Hollywood film-makers have been advising American intelligence specialists on how to handle terrorist attacks. The seemingly bizarre interaction took place in a discussion group between movie and military representatives at the University of Southern California.
Reports of the meeting are contained in the Hollywood trade paper Variety. It says that the discussion group was set up by the US army. Among those understood to have been involved were Steven E De Souza, the screenwriter of Die Hard, and Joseph Zito, director of Delta Force One and Missing in Action. The group even included makers of non-action films such as Randal Kleiser, who made the film musical Grease.
According to Variety, the film-makers argue that they have expertise to offer the army, which can help in its tactical planning. This expertise, it seems, includes understanding plot and character as well as advice on "scenario training".
While no one involved in the meeting would comment on what advice was given by the entertainment industry to the army, the location of the University of Southern California was significant. The university houses the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), which uses the entertainment industry and computer scientists to help with "virtual reality scenario simulation". The US Army has links with the ICT.
The ICT's creative director, James Korris, confirmed that meetings between film-makers and the army had taken place.
Until now, Hollywood's involvement in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington has been to postpone the release of films that involve scenes of terror.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's new film Collateral Damage has been withdrawn indefinitely; and film trailers and posters for next May's release Spider-Man – which show the World Trade Centre towers – have been withdrawn.
However in Britain, Nicholas Hytner, who will become artistic director of the National Theatre in 2003, said the theatre would now become the place where such horrors were confronted. Mr Hytner said: "The movie industry can't do such a thing. But the theatre is the place to confront horror."