The FBI is Hollywood's newest darling. Ever since the Cold War ended and movies with military hardware went out of fashion, producers have been setting their sights on the bureau, flooding it with a record 400 manuscripts a year, says spokesman Tron Brekke.
"Well, we do get a lot of requests. The bureau is in most of the political thrillers and action thrillers these days," Brekke said.
A dozen agents work fulltime now just vetting all the requests for help, and when documentary producer Barbara Newman recently met with one to make her pitch to get cameras inside the bureau, she found the competition was getting fierce.
"You have to know what you're talking about and not bang on every door, because they're very busy and they dismiss you immediately," Newman said.
An entire cottage industry has been built around fact-checking scripts for accuracy, much of it about the FBI. Joan Pearce says her fact-checking firm now consults with the bureau 40 times a week.
"We might have to call up and say, 'What is the standard firearm that you carry now? Do you have to carry it all the time, or can you go out to dinner and not lug the Beretta along?' That sort of thing," she said.
Authenticity is what the bureau says it looks for first before deciding whether to assist a movie or television producer, but they're not above pushing their own agenda as well if the script is right.
Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs, for example, was even allowed inside the FBI Academy because the bureau thought it might help in recruiting women. Likewise, Mississippi Burning got help because the bureau felt it polished a somewhat tarnished image left over from the civil rights movement.
Higher-ups admit, however, they can't figure out what to make of the X Files. On the one hand, younger agents and viewers love it, but then there's all that "conspiracy stuff."
"If you look at the X Files and the popularity of that TV show and the movie, I mean, it is based on conspiracies, and we try to debunk that," said FBI spokesman Brekke.
In days gone by, the bureau could pretty much debunk whatever it pleased, even dictating script changes and personally approving actors for key roles. Lately, however, they're pleased if Hollywood just gets the lines right.
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