Defense Dept. Backs Away From ‘Ridge’

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

The Department of Defense, claiming that Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions reneged on promised script revisions, has withdrawn its support from Eastwood’s upcoming “Heartbreak Ridge.”

The decision, following a private Nov. 14 screening of the film in Washington, resulted in the immediate cancellation of a Dec. 3 fund-raising premiere in Oceanside and early troop screenings planned at the base theater at Camp Pendleton where much of the movie was shot.

“Heartbreak Ridge” stars Eastwood as a hard-drinking Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant who whips a squad of Marines into shape, then leads them into battle during the invasion of Grenada.


Eastwood, who also directed the film, agreed to several script changes before production began, and the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps cooperated throughout the production by providing--at Malpaso’s expense--personnel and such military equipment as helicopters and tanks.

Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. John Shotwell said the Corps’ cooperation was contingent on additional script changes. Apparently, government and military officials objected to profanity used by Marines and scenes depicting Marine brutality. “Heartbreak Ridge” producer Fritz Manes denied that Malpaso had promised further changes.

“Never at any point did we tell them that we would make more changes,” Manes said. “We made a lot of changes and softened the picture quite a bit after they read the first script. The major thing we pledged was to make it as authentic as possible.”

Manes said the Department of Defense decision was made without any major person in authority having seen it. Neither the commandant of the Marine Corps nor the head of the Department of Defense’s public affairs department was in the audience of about 20 Defense Department officials.

The Dec. 3 premiere in Oceanside was to have benefited the San Diego County Armed Forces YMCA. Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Marc Moore, chairman of the event, said the affair was expected to net $20,000 for the organization, but it was canceled after the Department of Defense announced its withdrawal of support for the film.

“Because of the close interrelationships locally of the military, the Armed Services YMCA, the city and the community, we felt it was best to take this action,” Moore said.


The withdrawal also will affect the Marine Corps-sponsored Toys for Tots drive, which was to have participated in a lupus foundation benefit premiere in New York next week. Eastwood is national chairman of Toys for Tots this year and Marines were to have manned toy booths and performed in a marching band.

The premiere will go on (it’s sold out, according to Manes), but without the Marines.

“We’ve advised Marine Corps commands informally that support in the form of any kind of promotional activities is prohibited,” said Marine Corps spokesman Shotwell.

Shotwell said Marine officials object to “an excessive amount of profanity” in “Heartbreak Ridge” and to the stereotyping of characters portraying Marines. Shotwell said that contrary to depictions in “Heartbreak Ridge” and other movies dealing with Marine Corps training, drill instructors “are not permitted by regulations to swear at recruits.”

The comment got an outraged response from Manes, an ex-Marine who served three years in Korea.

“That is the most ridiculous statement I ever heard in my life,” Manes said. “Whether they’re Marines or DOD (Department of Defense) people, they should get out of their chairs in Washington, D.C., and get out in the field with the troops. They might have a better idea what’s going on in the world.”