Well, that’s not the whole story. While many Hollywood actors will play cops and soldiers in their films but don’t hold law enforcement in the highest regard, a small group of Hollywood’s talented has decided to give something back to the community that protects us. I’m not talking about lip service—while many Hollywood actors have been awarded honorary peace officer status over the years, these celebrities have gone through the actual police training.
Off The Rim
Not content to bask in his NBA glory, 7-foot tall Phoenix Suns’ basketball player and multi-media superstar Shaquille O’Neal first pursued his off-the-court interest in law enforcement when he was traded to Miami in 2005.
While he was sworn in as a reserve officer in that Florida city, “the Big Montezuma” recently completed the Los Angeles County Sheriff Academy’s highest training level—Level One on his way to becoming a real live Port of Los Angeles police officer. Kazaam star Shaq says he intends to become a full time LE officer when his playing career is over.
Taking It To The Mat
Before he donned the tan and green uniform of the L.A. Sheriff’s department, giant pro wrestler Scott L. Schwartz could be seen pummeling opponents in the ring as “Ben Gurion.” Soon Hollywood beckoned and Scott switched to trading blows with George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, scaring Peter Parker in Spiderman and fighting Sarah Michelle Gellar on TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now Schwartz has finished level two deputy training, and at 6 feet 10 inches, he might just be what the mean streets of L.A. need.
Make no mistake, the L.A. Sheriff Department’s Reserve Deputy program is not an honorary rank. These men had to complete full academy courses: academic, use-of-force, driving, firearm and physical training, and make the commitment to fit school within their hectic work schedules. C.H.i.P.S star Erik Estrada and Tombstone actor Frank Stallone both began the Los Angeles County Deputy Training and partially completed the program but had to pull out when work schedules conflicted.
Along with actors, a number of the artisans who labor behind the cameras have also signed up as reserve deputies—grips, camera men, with one of the more high-profile people being Rob Port. An Oscar winner for his 2003 documentary Twin Towers, Port, writer and producer of TV’s hit show Numb3rs and the telefilm 44 Minutes: North Hollywood Shoot-out is a Level Two Reserve L.A. County deputy.
Don’t Make Him Mad
Most recently, “The Green Goliath” became tan and green when TV’s Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno completed two full rounds of sheriff deputy academy training. I was with Lou when he was sworn in as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reserve deputy. “I’ve always had a high respect for officers,” he says.
Ferrigno, 55, an avid competitive shooter, began training to become a reserve deputy in September 2006 after passing a background check. I couldn’t believe his level of commitment while he was training. He attacked it like his was training for a Mr. Olympia contest again.
One day, after a session shooting tactical rifles at the range, Lou showed me one of his telephone-book-thick-texts—all the laws he would have to know backwards and forwards to pass the academic classes at the academy. The multitude of statutes scared me, but Lou took it in stride.
Between episodes of appearing as himself on the CBS sitcom The King of Queens, Lou completed the class work as well as training in firearms (he’s a crack shot), first aid, and high-speed driving techniques in classes where most of the recruits were nearly half his age.
Under the watchful eyes of a crowd that included police booster and Transformers star Jon Voight, Lou went up to the podium to collect the badge that signaled the end of his training. His Beretta 92 at his side (since replaced by the HK USP .45), the pride on his face and the sense of accomplishment was genuine when Lou was recognized as “an outstanding trainee” by an equally proud Sheriff Lee Baca at the ceremony.
Many who’d seen Lou’s breakout role in the movie Pumping Iron might remember that his father was a police officer with the NYPD. Ferrigno, the youngest man to win the Mr. America title in bodybuilding, suffered a partial hearing loss in childhood, so while he will serve at least 20 hours a month, he’ll probably be restricted to assignments that won’t see him making arrests.
Instead, he’ll work with the sheriff’s Youth Activities League and the Special Victims Bureau, which helps abused children. “I want to give back to the community,” Lou said after his swearing-in, “and I want to work with young kids, help them get off drugs.”
In a time when the operator on the street and the grunt in the field perceives Hollywood as being against him, these brave men and many others are trying to balance the scales.
Many a Slip ’tween the Cut and
the Clip: You can be Oscar Bait and still SNAFU the gun details! Pat Jennings writes: “I purchased the new movie this weekend called American Gangster starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. In the first few minutes of the movie, Denzel Washington has another bad guy tied to a chair and has his crew pour gasoline over him and then sets him ablaze. After he sizzles for a few seconds he pulls his pistol and unloads on him to put him out of his misery. This is where you need to pay close attention! After the second round is fired Mr. Washington has a stove pipe, but miraculously you still hear the pistol firing and there is muzzle flash. Man I could have sure used one of these pistols during my 22 years as a GM (Gunner’s Mate) in the Navy.”
I have seen this mistake a gazillion times; just the other day on a new episode of the Doctor Who-spinoff Torchwood. But that’s TV and American Gangster was a high profile movie from A-list director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator).
TW’s Fasano Replies: Part of the problem is that movies are edited on computers, and so a sound editor is looking at a degraded copy of the film on a relatively small screen. If the actor is holding the gun like it’s still firing, the technician’s gonna put in “gunshot sound #5A.” Thanks Pat. I hate when I see that.
Cruise Learns to Shoot
In Paramount’s film Collateral, an otherwise ordinary film was made extraordinary with the use of advanced firearms training and proper gun handling. In this film, “Vincent,” played by actor Tom Cruise, is a calculating hit-man that uses a cabbie, played by actor Jamie Foxx, to carry him on a job; one night, five stops, five hits.
Blockbuster Director Michael Mann designed much of the film around certain shooting scenes. He started by sending Cruise to the L.A. County Sherriff’s firing range for technical instruction by Mick Gould, retired British SAS.
“Is that my briefcase?” asks Vincent of two thugs that stole his list. “What are you going to do about it?” one of the thugs asks. Vincent then draws and shoots his nearest assailant from the hip. In one fluid motion, Vincent quickly addresses his second threat, extending his arms for a two-handed double tap. The whole clip lasted 1.3 seconds, but it set the tone for the rest of the movie.
“He’s a quick-draw,” stated another actor. Cruise learned advanced techniques such as point shooting, shooting from the hip, shooting from the ground and speed reloads. Cruise noted that for many movies they only get to shoot blanks. Having the opportunity to shoot at the L.A. Sherriff’s Office firing range, training became more realistic for the actor with the use of live ammo.
“It was great and it definitely adds a dimension,” said Cruise.