October 10, 2001 -- (ABCNEWS.com) — Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. Army had sought Hollywood's help to help train soldiers to square off with terrorists
The creative minds behind such hits as Die Hard, MacGyver, and The Delta Force held a video conference with officials at the Pentagon last week to discuss advanced virtual reality and simulation technology to aid in training soldiers. The group, part of the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technology, has been working with the Army since 1999.
"The meeting was not a reaction to the recent events. They [the U.S. Army and USC's Institute for Creative Technology] have and continue to have a bridge of communication," said Linda Dorf, a spokeswoman for the ICT. "There were meetings like this before Sept. 11 — just like this one." Among the participants in the ICT are Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. De Souza, MacGyver writer David Engelbach, The Delta Force director Joseph Zito, and Fight Club director David Fincher. (In Fight Club, you'll recall, Brad Pitt's character has a scheme to blow up the headquarters of credit companies to erase consumer debt).
Dorf could not elaborate on what subjects have been discussed at recent meetings — but according to Reuters, one multimedia "mission rehearsal" displayed on the institute's Web site involves a group of Army troops in Bosnia who are confronted by a large, hostile crowd after a U.S. military vehicle accidentally runs down a Serbian boy in the street. The situation is fictional. "The group looking at counterterrorism is really an extension of the kind of efforts we've been doing for about two years," one institute official said. "The benefit of the entertainment group is that they think more creatively. They think outside the box." The Army awarded USC a five-year contract to create the Institute for Creative Technologies. The plan was to use the talents of the entertainment industry, videogame-makers, and computer scientists to advance the state of virtual reality and training simulation for soldiers. Buck Wolf contributed to this report.