The Hero Project

10.29.12

‘Seal Team 6’ Director: My Movie Isn’t Propaganda!

John Stockwell, whose film recounts the dramatic behind-the-scenes decisions behind the raid on Osama bin Laden—and airs just two days before the election—fights back against criticism that President Obama was given a ‘starring role’ to juice up his chances at reelection.

For the last few weeks or so, the cast of the film I directed—Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden which will play on the National Geographic Channel on Nov. 4—has been subject to a barrage of media questions that go far beyond the usual queries.

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"Why are you trying to sway the election?” “Why is the movie playing two days before the election?" “Why is there footage of Barack Obama in the movie?" "Did Harvey Weinstein force you to be in this movie?"  

Even The New York Times has gotten in the act, suggesting that Harvey forced us to give the president “a starring role” in the movie. The paper seems to imply that Obama’s role should have been that of a background extra. I can say with total conviction: President Obama was part of “Operation Neptune Spear” long before he knew Harvey Weinstein was going to be part of a movie about the mission. And no, Harvey didn’t make me re-edit the movie so that the president, in full combat gear, fires the kill shot.  

It’s true. We do have news footage of the president. I considered hiring Jay Pharoah from Saturday Night Live to play the president, but he wasn’t available. So I had to go with the next best thing—the president himself. But even with Harvey Weinstein aboard, we got no cooperation from the White House. The president refused to cooperate or re-enact anything. Nothing! All we had was the same photo everyone has seen of Hillary, hand over mouth, gasping at something offscreen, presumably the helicopter crashing.

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We do also have a Leon Panetta sound-alike on the other end of a conference call, frustrating the CIA analyst played by Kathleen Robertson because the White House is still hesitating even when she’s “100 percent sure” that it’s bin Laden in that compound. In the film, as in real life, there is heated debate amongst the counterterrorism analysts about the wisdom of sending ground troops into a sovereign nation—our ostensible ally in the war on terror—when a drone strike, a politically and practically safer option, could have been ordered.

As much as certain voices now want to claim that the decision to greenlight the raid was a “no brainer,” a call “any thinking American” would have made, I’ve come to believe it was an incredibly risky, borderline stupid move to send our best special forces on a covert mission into a country with nuclear weapons and fighter jets. In fact, I’m certain the presidential foreign policy debate last week would have been an entirely different affair if Americans had died in the bin Laden raid. One could only imagine the fallout if that had happened and the target of the raid wasn’t even there. “Operation Eagle Claw” ring any bells? 

But at the end of the day, I think the mission and this film is a beautiful example of bipartisan cooperation. Think about it: The left-leaning Harvey Weinstein has joined forces with the right-leaning Fox Broadcasting Corporation (which co-owns National Geographic Channel) to air a film about a mission in which the United States intelligence community and the military’s special forces finally were able to work in perfect sync and pull off a raid that was fraught with an incredible amount of risk. It was a nonpartisan mission—one in which politicians stayed out of the way.  And amazingly, no one in a sometimes-leaky administration leaked. By some accounts, it was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who first tweeted the news to the nation.  He beat the president to the punch. 

If this film were a political stunt, Harvey would be playing it on a continuous loop in Ohio.  He’s not and it’s not. 

The decision to air the film on Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. was made by Nat Geo. They don’t have any interest in influencing an election.  They do have an interest in keeping a film topical and timely. And getting good ratings.

The movie focuses on the men and women in the intelligence community who tracked and located Osama bin Laden, the local nationals in Pakistan who assisted us at great cost to their own safety, and the highly skilled members of SEAL Team Six who brought the world’s most wanted man to justice. Watch it. And make up your own mind.