II-style propaganda films, but merely to organize a task force to marshal Hollywood’s resources behind the White House. However, one executive told Variety, ”They’re talking about setting up committees, but we’re ready to get into action. This is show business. We get things faster. We’re way ahead of them”….
Veteran director Robert Altman says Hollywood’s irresponsibly casual attitude towards depicting violence is partially to blame for the terrorist attacks. ”The movies set the pattern, and these people have copied the movies,” he told the Associated Press this week. ”Nobody would have thought to commit an atrocity like that unless they’d seen it in a movie. How dare we continue to show this kind of mass destruction in movies? I just believe we created this atmosphere and taught them how to do it.” The 76-year-old director says he hopes audiences will stop patronizing excessively violent movies and see more adult-oriented films, like his. ”Maybe there’s a chance to get back to… grown-up films, anything that uses humor and dramatic values to deal with human emotions and gets down to what people are to people.” In December, Altman will release ”Gosford Park,” a British drawing-room satire with Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, and Helen Mirren that revolves around a murder mystery; Altman typically manages to keep his movies’ body count down to one or two victims per film.
One person not buying Altman’s argument is Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, designer of the movie ratings system and chief lobbyist for Hollywood. ”That’s a giant leap from movies to Osama Bin Laden,” he told the New York Daily News. ”Any time a man is willing to take over a plane and commit suicide, more than bad movies are behind that.” Valenti also called occasional action hero Nicolas Cage a wuss for bowing out of a function last week because he didn’t want to fly. ”Well, fear is a deadly weapon,” said the 80-year-old Valenti. ”I refuse to cancel anything”….