In one of the behind-the-scenes featurettes for the film, a Secret Service consultant to the production stated that actress Eva Longoria far surpassed the other actors in "shooting school". In fact, he remarked that her score would beat about 90% of members of the Secret Service. Longoria mentioned that when she was younger she often accompanied her father to the gun range, so being around and handling guns wasn't new to her.
The speech heard at the G8 meeting, before that of the American President's, is in Swedish, and closes with the words: "... vägnar vill jag tacka er för att ni stödjer Kyoto-protokollet. Tack så mycket," which means, "... I want to thank you for supporting the Kyoto Protocol. Thank you very much."
Actor Kiefer Sutherland responded with equal enthusiasm about co-star and actor-producer Michael Douglas as the latter had said of him: "If you look at Michael's films, they're Class A. I had the pleasure of working with him when I was very young, and he was so gracious and kind to me. I watched his films over the years and learned what makes him a phenomenal producer. There's a sense of responsibility and dignity in all his films. I've watched his table-read, his notes, how he handles himself on set. It's been an education and a pleasure, and I'm grateful for that."
As a producer, Michael Douglas is always looking for interesting and provocative stories. He said: "Finding good material sounds simple but it's not. I've had my share of message movies but only because they worked as entertainment. I love acting, but the fact is that I don't see that many pictures I'd like to do, so sometimes you have to develop them. I liked the idea behind The Sentinel (2006) because in an era of fear and paranoia, the notion of an unseen enemy is credible, that's the film's big 'what if ?'."
Before its publication, production house Furthur Films secured the movie rights to the film's source novel "The Sentinel" by Gerald Petievich. Producer Marcy Drogin' said: "We thought the book's premise would make a thoughtful, compelling and classic-style political thriller. Every iconic institution has had its share of scandal, but the U.S. Secret Service is held to a higher standard. That was intriguing to us, to peel away the layers. Also, it provided the quintessential Michael Douglas role as a flawed but sympathetic character."
In order to present certain aspects of the Secret Service as realistically as possible, the film's screenwriter and co-producer, George Nolfi, undertook extensive research. Nolfi said: "From the beginning I wanted the story to be realistic. I wondered: How is the president really protected? Where do the threats come from? What would truly put his life in danger, and how would the Secret Service react ?".
As screenwriter George Nolfi honed the screenplay, producers Marcy Drogin and Michael Douglas brought in Clark Johnson to direct. Johnson had previously directed a pilot for a series about the Secret Service called Secret Service (1992) [See episode: Secret Service: The Stalker/Bomb Protective Mission (1992)] which pointed to his interest in the topic. Johnson, also a respected actor, had worked in almost every area of the film business, including stunts, special effects, and camera. In addition, he was experienced with law enforcement action thrillers, ensemble pieces, multiple cameras, large set-ups and special effects. For The Sentinel (2006), Johnson used this extensive background to depict the reality and grittiness of the Secret Service world.
Director Clark Johnson worked closely with producers Marcy Drogin and Michael Douglas to cast the picture. Once Douglas was on board, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, and Kim Basinger followed in the other three key roles. It was not Douglas' first time working with Sutherland. Douglas had produced Flatliners (1990), one of the movies that catapulted Sutherland into the ranks of exciting new film stars. Douglas said: "That was when I first met Kiefer and saw how talented he was. In The Sentinel (2006), he brings tremendous credibility to his role."
As the lead investigator in the film, Kiefer Sutherland's David Breckinridge character sometimes lets his personal feelings interfere. Sutherland acknowledged: "He has a past, and our past often trips us up. Those elements start to break down what could be a perfect investigator. We as a society have an appreciation of any specialist in any field, where education and training have been taken to a certain level. I'll never forget the Secret Service agent who moved to the left of President Reagan [Ronald Reagan], closed his eyes and waited. He stayed in that position to take those hits. Would I have the courage or presence of mind to remember my training in that circumstance? That's the first question I asked myself. We have to have an incredible amount of respect for Secret Service agents."
Actress Eva Longoria's Jill Marin character was trained at the Academy by Michael Douglas' character Pete Garrison and she joins Kiefer Sutherland's David Breckinridge character's office upon graduation. Jill doesn't initially know about the personal conflict between the two men. Sutherland said: "[Screenwriter] George Nolfi beautifully weaves together their stories. Jill's history with Garrison reminds David Breckinridge of his connection to Garrison. This makes her question the direction of the investigation. It's all about loyalties."
Actor Kiefer Sutherland was pleased to collaborate with on-screen partner Eva Longoria. He said: "She has an incredible sense of focus. The character she plays betrays her personality and that's the mark of a great actor."
Intelligence, military, and government sites, agencies, identities, and organizations featured and/or referenced in the film include the Secret Service aka the US Secret Service, the FBI, the CIA / Langley, the KGB, Camp David, the White House, FLOTUS, the US American President, and the United States of America Government.
The film's development was initially a "project [which] was previously in development at Paramount Pictures", according to the TCMDb (Turner Classics Movie Database) who added, "20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises picked up the project from Paramount."
Second consecutive back-to-back theatrical feature film which involved espionage of actor Michael Douglas whose previous picture had been the spy movie action-comedy-thriller The In-Laws (2003). Douglas had also previously starred with actress Melanie Griffith in the World War II romantic-suspense-espionage-thriller Shining Through (1992).
Star Kiefer Sutherland's, like the other cast members, enjoyed having an actor as a director with Clark Johnson. Sutherland said: "There is a commonality there. That's undeniable. Clark has an innate sensitivity and that's a two-way street. To know what it's like to work in your shoes is a gift."
Actress Eva Longoria chose this picture for her first big movie role because it was so different from her hit television series Desperate Housewives (2004). She said: "It's a triangle between Michael [Michael Douglas], Kiefer [Kiefer Sutherland] and me, but it's not a love triangle. That's why I chose this movie. It's the opposite of Gabrielle [Solis, her TV character]." Longoria plays Secret Service Agent Jill Marin who is the only woman on the team. "She's an eager beaver," said Longoria about her character. "She wants to learn, totally downplays her sexuality, has to prove herself twice as much as a man, and is determined to be the best she can be. She's new but not complacent; she thinks outside the box. It's not about the clothes, the hair and the make-up, the way it is for Gabrielle [in Desperate Housewives (2004)]. Jill Marin is all about the work."
Although actress Eva Longoria is slightly built, that was not a liability for her to play her character, a Secret Service agent. She said: "The Secret Service is made up of aggressive, intelligent, fit, ambitious individuals with an air of confidence. It's not about size. Jill is definitely one of the boys. I felt comfortable amid all the testosterone because I'm a tomboy. I grew up on a ranch and used to go target-shooting with my dad. I shot my first gun when I was six! I was the best shot." Longoria found it an exciting journey. "I asked the Secret Service advisers a lot of questions. I have newfound respect to these people and what they do for our country."
Actor Martin Donovan, who plays Special Agent in Charge William Montrose, said: "It wasn't until I read the script that I realized how much we take the Secret Service for granted. One of my goals was finding the humanity behind the image they present. They appear implacable, stoic, hyper-vigilant and intimidating, but they have a grace in their physicality. The detail leader of the Presidential Protective Division has to be able to hold his own at cocktail parties with world leaders. And our Secret Service advisers tell me they are inundated with questions at such events."
In order to bring the interior world of the Secret Service to cinematic fruition, the producers brought in a retired Secret Service agent as an advisor. Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis], who was a recently retired USSS [US Secret Service] agent, and nationally recognized law enforcement expert, spent years protecting American Presidents, and developing law enforcement and security techniques. In his career, Cavis, who lent his expertise to every aspect of the Secret Service activities and details portrayed in the movie, had direct responsibility for overall security at such events as both the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Campaigns and Inaugurals [Inaugurations]; the NATO 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C.; and the visit of Pope John Paul II to St. Louis in Missouri, USA. Cavis had also been a primary consultant to other large events such as the G-8 Summit at Sea Island, Georgia; the Presidential Debates, and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Cavis has been a field agent, specializing in interrogation, the polygraph program, and undercover work. In D.C., the District of Columbia in the USA, between 1994 and 1997, Cavis served on the elite Presidential Protective Division (PPD); and during President Bill Clinton's term, rose to supervise one of four teams directly responsible for the American President's safety, and was also in charge of Clinton's Second Inaugural [Inauguration]. At the time of production, Cavis was a national security specialist and educator, and brought a network of law enforcement's most sought-after professionals, such as his colleague Kevin Billings, another former USSS agent, who protected presidents and dignitaries for more than twenty years.
Retired USSS [US Secret Service] agent and consultant to the film's production, Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis], was impressed with the filmmakers' and the source material's intent to accurately portray the world of the US Secret Service. Cavis said: "Gerald Petievich, the author of the book [the movie's source novel], was a former Secret Service agent himself. And [screenwriter] George Nolfi did an outstanding job. His level of knowledge and research to create the realism was almost scary."
The screenplay was liberally sprinkled with bits of US Secret Service lingo and jargon. Retired USSS [US Secret Service] Agent and consultant to the film's production, Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis], said: "George [source novelist Gerald Petievich] and Clark [film director Clark Johnson] and I talked a lot about the dialogue, so the actors would talk like real agents."
The look of the government offices , such as how the radio console, desks, and computers were set up, had to be as accurate as possible, although a few liberties were taken to accommodate visual style and camera movements. US Secret Service Agent Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas)'s White House office, for instance, would be very modular and functional, with a lot of paperwork and supervisory documents for signing, while the desk of the agent in charge of the detail would be clean, because he would have a staff to handle all his paper-work.
In order to accomplish the threat letters and forensics reports, retired USSS [US Secret Service] agent and consultant to the film's production, Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis], sat with the production design staff and guided them with the designs, and helped the costumers select shoes and boots. US Secret Service agents wear tie shoes rather than slip-ons, "so they don't come off when you take off running," Cavis explained. The fabrics were high-end, "not like an FBI agent in double-knit nylon," said Cavis. He also helped to choose the right sunglasses, earpieces, and sleeve microphones. In addition to props, costumes, and the art department, Cavis and co-consultant Kevin Billings advised on the motorcade cars and armored protection vehicles.
Armorer & weapons specialist, Charles Taylor, and retired USSS [US Secret Service] agent and consultant to the film's production, Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis], taught Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, and Eva Longoria, to shoot real guns the way US Secret Service agents actually do it. This tactical training, similar to some of what agents actually receive in the Academy, taught the actors gun safety, including handling, drawing and holding, plus range safety, range rules, aiming, firing, holstering, loading and re-loading. The experts outfitted the actors with the same weapons: 9mm Sig-sauers, holsters, belts, and rounds, as those used by real USSS agents, plus proper protective clothing, including ballistic vests, and eye and ear protection. Cavis said: "Kiefer does a lot of gun handling on the set of 24 (2001), but not with real guns. He found it very useful to learn how to find the right site picture that enables you to hit the target, and he shot very well. Michael had had some training as well and he also shot very well."
After the training in live ammunition shooting, the principal actors learned how to approach, ride in, and exit a motor-cade, which way they would turn, how to move and act as they surround the person they're protecting, protocols on how to use their bodies as shields, how to protect themselves, and how to ID a suspicious person, all with a high degree of authenticity. They received instruction in the shift formations USSS Agents use while walking with the American President (POTUS) or First Lady (FLOTUS), such as the "Diamond" or the "Box" shape. The motor-cade has a particular alignment and organization of vehicles. They practiced entering and exiting cars and buildings in the correct way, plus covering and evacuation procedures. All training and procedures were correlated to the particular scene set-ups and script requirements.
Eva Longoria was the best shot among the cast members. Retired USSS [US Secret Service] agent and consultant to the film's production, Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis], explained why: "She had no bad habits. She listens very well and was able to translate that into the correct posture, trigger-pull, site-picture alignment, and physical requirements for hitting the target." Douglas, Sutherland and Longoria were required to do live fire shooting on an indoor range, with target practice at three yards, five yards, seven yards, fifteen yards and thirty yards, both standing and kneeling, with time limits. They then shot from thirty yards, ran fifteen yards, shot at another target, and then shot through an open doorway. All were scored and then debriefed. Longoria hit every one at thirty yards. Then they put the targets next to each other. Cavis said: "She was exceptional. In fact, she would be recognized as a good shot even in the Secret Service. It was impressive." Actor and producer Michael Douglas added his praise: "Eva's a crack shot. I wasn't ready for how good she was. They told us that she's better than 90% of the police officers out there. She's quite the athlete."
All of the film's principal three stars who play USSS (US Secret Service agents) - Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, and Eva Longoria - gained new respect for what USSS agents do. It's difficult to run, move and shoot at the same time. Armorer & weapons specialist, Charles Taylor said: "Our stars have that cool and confident look. They all exude it. But women are generally better shooters. They're more still. They don't have all that testosterone coursing through them. They just look through the site and not at the target and they hit it."
"The look of this movie is one of kinetic energy," said director Clark Johnson. "That's why we used many cameras and lots of moving shots." Johnson and his director of photography, Gabriel Beristain, previously collaborated on S.W.A.T. (2003), in which they created spectacular depictions of Los Angeles in California, USA. On The Sentinel (2006), they merged the look of a big action thriller with the glamour of the White House, and a very elite law enforcement organization. "So much happens within that world," said Beristáin. "We wanted to give that world a visual style, a high beat, visual staccato. "We worked out a progression to allow us to create and have our lighting and cameras react to the action. It's a well-protected world at the beginning, with warm tones, elegant and classical camera movement. As the story becomes more ominous and nightmarish, our cameras and lighting respond to it, becoming cooler and more hectic in their movements. There are some overlaps of course. It's not a mechanical, but a philosophical process. We are thinking in terms of audience emotion. We don't want the audience to guess; we want to keep them wondering. Camera movement should not give away the story."
The high shine and polish of the White House co-exists with a darker raw world as the film's lead central character Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) goes on the run. Director Clark Johnson and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain used a number of techniques, including traditional camera set-ups, video, Steadicam, hand-held, and sophisticated monitors showing the primary image as well as other glimpses into that world.
Examining a world rife with surveillance, the film-makers provide a feeling of watching and of being watched, and of feeling that one is fully inside the world of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS). Cinematographer Gabriel Beristain said: "We thought it would be interesting to see our film from the point of view of the audience. The world we depict is not simple. The characters become paranoid and suspicious, even more aware of the people around them. The world around our characters is collapsing. It's chaotic."
Cinematographer Gabriel Beristain was responsible for lighting two of the most beautiful women in the world: Kim Basinger and Eva Longoria. He said: "Both have interesting character arcs. And I was lucky enough to have two women who look beautiful under any lighting circumstances. The First Lady's world is crumbling in a way that could be disastrous. She had to go through a transition. We used much more than just glamorous lighting and her face responded to any lighting situation with dignity, grace and elegance. Eva's beginnings in the movie are modest and humble, in a dark little Secret Service office where she meets Kiefer Sutherland's character [of David Breckinridg]. As she grew as a character, we made the camera and the lighting on her different, making her a little more heroic. She took anything - direct lighting on her, low angles, not soft, no filtration - she looked absolutely marvelous. It was my privilege and my pleasure to work with both of them." Beristáin comes from a European tradition of filming, where he said, "they celebrate the lighting you give them. Kim and Eva took it the same way the great European actors I used to work with did, and did it magnificently."
The meaning of the film and source novel's "The Sentinel" title, is that, it is a guard, someone who protects something. In this picture, it is the job of US Secret Service agent Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) to protect First Lady (FLOTUS) Sarah Ballentine (Kim Basinger), the wife of the POTUS - President of the United States of America (David Rasche).
Production designer Andrew McAlpine's creations included an in-studio "Presidential Protective Division" (PPD) room, where the US Secret Service (USSS) agents do their office work. It entailed an elaborate set-up of dozens of computer screens with streamed images, desks, work stations, protective intelligence, and forensics reports, plus such details as mouse-pads, paper-weights, chairs, binders, plaques, photos, and flags.
Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick, who had worked on eight Michael Douglas pictures, decided to treat the US Secret Service (USSS) suits and uniforms in an elegant and sophisticated way, with garments sharply cut and sculpted to the body. Using dark, rich navies, no-pattern shirts, and an assortment of specific tonalities from blues to grays, she and her team created a look that added up to a uniform for the army they created. Like the other filmmakers, Mirojnick strove for realism, but made a slight exception for actress Eva Longoria. Mirojnick laughed: "She looks a little more beautiful than regulation allows. Our version is a little more stylish. The women wear pantsuits so they can run, but the fit is the key."
A character in the film, played by actor Ritchie Coster, is called "The Handler". The character's name is a spy term. A "handler" in the secret spy world, as defined by the Spy Museum's Language of Espionage, is "a case officer who is responsible for handling agents in operations".
Third theatrical feature film adaptation adapted from a novel by author Gerald Petievich. The first had been To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) which was based on his 1984 novel of the same name whilst the second had been Boiling Point (1993), which was based on his first book, the 1983 novel "Money Men", which had been published around exactly a decade before his novel of "The Sentinel" (2003). Each of the three filmed adaptations has been made in a consecutive decade: one in the 1980s, one in the 1990s, and one in the 2000s.
Retired USSS [US Secret Service] agent and consultant to the film, Gerald A. Cavis [Gerry Cavis] said of the movie's production, that it was as "authentic as it possibly can get without being the real thing".
The synopsis of this movie's source novel "The Sentinel" (2003) by Gerald Petievich on the author's personal website reads: "A White House Secret Service agent specializing in electronic surveillance has been blown away by a masked gunman. The Aryan Clan, a neo-Nazi group, has taken credit. Secret Service Special Agent Pete Garrison fears it's more than a warning shot delivered by extremists. His first lead is an informant who claims that the Aryans have positioned one of their own in the White House. But it's the second lead that carries the most shattering implications - a blackmailer who knows of Garrison's love affair with the First Lady. He has the photos to prove it: evidence that would frame Garrison with the perfect motive for murder. Garrison's last option: infiltrate the President's most powerful circles of defense . . . and outguess the killer's next move."
In one scene during the film, US President John Ballentine (David Rasche) is seen receiving his daily classified intelligence briefing from the Secret Service first thing in the morning after he has gotten out of bed. This confidential brief is known as "The President's Daily Brief". An article in the Washington Post in 2016 states that the briefing "is designed to provide a summary of key security developments and insights from all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as an update on covert programs being run overseas by the CIA. It is typically delivered each morning by intelligence analysts selected because of their experience and expertise for the prestigious job."
This major Hollywood feature film production was made and released approximately thirty years after the another major Hollywood feature film production of the same name, The Sentinel (1977), which had first debuted around twenty-nine years earlier. This later Sentinel movie was from the 20th Century Fox film studio whilst the earlier Sentinel picture was from the Universal Pictures studio and was a horror movie.
In The Sentinel (2006), actor Michael Douglas portrays Peter Garrison, a senior Secret Service agent who had many years ago taken a bullet to protect former American President Ronald Reagan. In the earlier movie, The American President (1995), which had been made and released just under a decade or nine years earlier, Douglas had actually portrayed a fictitious American President, a character called President Andrew Shepherd.
Star Michael Douglas said of this movie: "The Sentinel (2006) is a political thriller about the agents assigned to protect the president and First Lady. For the first time in its history, there is a mole in the Service plotting to kill the president. I play an agent assigned to protect the First Lady. It's about my redemption. My character is a career officer who's committed an act of indiscretion, and I find that intriguing. I don't know many people who are all good or all evil. So there is moral ambiguity. I'm attracted to characters like Pete Garrison, who is flawed but tries to overcome his flaws in some way. Even Secret Service agents make mistakes. The Sentinel (2006) is unpredictable, topical and has a few twists and turns in it. It's fascinating to learn about the Secret Service's inner workings and some of the technologies used by the Secret Service. I hope audiences will gain a little more understanding of what goes on behind the scenes: the number of death threats, the amount of research the USSS [US Secret Service] agents do. These are brave souls."
This feature film features archival film footage of the assassination attempt by John Hinckley on former American President Ronald Reagan on Monday 30th March 1981. This theatrical cinema movie was first released in 2006, the 25th Anniversary year of this tragic event. One of the picture's main story-lines involves a plot to kill American President John Ballentine (David Rasche).
The movie was cast with two Oscar winning cast-members: Michael Douglas had won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award for Wall Street (1987) whilst Kim Basinger had won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Academy Award for L.A. Confidential (1997). The pair, who play love interests in this picture, and who had both being big movie star sex symbols, was the first time that the couple had been star-teamed together, and actually each won their Oscars exactly a decade apart from the other, in 1987 and 1997 respectively.
This feature film about the White House and the American Presidency, and its protection by the US Secret Service (USSS), features actress Blair Brown, who plays the National Security Advisor. Brown had previously starred in the television mini-series Kennedy (1983), about the late assassinated former American President John F. Kennedy, for which Brown was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television. One of The Sentinel (2006)'s main story-lines, involves a plot to kill American President John Ballentine (David Rasche). In Kennedy (1983), Brown had portrayed former First Lady (FLOTUS), Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of John F. Kennedy.
Since 2002, actor Kiefer Sutherland, who portrays US Secret Service (USSS) Agent David Breckinridge in this movie, had been well known from starring in the television series 24 (2001), which was still being currently broadcast at the time of this film's theatrical release, where Sutherland was portraying Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles in California, who races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster.
Clark Johnson: Agent Charlie Merriweather at the start of the film. Director Johnson cast himself as Agent Merriweather, who has inside information that he is silenced from sharing, and whose murder uncovers the plot to kill the president.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The stairwell shootout with Michael Douglas is an example of accurate tactical team protocol. One agent will stay low and undetected sneaking to the far side of the stairs, then quickly pop up and back down, revealing their location as a decoy. When fired upon, a second agent, either accounted for by the enemy or unaccounted for, then fires upon the enemy who is preoccupied with the decoy. It'll be obvious when it's viewed.
A main part of the movie's story-line involves a plot to assassinate American President John Ballentine (David Rasche). The character has the same first name as the late former American President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated. The two also bear a slight similar facial resemblance.