Ex-CIA agent and 'Red Sparrow' writer on Russian threats - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Red Sparrow is an unapologetically adult, complicated, and ambitious spy thriller based on the Edgar Award-winning novel by former CIA agent, Jason Matthews. Set in current times, it’s a throwback to the darkest Cold War spy thrillers and earns its R rating with a mix of sex and violence that hearkens back to the best 70s spy movies.


Jason Matthews talked to us about his own experiences in the CIA and why post-Soviet Russia is still a threat to democracy.

 

In the movie, Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a Bolshoi ballerina who’s recruited to Russian intelligence after an on-stage injury ends her dancing career. Her uncle happens to be deputy director of the SVR and he sends her to Sparrow School, where she’s trained to use her sexuality as a weapon against Russian enemies.

Also read: 6 military movies you need to watch in 2018

Dominika pursues her own agenda as she’s tasked with seducing an American CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) and finding the identity of a mole in Russian intelligence. There’s a lot of methodical tradecraft punctuated by bursts of violence and sex. Red Sparrow isn’t aimed at the Hunger Games audience and makes no apologies about being a movie for adults.

Jason is a CIA veteran who doesn’t hedge his thoughts about Russia. The good news for fans of the movie is that the two additional novels in his trilogy might make even better films.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
Novelist and former CIA agent, Jason Matthews.

You left the CIA in 2010. How did you become a novelist?

I left after 33 years. In the clandestine service part of the agency, our careers were very experiential, 24/7. You were always on, you were always looking for surveillance, you’re always wondering about rooms being bugged.

When that lifestyle ended, it ends with the crash. One of the familiar Hollywood tropes of retired spies is the big black car pulls up to your house and they recruit you back into service. In reality, that never happens. When you’re out, you’re out.

I started writing fictionalized little snippets of accounts of people that we’ve known, fictionalized mosaics of places we’ve been and things we’ve done. Before I knew it, I had a novel together.

The novel Red Sparrow is a throwback to the old-school spy novels that emphasize tradecraft, as opposed to a lot of the contemporary books that are action novels with spy plots grafted onto them.

Absolutely. There are lots of great thriller writers out there, but they mostly write about counterterrorism and catching the briefcase nuke. I wanted to write a classic, old spy yarn with the Russians as the main opponents.

Related: 7 movie quotes that perfectly apply to military life

You were born in the 50s. Did you grow up on that kind of fiction and those movies?

Sure. There were a lot of great spy movies in the 60’s and 70’s, really iconic sort of film-noir kinds of things. But I think my worldview was formulated by 33 years in the service.

My wife was also in the service, we were a tandem couple. We lived in ten foreign capitals and we worked on a lot of different human targets, but we also kept our eye out for the Russians because that was the gold ring.

You wrote these novels and then this film got developed at a time when Americans probably weren’t thinking as much about the Russians. Here we are in 2018 and the Russians are at the front of everyone’s mind again.

I wake up every morning and I thank Vladimir Putin for providing endless content for books and movies. He’s doing a great job as a PR director for us.

Russia is always gonna be sort of a conundrum, they’re always gonna be meddling. They love those active measures, political influence campaigns. They’ve been doing them since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Vladimir Putin’s singular goal is to stay in power. That will take a weakened America, a weakened NATO, and a weakened Atlantic Alliance. He just wants to stay in power.

If he can fuss with the American democracy – and I don’t care whether you’re Democrat or Republican — all the partisanship, all the squabbling just plays into the Russian hands. They’re rubbing their hands in delight in the Kremlin.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
Vladimir Putin. (Photo from The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

There’s a school of thought that the Russian love of espionage is a trait that goes back centuries and that it’s not something that started with the Soviets.

I think that’s absolutely right on. You hesitate to generalize, but Russians are xenophobic. The only people they hate more than foreigners are themselves. They don’t like to be ignored, they don’t like to be belittled. They want a seat around the table. Russia is always caught between the European elegance of Catherine the Great and the Slavic beastliness of Ivan the Terrible.

As an expert, what do you think the United States should be doing right now to deal with this current wave of Russian influence, or can we say, interference?

I think that we have to show resolve, we have to show solidarity, we’ve got to stop our partisan squabbling, and create a unified front. Russia, historically, stops what they’re doing when the cost of it becomes more than the profits that they imagine they’re getting.

Putin has got elections coming up this year and, if you have any doubt what he considers the vulnerable spots in any election process, he has unplugged his internet, he controls state television and radio, he has disqualified his major opponents from running, and he makes demonstrations in the streets illegal. That’s the Russian playbook and, if we could find the cracks in the cement between all those elements and give him a headache, he’ll be too busy to start messing around with our process.

More reading: 4 reasons why it’s impossible to make movies about the military

Obviously, people with an interest in Russian spy tales are going to line up to see Red Sparrow. Do you think the movie can act as a wakeup call for the broader Hollywood audience, the Jennifer Lawrence fans who don’t think about our current situation with Russia?

Using a broad brush, maybe audiences will take back home the fact that the Cold War never ended, we’re going through a second Cold War, and the Russians mean to do us harm. The movie itself, you know it’s sexy, it’s violent, it’s got a tremendous cast and terrific characters, but I don’t know how much American theatergoers will bring home besides the realization that Russia is not our ally.

You created a spy character who’s a woman. I don’t think there’s been a woman this prominent in spy fiction before. Was that a conscious choice or something that just happened based on the stories you knew from your career?

Yes and no. I thought it would be interesting and evocative to make the main character the heroine. I had read a little bit about the famous Sparrow Schools in the 60s and the 70s in the Soviet Union and how horrible they were. It was almost like slavery, making women go to those kinds of schools.

Apart from the sexpionage, Dominika falls in love with the CIA officer who recruits her. So, there’s mortal danger and a love affair and Sparrow School. I thought it was an interesting combination.

Related: 4 military movies whose hero should be dead

Is that sexpionage something that’s still in the playbook?

Western intel services never got into sexpionage because they thought that anyone recruited by sexual blackmail would be a not trustworthy source. I think the old Sparrow School in the Soviet City of Kazan is probably closed. But if a human target with access to classified information went to Moscow, he’d probably see a modern-day Sparrow at one of the bars of the five-star hotels in Moscow. They would be there ready and waiting.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

This year, the third book in the Sparrow trilogy came out, Kremlin’s Candidate. I told myself I was going to take a little break, but the next morning I found myself staring at my computer screen trying to figure out a new plot. I don’t have anything yet, but I can’t stop.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This beautifully animated video shows two WWII pilots fighting all the way to Hell

“Paths of Hate” follows a hate-filled aerial conflict between German and English WWII pilots who fight even after they’ve fired the last rounds. The animation is gorgeous and makes the footage as evocative as if it were live action or CGI, maybe even more so.


The film was created by a Polish team at Platige Shorts and was short-listed for an Academy Award nomination but fell short.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons why veteran characters would ruin horror flicks

In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.

Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude, and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.


And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”

But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:

We’re not easily scared

Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.

If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.

We would organize survivors

Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.

Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”

We could make due with few resources

In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.

Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.

We’d probably be carrying

Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.

Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.

We know how to actually run and start cars

From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.

If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…

We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever

Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.

We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.

*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film

But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why you should pee before you watch ‘Avengers: Endgame’

The biggest Marvel superhero jamboree will also be the first one that will send moviegoers rushing to the bathroom as soon as they’ve sat through the inevitable post-credits scene. New rumors suggest that Avengers: Endgame will clock-in at 182 minutes, making it just over 3 hours total.

Over the weekend, this rumor popped-up on multiple outlets including We Got This Covered and Bounding Into Comics. It has not been confirmed by Marvel Studios or the directors, the Russo Brothers. Still, earlier in March 2019, the directors did admit that the initial cut of Endgame was close to three hours and that seemingly, test audiences are totally cool with it.


The directors also recently admitted that nearly every single trailer for the hotly-anticipated film contains scenes or images that have been manipulated to intentionally mislead audiences ahead of time, in order to preserve the huge spoilers the move has in store.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame – Official Trailer

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Avengers: Endgame will hit theaters on April 26, 2019, at which point, everyone will find out if the movie kills off every single superhero ever, or is, in fact, actually five hours long. Earlier this month, some fans discovered that on certain websites, Endgameis given a runtime of “zero minutes,” proving that Thanos has not only destroyed half the universe but also, perhaps, Marvel Studios, too.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How Daenerys used tactics that made the Red Baron famous

Warning: Contains spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5.

After last week’s sh*t show, Khaleesi fans have been waiting for her revenge against Euron Greyjoy. Who knew that the secret to destroying the Iron Fleet would be found in the Bloody Red Baron’s playbook?

(Maybe we all should have — there’s a reason he’s the most infamous fighter pilot of all time…)

One move in particular was the key to her success:


Daenerys attacking Iron fleet with dragons | Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5

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Baron Manfred von Richtofen has been credited with 80 kills, most of which were won in planes painted bright red — not exactly the camouflage used on military aircraft today. He faced many obstacles in his military ambitions, but he had one major thing going for him: he was recruited by Lt. Oswald Boelcke, one of the most skilled fighter pilots of his time.

In World War I, Boelcke codified 8 rules for rookie combat pilots. The Red Baron — and the Mad Queen, it turns out — would secure victory through number 1: keep the sun behind you.

Also read: How ‘Game of Thrones’ went WW2 on the penultimate episode

When target acquisition is accomplished through a visual scan of the skies, keeping the sun to their back blinds an aviator’s adversary. Just ask Euron Greyjoy.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Oh wait. You can’t.

There were many ways Daenerys could have attacked those ships. The nice thing about airpower is that gravity will really step up when taking care of your enemies. I always envisioned staying out of range and dropping barrels of burning pitch onto the ships, but of course she’d lose accuracy.

Instead, she chose to reward his ambush with one of her own, popping in from the clouds to overwhelm the naval sharpshooters. She then took advantage of their slow recovery time and destroyed them at close range as they attempted to re-load.

Well done, Dany.

The desolation and surrender of the Lannister military forces were fantastic, but of course, the episode didn’t end there…

Why was the Red Baron so legendary?

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Articles

Tina Fey plays embedded journalist in ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’

Paramount released the first trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the film adaptation of war correspondent Kim Barker’s 2011 book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Fey plays Barker, a childless, unmarried reporter who volunteers to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an embedded assignment with U.S. Marines in the region. Joining her is Margot Robbie, who of all people explains the “Desert Queen Principle” to Fey’s Barker once in country.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

The film also stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish journalist, Alfred Molina (who is not of Afghan descent) as a local Afghan official, and Billy Bob Thorton as the Marine Corps commanding officer. The trailer makes the film seem like a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for reporters, which the film even outright calls “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”

Barker’s original book depicted her own humorous journey from hapless to hardcore. She covered stories about Islamic militants and the reconstruction efforts in the Af-Pak area, along with her fears about the future of the region.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Army veteran and entertainment icon Lou Pitt

Manager/producer and former Agent at ICM Lou Pitt shares about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry. His current clients include Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer, New York Times best-selling authors Brad Meltzer, Lorenzo Carcaterra. Tilar Mazzeo, A.J. Hartley, Visual Effect Oscar winner John Bruno and Director Jason Ensler.

Former clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Rod Serling, Nick Nolte, Blake Edwards, Howie Mandel, Paul W.S. Anderson and Jessica Lange.


WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Pitt: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, where I spent the first six years, but my growing up years were in Miami Beach and Sarasota, Florida, until I moved to Los Angeles the summer of 1957. At 14, my single working mother wanted me to go to Kentucky Military Academy (KMI) which had its winter quarters in Venice, Florida, some 18 miles south of Sarasota. The Fall/Spring terms were in Lyndon, Kentucky, adjacent to Louisville. I spent all four years there. One of my roommates went on to West Point and retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving two tours in Vietnam. All the regimentation was on preparing teens for the military with a full ROTC program recognized by the Army with dedicated instruction by active military officers. Upon my initial arrival at KMI as a freshman, I found that my best friend from Sarasota, Jay Lundstrom had also committed to going there. We had become great friends and played Little League and Pony League together. In fact, it was really because of him that got me on my first team after badgering one of the coaches that I should be selected. Nobody should be left out, he reasoned. A classy gesture from a 9-year-old that became a life lesson about friendship in its purest form. We roomed together for most of the 4 years we were there and have remained good friends to this day. When I was chosen to be Captain of the KMI baseball team in my senior year, I said, “not without Jay.” We served as co-captains of the team.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Lou (left) with his buddy Jay (right) on the KMI baseball team where they were both co-captains.

WATM: Were you involved in any sports?

Pitt: I loved baseball and played shortstop. I continued playing throughout my years at KMI and beyond. My mother and I moved to California at the end of my junior year and returned to KY for my senior year in ’58. My dream was to play professional baseball where I was invited for a tryout with the Dodgers during the Christmas period 1957. It apparently went well with follow ups meant to happen following graduation. However, the rubber met road once in college following a pre-season workout with the start of season, a week away. The truth was, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase in pursuit of a dream. Went cold turkey and never picked up a baseball again until I played in a few Hollywood Stars games at Dodger Stadium thanks to my friend Jack Gilardi. I wanted to stay rooted in one place which had been absent most of my life. It was a decision I never looked back on or regretted. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated in 1962 with a degree in theatre and a minor in English.

Fun fact: Famous actors Jim Bacchus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo, Rebel Without a Cause), Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family, Spinal Tap), and Vic Mature (Kiss of Death, The Robe, My Darling Clementine) attended and/or graduated from KMI as well.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Lou as a senior cadet at KMI in 1958.

WATM: Did you serve in the military?

Pitt: Yes, I was actually drafted into the Army but was fortunate to find a Reserve unit in Van Nuys in the nick of time. I was against the war and fortunate this option materialized given the dramatic escalation of the war. I did my Army Basic at Fort Ord and MOS school at Fort Gordon, GA. My MOS was a Military Policeman (MP).

While at Fort Gordon, a high security post at the time, I auditioned for a play that was being done on the base. I figured this would keep me out of trouble and away from the “lifers” (career EM’s and Officers). The play was “Look Homeward, Angel” and starred Army personnel and people from off-base. It was a great escape and I made a lot of friends from the local town along the way. One of them turned out to be Lt. Col. David Warfield who, as it turned out, was not one of the city folk, but the Adjutant General of Fort Gordon, the second man in charge of the base.

At the time, I didn’t know who he was as we were in “civvies” during rehearsals. He said if I ever needed anything, to let him know and gave me his card. Covered! The night of the first tech rehearsal, our barracks was subjected to a surprise inspection for drugs and each soldier was required to be sequestered by their bunks for however long it took. I knew I’d never make it to the theatre. Unexpectedly, he showed up at my barracks looking for me. His big black car rolled up outside of our building and heard determined footsteps that got louder and louder with each step. I was called out to the front of the barracks and he opened the car door himself. I had never seen a car that big in my whole life. The Col. said, ‘We can’t be doing this all the time, but hop in. I assume you’re not hiding drugs.’. I thought I was living in a Neil Simon play and it wasn’t going to end well after the final curtain.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Lou on stage in his role as Ben Gant in the stage production of “Look Homeward, Angel”

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

A newspaper clipping from the play “Look Homeward, Angel”. Lou is at the top.

WATM: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?

Pitt: With an introduction by a friend’s dad, I secured my first job at Creative Management Agency (CMA) mailroom in 1964 predecessor of ICM Partners. At the time, it was the “Tiffany” of agencies with no more than 60 clients at the time and all of them big stars. The size of the mailroom was the average size of a closet. I was in the mailroom for about six months and then went to train on the desk of Alan Ladd Jr (Producer/Studio Executive; Star Wars, Blade Runner and Braveheart). Alan was my mentor along with Marty Elfand (Agent/Producer; Dog Day Afternoon, An Officer and a Gentleman).

While the agency was primarily motion picture focused, they sold variety shows and packaged Gilligan’s Island which made more for the agency than any star they represented. In the mid to late 60’s, I went to the Arthur Kennard Agency who represented TV stars (Raymond Burr-Perry Mason) and many stars of horror films like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Richard Kiley who was starring on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.” It was there, I signed Bruce Lee who was in the series, Green Hornet. At nights, he taught classes in martial arts. Bruce introduced me to Kung Fu. Among his clients were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Mike Ovitz (CAA), Marvin Josephson (CEO International Famous Agency) and Tom Tannenbaum (Universal TV Studio Executive;) and many other Hollywood luminaries.

Bruce charged a minimum of 0 an hour, which was a lot of money in those days. The Silent Flute (later produced in 1978 as the Circle of Iron) was a script that Bruce wanted desperately to put together but couldn’t get anybody in Hollywood to take an interest. Coburn did his best to bring it to life in LA. We were together for about two or three years when Bruce said, “I will never be a star here, and the only way I will get this made is in Hong Kong.” Off he went. The rest is history as they say. Bruce died before making the film where the produced 1978 version starred David Carradine. In 1971, I went to work at IFA who, in 1975 merged with CMA to become ICM and remained there until 1998.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

A picture of a friend, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army and military school into Hollywood?

Pitt: KMI’s motto was, “Character makes the man.” That to me, defined the traits which mattered most to me in life. Responsibility, honesty, discipline and keeping one’s word. Promises made and promises kept. The centerpiece at KMI was always about the team effort and found it so applicable in a business so dependent on others for success.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

KMI Insignia.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Graduation Day 1958 from KMI.

WATM: What are some of your favorite memories with your clients both past or present?

Pitt: Meeting Princess Diana a few years after she married Prince Charles, that came about when I represented Dudley Moore. He did a film in 1985, “Santa Clause, the Movie,” that had a Royal Premiere during the Christmas holidays in London. Dudley’s girlfriend, my wife Berta and I met the Royal Family before the screen presentation. The filmmakers were positioned in a circle for the prince and princess’ arrival. When introduced, they walked inside the circle and greeted everyone individually moving from one to the other. Princess Diana spent a lot of time with each person and was interested in chatting about the movie. She asked a lot of questions and was truly engaged. In truth, Princess Diana weakened my knees. She was extraordinary, as anyone who ever met her could attest. I remember she was still in conversation with the first person while Prince Charles was pretty much done with the group…while encouraging her to “move it along.”

The other that comes to mind was the July 4 holiday opening weekend of “Terminator 2.” At the time, it earned a box office record million over the five day holiday. Having put all the pieces of the film together that included the rights, which were overly complicated as they were jointly held by Gale and Hemdale (who needed to be bought out if it was to ever work), the financing (Carolco) with three high-profile stars; Arnold, Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron, each with their own schedules that needed to marry organically. It took four and a half years to put that film together and its success was a career game changer for everyone involved.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Lou with Arnold in Budapest, Hungary.

WATM: What was/is it like to represent Rod Serling, Gale Anne Hurd, Bruce Lee, Christopher Plummer, Gena Rowlands and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Pitt: Rod was my first writer client and I was working with him during the latter part of his career. It was after the Twilight Zone and the Night Gallery series. Rod was a straight-forward, clear headed thinker and smoked a lot. He was a great storyteller with a distinctive voice and an incredible mind. Someone you could listen to for hours. Rod was a WWII veteran as well. He walked the walk.

Bruce was intense and serious but couldn’t have been more grounded at the same time. But mostly, self- assured about his career and looking to break new ground. I can still see Bruce’s smile. His frustration was that he couldn’t get the buyers in Hollywood to take the martial arts action genre seriously enough. By the late 70s it was obvious Bruce was ahead of his time and the martial art films exploded. I never doubted Bruce’s eventual success because he was so centered and full of confidence, talented and focused. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when and how. I really liked him and can tell you he was not that character portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.

Christopher is simply a very classy man grounded in empathy…especially among other actors regardless of their profile and standing in the business. A man of mischief when it’s playtime but utter discipline when it’s time to prepare and go to work…in fact, obsessively so in a good way. He literally and figuratively never walks in front of you, always behind whether on the red carpet or to a restaurant. “What can I get you” precedes “Hello.” Maybe the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He is dedicated to his work and truly loves his profession. Chris inhales the work and the most prepared person I’ve ever met. He has old fashioned manners in a good way. Prefers writing letters then sending emails. Behavior matters and thoughtfulness matters. He’s the first to the set and the first to be “off the book”. We’ve worked together for 45 years and he is a truly special friend.

Love Gale! Her first agent. Smart and I always felt like a partner in “how do we make this work”. She has such a strength, determination and intelligence about her that’s inspiring. She was like a teammate and that we were on an adventure together. There was great trust between us and an unusual giver of herself for others. She’s a “get it done” person that was always open to ideas. A wonderful inner sensitivity that was never far below the surface. We created a “no frills” concept for film budgets that were below a certain level in addition to films she made with or without Jim as a way to introduce new talent or stories that needed special handling.

Arnold is simply one of a kind. 24/7 was not just a descriptive phrase, it was a lifestyle. He defined the word, “commitment” and made a believer that anything is possible. The challenges were exciting because he broke ground that was transformative that defined a movie culture for the 80’s and 90’s. He defied gravity.

Gena Rowlands –What an extraordinary, graceful person she is. Never one to “work the room”, read the trades or lay judgement on anyone’s work in idle chatting. In the 45 years together, she never asked me what she was up for or when she was going to work. She figured if I had something to say, I’d let her know. As warm on screen as she was in her living room. Legendary and an elegant person that’s simply comfortable to just be around whether on a set or in the kitchen. Her career with John was a family centric of gifted actors that spilled into a comfort zone for others that followed. She and John rolled the dice on how to make movies that didn’t have any rules. She just makes you feel you want to kick off your shoes and just chat about stuff.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Lou, Berta, Dudley Moore, Brogan Lane, Peter Sarah Bellwood in Bora, Bora

WATM: What was it like working your way up in the industry in the 60s and 70s?

Pitt: The 60s broke the ground for what the system is today. No longer exclusive contract players, writers, directors, make-up, casting, etc. that could be controlled, and contracted out to other studios or disciplined for whatever infraction the studio bosses captiously inflicted on their talent. The emergence of stars making films away from the studio system and putting together the films they wanted to make as Producers. The emergence of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and others opened the door to an independent way of thinking, putting movies together and taking them to studios became the new norm…a new freedom with new rules to play by.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Mr. Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm – “The Exception” which Lou produced.

WATM: What are words that you live by?

Pitt: “There are no bad meetings”

Character Makes The Man

Respect for all no matter the rank or position

Mark Twain’s quote about, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”

I remember when I was learning to type, there was a sentence designed for a speed test that stuck with me. “Do all that you can do as quickly and as quietly as when you were told to do it.” For me it was about “get it done” and don’t waste a lot of time getting there. Keep your eye on the ball.

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Pitt: I have a remarkable family who’ve been loving, emotionally supportive and inclusive. I’m immensely proud to work in a business that I really love. To have worked with so many extraordinary gifted clients and colleagues who challenged the world every day with their ideas, their talent and trust, has been inspiring and exhilarating. Everyone has been a gift to me.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Lou on stage in “Look Homeward, Angel”.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
MIGHTY MOVIES

Michael Keaton rumored to play Batman again

We’re getting a little excited here. An out-of-left-field rumor is making the rounds that Michael Keaton might play Bruce Wayne again in the strangest way possible. That’s right, your favorite Batman and star of “Mr. Mom” might once again play an older version of the millionaire playboy who also likes dressing up like a bat.

On Oct. 21, 2019, We Got This Covered suggested that certain sources are claiming that Michael Keaton could play an older Bruce Wayne in a live-action version of “Batman Beyond.” What is “Batman Beyond,” you ask? Well, from 1999-2001 it was an animated follow-up to the beloved “Batman: The Animated Series,” and focused on a new young Batman in a kind of futuristic Gotham City. Instead of Bruce Wayne underneath the mask, it was a guy named Terry McGinnis. But, here’s the rub, in that storyline, Bruce Wayne was still alive: We was just an old guy who worked out of the Batcave as Terry’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.


Basically, in “Batman Beyond,” Bruce Wayne becomes like the new Alfred fused with Lucius Fox from the “Dark Knight” movies. So, if Michael Keaton played Bruce Wayne in a live-action “Batman Beyond,” that would mean he’d be whispering in a younger Batman’s ear from a sick-ass control room.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

(Warner Bros.)

Most likely this is just a rumor, but then again, what if this is secretly part of the new Robert Pattinson film; “The Batman.” We all assumed Pattinson was playing Bruce Wayne, but what if he’s not? What if he’s a new Batman and Keaton is playing the old Batman?

It’s likely not true. But for now, we can dream.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

World War I gamers held their own ceasefire on 100-year anniversary

Gamers playing “Battlefield 1,” a game set in World War 1, stopped shooting to participate in a ceasefire during an online match at 11 a.m. Canberra time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which marks the end of the first World War.

The ceasefire in the game took place on the same day and same time that the annual World War 1 commemoration typically occurs around the globe: On November 11 at 11 a.m.


The player who helped arrange the ceasefire posted a short video of the event on Reddit, but it’s hard to tell from the video everyone actually stopped shooting. It looks like some players either didn’t hear about the planned ceasefire at the specified time or they ignored the effort altogether. The game’s background audio and effects, like loud explosions and artillery from battleships were also still ongoing, which diminished the silence. There’s also a player in a plane who performs a strafing run on a bunch on players who are partaking in the ceasefire, which somewhat ruins the moment.

EA/Dice developer Jan David Hassel posted the video on Twitter:

Still, you can tell that some players abided to the ceasefire by the fact that the player recording the video was surrounded by enemy players (with red icons above their heads) and didn’t get shot. Any other day and time and the player recording the event would have been killed in seconds when surrounded by so many enemy players.

Ultimately, however, the player recording the event was stabbed and killed. The player doing the stabbing apparently apologized for doing so.

“Battlefield 1” players like myself will know how surprising it is that anyone partook in the event, considering how difficult it is to communicate with others in the game.

The player, known as u/JeremyJenki on Reddit, who helped set up the event and recorded the video posted on Reddit how they did it:

“At the start of the game, me and a couple others started talking about having a ceasefire. We made it known in the chat and many people were on board with it, deciding that this armistice should be held on the beach (This didn’t seem like a great idea to me at the time). Players started heading down to the beach early and for a few minutes it was amazing. When editing the video I cut out most of the in between, only showing the beginning and end. But hey, against all odds, we did it, and while short it was the coolest experience in Battlefield I had ever had.”

Featured image: Electronic Arts

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Humor

4 hilarious tips for pulling the ‘veteran card’ in school

Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.


We earned a pretty epic deal.

But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.

Related: Here’s the best time and place to pull the ‘veteran card’

Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.

1. Getting accepted

Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.

It’s a fact.

It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.

Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)

2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects

The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.

We know you do! (Image via Giphy)

3. Booking classes

Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.

Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.

It so freakin’ worked. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying

4. Missing classes

Sometimes you don’t want to go to school on certain days — you’re just not feeling it.

Here’s what you do if you’re willing to put in a little leg work. After you get in good with the teachers, email them saying you’re stuck at the VA waiting for your appointment.

If they ask for a doctor’s note, you need to show some proof like a dated appointment card for another day. Schools tend to work around the veteran’s schedule because we’ve earned it.

Don’t abuse this perk because if they lose faith in your integrity, you could screw other vets over.

That’s what you get. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

This video of Arnold Schwarzenegger driving over stuff with a tank will make your day

In 2014, the former Governator participated in an Omaze campaign to raise money for Afternoon All-Stars, a nonprofit organization which provides comprehensive after-school programs to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life.


Schwarzenegger’s campaign ended in 2014, but his promo video lives on and it is epic. For only $20, anyone had the chance to be flown to Los Angeles and drive over stuff with Arnold in his personal tank.

Omaze is a type of crowdfunding-online auction hybrid for raising money for good causes. For a set donation, anyone has the chance to spend time living an “experience” with a celebrity  who teamed with a nonprofit to keep them in the black.

Other celebs and their experiences include learning to throw a spiral football pass with New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady to support the RED campaign to to create an AIDS free generation, or get a boxing lesson from Creed‘s (the movie, not the band) Michael B. Jordan to support Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Humor

5 more epic military movie mistakes

For some, military movies are a blast to watch as many are based on real and fascinating stories of man’s ability to overcome any obstacle and fulfill his or her goals and destiny and all that crap.


With so many emotional aspects to pay attention to, filmmakers miss minor detail-orientated mistakes that veteran moviegoers spot a mile away.

Related: 5 epic military movie mistakes

So check out some mistakes we managed to spot in our favorite Hollywood war films:

1. A bad angle

“Hacksaw Ridge” showcased the heroic efforts of Desmond Doss, a combat medic who served in WWII and saved 75 men during a battle in the Pacific.

When he meets the love of his life, a hot nurse, she’ll take some of Desmond’s blood but fails to use the proper angle when inserting the needle.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
Go along the skin line, lady! (Source: Lionsgate/Screenshot)

At this angle, she would have poked right through the vein at the AC space (antecubital) and into his muscle — what little Andrew Garfield has.

2. A below-the-knee tourniquet

Quentin Tarantino may be a genius at writing great character dialogue, but his medical knowledge of how to treat a gunshot wound needs a little work.

The female on the table has a tourniquet in place below her knee to help stop any arterial bleeding. A typical piece of cloth wouldn’t help a GSW too much.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
That tourniquet isn’t doing anything but getting a chance to touch Diane Kruger’s leg. We like that. (Source: Weinstein/Screenshot)

Fun Fact: Your tibia and fibula are located in below the knee and the artery runs in between the two bones to provide it protection. A tourniquet placed below the knee would have no effect in stopping a massive bleed.

3. Robbed the armory?

Veterans give military movies a lot of crap, especially the 2nd and 3rd acts of “Full Metal Jacket.” But this time we’re calling out how could Gomer Pyle managed to snag a rifle and ammo while in boot camp from the armory (where they would have been stored).

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
Where the hell did you get that Pvt. Pyle? (Source: WB/Screenshot)

Let’s face it, Pyle’s character wasn’t a genius and doubtfully would be able to pull off a single rifle heist.

4. Shoot the rear tank?

In “Fury” we got an opportunity to experience the dangers of being a tanker during WWII. In the film, David Ayer chose to make the Germans shoot and destroy the last American tank in a ranger file — even though he knew that would not be an accurate military tactic.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
That would have been great if the real Germans used such ineffective tactics during the war — it would have been over way sooner. (Source: Sony/Screenshot)

In real life, they should have hit the tank in front, forcing the rest to halt and stopping the line. But if they had destroyed the front tank (War Daddy’s), the credits would roll because the movie would now be over.

Also Read: 5 more military myths that Hollywood taught us to believe

5. Clear hearing in a flying helicopter

Okay, Tropic Thunder isn’t technically a war movie, but it did win Tugg Speedman the fictional Oscar for best actor for “Tropic Blunder,” the true story behind the making of the most expensive fake true war story ever.

But in this helicopter insertion scene, there’s no way the men could hear the director’s instructions in a loud helicopter cargo bay (with the doors open) without proper headsets.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
Regardless of the mistake, this movie is funny as hell. (Source: Paramount/Youtube/ Screenshot)

If any movie producers and directors out there need help on military consulting, feel free to contact us.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.


Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
Photo taken by an 82d Airborne paratrooper during WWII. (Portraits of War)

They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.

The Bicycle Playing Card Company recounts the history of American troops and playing cards, though many other nations’ militaries also have a tradition of playing cards in their downtime. It just beats sitting around thinking about everything that could go wrong in a battle. As one Civil War soldier said, “Card playing seemed to be as popular a way of killing time as any.”

Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
These cards are probably well-known by now.

Also Read: This is how POWs got playing cards with secret escape maps for Christmas

Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.

Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.

Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.

In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats
German soldiers playing cards on the Western front in the summer of 1916. (Playing Card Museum)

Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.

During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.

Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

As late as 2007, American forces were given decks meant to inform them about important cultural and historical relics in the countries to which they deployed.

Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.

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