(Edited for length)
In addition t--or sometimes in lieu of--working with the DOD, Hollywood has begun turning to a growing cadres of military veterans like Humphries who use their contacts and expertise to bring truth to a picture. No one is more sought after than Dale Dye, a retired Marine Corps captain who served in Vietnam and Beirut, earning a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Dye has consulted on dozens of motion pictures and major TV projects, including Band of Brothers (2001), Rules of Engagement (2000) and The Thin Red Line (1998).
The rough-spoken Dye is on a mission. "I have an agenda and have had one since I began my company almost 20 years ago," he says. "That is to ensure that professional fighting men get a fair rap. I have always been concerned that there was a certain bias--that we're all fat, we're all from the South, we're all uneducated. It's not true."
Dye has matched his mission with Hollywood's need to look smart. His specialty is training. By putting actors through a week or more of military-like drills--as he did for Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and Tom Hanks's Band of Brothers--he makes them convincing soldiers and better actors. "Most actors believe the sun rises and sets on their posteriors," he says. "That's the antithesis of the way a soldier thinks. We understand there are certain things worth sacrificing for--the mission is frequently more important than you are."
When it comes to outfitting a production with props that the military can't or won't provide, Dye is as resourceful as the quick-thinking opportunist Milo Minderbender in Catch-22. Dye uses his global old-boy network of museums, warehouses and legitimate arms dealers to secure rifles, handguns and tanks to match a movie's scope. If the hardware cant be found--and if the budget is generous--he oversees the manufacture of reproductions. For Band of Brothers, he secured several Soviet-era T-55 tanks and had them modified to resemble World War II German Tigers.
Sometimes the challenge in contemporary films is to boost believability by cramming in as many high-tech gadgets as the plot will bear. Despite appearances, movies never feature the latest toys in the U.S. arsenal--in part for security reasons, but also because such weapons are usually in short supply. But Hollywood does come as close as it can to the cutting edge in order to dazzle the audience. The devastating Daisy Cutter bomb, which made headlines when it was used a few years ago in the war in Afghanistan, was actually declassified years earlier and was seen on the silver screen in 1995's Outbreak...bad guys have probably learned little from Hollywood. Indeed the probably truth of the matter is that the terrorists we should most fear are not the inept caricatures so often portrayed in films where the good guys always prevail.
"These guys are serious," Captain Dye says. "They're not looking to movies for inspiration. They know more than filmmakers. They're professional soldiers."