CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Smithsonian Institution has paired with Hollywood to take part in filming its first commercial movie, providing the museum’s historical expertise in exchange for a fee.
Nobody would say exactly how much Smithsonian consultants are being paid, the Washington Post reports, but actor Mel Gibson is earning $25 million to star in the movie, “The Patriot.”
As museums throughout the U.S. seek new ways to attract revenue, the Smithsonian’s action is being closely monitored.
“The opportunities are encouraging on both sides,” says Alberta Arthurs, a consultant on cultural issues and former director of arts and humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation. “But the nexus of interest has to be handled carefully.”
Patricia Williams, vice president of the American Association of Museums, says should develop guidelines for partnerships.
“You have to watch out for your integrity by being very candid about what your boundaries are,” she says.
Peter Bart, editor of the entertainment newspaper Variety, says the partnership between the Smithsonian and the moviemakers seems to be mutually beneficial.
“It seems to me that if there is a way for nonprofit institutions to pick up some funding by cooperating in a benign way, it makes sense,” Bart told the Post.
The museum’s role, coordinated by Smithsonian Entertainment, a two-member department that previously had worked only on documentaries and exhibition videos, has been to help the Hollywood team keep the movie as historically accurate as possible.
Gibson’s character is based on the life of Gen. Francis Marion, the legendary South Carolina revolutionary war hero known as the “Swamp Fox.”
The Hollywood team also includes director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, known for their hit “Independence Day.” The script was written by Robert Rodat, an Oscar nominee last year for “Saving Private Ryan,” and the editor is David Brenner, an Oscar winner for “Born on the Fourth of July.”