“Act of Valor” is clearly not partisan, nor is it covert (the filmmakers appear in a brief prologue to the film explaining how the Navy originated and participated in the project). But, although the Navy didn’t directly fund the production, Jenkins says, it could be argued that they heavily subsidized it in the form of access to its assets and personnel that would have cost millions to reproduce.
Over the course of their long collaboration, the relationship between the movie industry and the military has only come under congressional scrutiny a few times: in 1956, when lawmakers questioned why the World War II drama “Attack” was denied Defense Department assistance, and again in 1969, when it came to light that the Army had provided considerable help in the form of equipment and manpower to the John Wayne movie “The Green Berets.”
Last year, a film about the death of Osama bin Laden became a flashpoint for Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who questioned whether the filmmakers had been given access to classified information about the mission, which was carried out by the elite-of-the-elite unit known as SEAL Team Six. So far, “Act of Valor” has not spurred a similar outcry, although Robb says, “I would like to see a congressman investigate this.”
Waugh and McCoy declined to speculate on how many millions of dollars in production value they garnered thanks to their unprecedented access to Navy men and material. They insist they had full creative control of the film, although the Navy retained the right to edit out information about its techniques, tactics and procedures. (“Act of Valor” reportedly cost between $15 million and $18 million to make; not long after the bin Laden raid it was acquired by Relativity Media for $13 million with a commitment of $30 million in prints and advertising, a huge sum for a film featuring a non-professional cast.)
Even if the SEALs didn’t have creative control over “Act of Valor,” the filmmakers admit that there was little chance that the Navy would be dissatisfied with their portrayal in the film, which depicts a group of strong, brave, unassuming men who pursue their missions, not with hot-dog swagger, but cool teamwork and quiet professionalism.
“We’re all bros,” McCoy says, noting that some of the SEALs were familiar with a film he and Waugh produced called “Dust to Glory,” about the off-road Baja 1000 race. “They knew our position in the action world, and there was a commonality of culture.
“We had one goal when we started this movie, and that was when this is all over, that the guys would still want to have a beer with us,” McCoy continues. “They would say, ‘Right on, thanks, guys, good job.’ And we’re really proud to say they’re truly some of our best friends in the world now.”