The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television

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University of Texas Press, Mar 8, 2016 - Social Science - 231 pages
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An in-depth study of the CIA’s collaboration with Hollywood since the mid-1990s, and the important and troubling questions it creates.

What’s your impression of the CIA? A bumbling agency that can’t protect its own spies? A rogue organization prone to covert operations and assassinations? Or a dedicated public service that advances the interests of the United States? Astute TV and movie viewers may have noticed that the CIA’s image in popular media has spanned this entire range, with a decided shift to more positive portrayals in recent years. But what very few people know is that the Central Intelligence Agency has been actively engaged in shaping the content of film and television, especially since it established an entertainment industry liaison program in the mid-1990s.

The CIA in Hollywood offers the first full-scale investigation of the relationship between the Agency and the film and television industries. Tricia Jenkins draws on numerous interviews with the CIA’s public affairs staff, operations officers, and historians, as well as with Hollywood technical consultants, producers, and screenwriters who have worked with the Agency, to uncover the nature of the CIA’s role in Hollywood. In particular, she delves into the Agency’s and its officers’ involvement in the production of The Agency, In the Company of Spies, Alias, The Recruit, The Sum of All Fears, Enemy of the State, Syriana, The Good Shepherd, and more. Her research reveals the significant influence that the CIA now wields in Hollywood and raises important and troubling questions about the ethics and legality of a government agency using popular media to manipulate its public image.

“Fascinating, highly readable . . . Overall, Jenkins’s work is fresh and original, and demonstrates sound scholarship. The author has a passion for the topic that translates to vibrant writing. It is also a concise as well as entertaining look at an aspect of the CIA—its media relations with Hollywood—of which little is known. Enthusiastically written and incorporating effective, illustrative case studies, The CIA in Hollywood is definitely recommended to students of film, media relations, the CIA, and U.S. interagency relations.” —H-War

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Without doubt the best book so far on the CIA-Hollywood relationship, with some fascinating research and insight courtesy of some exceptional interviews with former CIA officers and producers who have worked with the entertainment liaison office. I read the first edition some years ago and had this on pre-order as soon as I knew it was coming out and I haven't been at all disappointed. It's rare that I own two editions of the same book but this is a very worthy exception.  

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I bought this book because my friend John Sundahl is in one of the chapters. It is great! It really for once describes the CIA and Hollywood working as one group for the greater good. Great job.


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About the author (2016)

Tricia Jenkins is an associate professor in the Film, Television, and Digital Media Department at Texas Christian University. She has published several articles on the CIA in Hollywood and on the spy genre more broadly.

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