It’s 1987, I’m four years old and watching Predator. It was the 80s, so yeah, I lived on the edge. Arnold Schwarzenegger is yelling, “Get to the chopper!” and using mud to hide his thermal signature from a nasty, invisible alien. As I watch and re-watch Predator, awed as Arnold plays Major “Dutch” Schaefer, a Green Beret leading a covert, rescue mission, an idea pops into my mind: “I should be in Special Forces.”
Twenty-five years later, I don my Green Beret and earn my tab. Today, there’s still no question in my mind that Hollywood movies had a lasting impact on my decision to serve, and I’m not alone — you know it’s true.
Thirty years later, Arnold continues to inspire the next generation of military movies — even if he’s not hunting aliens or a robot sent from the future. Anyone who’s served knows the age-old saying, “attention to detail” and today, Arnold’s team at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy is committed to helping Hollywood storytellers get the details right about military life. The Schwarzenegger Center recently hosted a workshop that combined the best of the Hollywood world with some of the best military leaders from across the globe, many of whom will become Generals/Air Chief Marshall (gotta love the foreign ranks). Regardless of what flag was Velcroed to their flight suit, the mission for those in the room was clear: build relationships that can extend into an idea, a script, and even a movie.
Arnold told We Are the Mighty,
“Hollywood wouldn’t be the same without the stories of our military’s heroism that have inspired Americans and taught the world our values. I’m proud the Institute can support this important collaboration by bringing together top military and entertainment talent.”
Heroism, unshakable values, and collaboration brought the best of the best together. Participants in the discussion included Jerry Zucker (Director of Airplane!), Sarah Watson (Creator/EP of The Bold Type), Jon Turteltaub (Director of National Treasure The Meg), and actor Jamie G Hyder (True Blood, Call of Duty), along with pilots from the Air War College International fellow program, which included officers from 20 nations, as well as representatives from the U.S Navy’s Hollywood liaison office. This pairing of two seemingly different worlds couldn’t come at a better time. All branches of the military continue to work tirelessly each year to meet their recruiting, retention, and readiness goals, while Hollywood has continued to push mega-movies with a military spin, like the freshly released Captain Marvel, and create new platforms for military storytelling, like Netflix, Hulu, and We Are The Mighty (yeah, yeah… shameless plug).
L-R: Jerry Zucker, Sarah Watson, Jon Turteltaub, Katie Johnson discuss their roles as storytellers
Both sides discussed the various similarities and challenges in their respective fields. The pilots in the room, who almost unanimously admitted that they earned their wings as a result of Top Gun (unfortunately not a Schwarzenegger movie), asked the writers and directors how to best share their own stories, to which Director Jon Turteltaub fired back, “Hang out with us. Even just a personal story can spark an idea.”
In addition, many of the writers expressed how participating in a short visit with the military changed their entire view of military stories. Writer and showrunner Sarah Watson recounted how impressed she was with the female sailors she met on an aircraft carrier visit. As a result, Sarah has dedicated herself to creating a female military character in her next project.
The respect was mutual. Col Ken Callahan, Associate Dean, USAF Air War College, added,
“The opportunity to interact with the entertainment industry at the Schwarzenegger Institute event was priceless. Helping future Air Chiefs from allied and partner nations better understand the role Hollywood plays in expressing American values globally is exactly what we are trying to achieve. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Schwarzenegger, his staff, the team at USC, and all of the amazing and talented individuals that took time out to help forge new partnerships with our group.“
Lt. Col Andreas Wachowitz, German AF (left), chats with writer Will Staples
The discussions throughout the day included deep dives into how various successful collaborations between the US military and Hollywood, such as The Last Ship and Transformers, can shape public affairs, recruiting, and soft power diplomacy. Basically, the military leaders asked if movies can make the world safer, and the answer was a resounding yes (especially if we are one-day attacked by Predator aliens).
The real question of the day came from Norman Todd, EVP of Johnny Depp’s company, Infinitum Nihil, who asked, “Who is the greatest Hollywood Actor?”
“We love Arnold,” Capt. Russell Coons, director of the Navy Office of Information West responded immediately. Even an Army guy can agree with that answer. We’ll continue to keep you updated as Arnold, both a great actor and leader, continues his effort to bring the military and Hollywood closer together.
For more information on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s efforts in Hollywood check out USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.