In A Nutshell
The CIA is always watching, but they know you’re watching, too . . . in movie theaters anyways. The Central Intelligence Agency is constantly showing up in films and TV shows, and the folks back in Langley really appreciate it when their agents come off looking like heroes. That’s why the CIA established the Entertainment Liaison Office, to encourage filmmakers to make their agents look good.
The Whole Bushel
Everybody loves a good spy flick, including the CIA. After all, lots of people base their opinions on Hollywood movies, so the CIA wants to see their agents depicted in a realistic—or should we say “positive”—light. That’s why in 1996, the CIA founded the Entertainment Liaison Office.
Originally headed up by Chase Brandon (former secret agent, novelist, and cousin of Tommy Lee Jones), the Office is dedicated to the “accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, and the skill, innovation, daring, and commitment to public service that defines them.”
Basically, the CIA is involved in pretty much every movie that deals with the guys and gals from Langley. If actors, directors, or writers need a little guidance on their project, the Entertainment Liaison Office is more than happy to help. According to their website, they’ll debunk CIA myths, let filmmakers shoot around the CIA compound, and give advice when needed. They’ve consulted on pretty much everything, from Zero Dark Thirty to The Bourne Identity to TV shows like Alias.
Some might call this good PR. Others might call this propaganda.
Of course, to be fair, the CIA isn’t the only federal institution shilling for publicity. The Pentagon has a long history of loaning out tanks and helicopters in exchange for a little revisionist history. Take Black Hawk Down for example. When Ridley Scott and company went to the top military brass for help, the guys with the guns were more than happy to assist . . . so as long as the filmmakers glossed over the fact that the hero (played by Ewan McGregor) was a convicted child rapist.
Obviously, the CIA and the Pentagon hope directors and writers portray their people as hardworking heroes. That’s why Ben Affleck (director of The Sum of All Fears and Argo) was given a tour of Agency headquarters. That’s why best-selling author Tom Clancy (the mind behind The Hunt for Red October as well as Affleck’s Sum of All Fears) was invited to Langley on multiple occasions.
Of course, the CIA doesn’t always get its way. Despite sending agents to provide input, Agency officials were rather displeased with both The Good Shepherd and Syriana, movies that didn’t exactly portray federal agents as angels. But more often than not, the CIA gets what it wants. In fact, if you visit the CIA website, you’ll even find a list of government-approved story ideas for potential books or movies.
All you wannabe writers might want to check that out.