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'The Sentinel' Highlights Life of Secret Service Agents


Secret Service agents are the heroes and the suspects in a fanciful new political thriller set within the agency responsible for protecting the President and other top national leaders.

"In 141 years there has never been a traitor in the Secret Service. Now, all of a sudden, there are two. I don't buy that. Somehow they're connected."

Michael Douglas stars as Secret Service agent Pete Garrison, a veteran of the PPD (the presidential protection detail), the top assignment in this most-respected agency. When he becomes suspect in a plot against the president, Garrison, used to being the hunter, winds up as the quarry with his longtime colleague played by Kiefer Sutherland in hot pursuit.

"The fact is the evidence against him is overwhelming. So how do we find him? To begin with, know this: he is smarter and more experienced than all of you. You've never trained for this. You are chasing your worst nightmare. He knows how you think, he knows what you know, he knows how you operate and he will use that against you."

Garrison may have done some things that look suspicious, but he insists he is not guilty and that chasing him will only divert attention from the real culprit:

"I am following the evidence and it is overwhelming. Explain to me about the bank account."
"The what?"
"Your signature is all over the paperwork."
"I'm being framed?"

The Sentinel was made without direct cooperation from the Secret Service because of its plot which suggests a mole within its ranks. However Douglas, who is also the film's producer, believes it is ultimately respectful of the service and its agents.

"This genre has been done, to say the least [and] it's only a question of how good the execution is," he said. "So I think this is probably the best behind-the-scenes accurate rendition of what the Secret Service does. I think all of that verisimilitude really makes a difference because everybody - all your extras, going all the way back - understands what they're supposed to be doing. Everything has an authority and definition about it."

"Are you saying there is a mole in the Secret Service?"
"That's right."
"What's his name?"
"I don't know. I just know he exists."
"How? Who is giving you the information?"
"I want one million dollars."
"What are you smoking? Be serious."
"I'm dead serious."

Much of the detail comes from pages of the original novel written by former Secret Service agent Gerald Petievich; and another retired agent, Gerry Cavis, brought his experience as a member of the PPD to his role as technical adviser to the film.

"I think you're going to see a very realistic depiction of the culture of the service: the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they act ... what it's like to be under the pressure of protecting the president and yet the intensity to investigate these daily threats - thousands of them," he said. "So I think this will take you to a very clear picture and I know it's going to be a wonderful recruitment tool in terms of interest in the agency and we need that."

"Hispanic woman, four languages, computer skills, second in your class at the academy. Well, aren't you the recruiting poster. Resumes don't mean a lot to me and they mean absolutely nothing on the street."
"Any other supportive advice before we get to know each other?"

Eva Longoria plays newly-assigned agent Jill Marin, fresh from the training academy, who finds herself between her two colleagues as they try to uncover and stop the plot.

"She's very serious," she said. "She doesn't want to get anywhere with her looks and she wants to be recognized for her talent and her skills ... and she's ambitious. I really respected that.

To TV fans who know her as sultry Gabrielle Solis on the hit melodrama Desperate Housewives, Longoria says her character in The Sentinel is something completely different as was the experience of making the film.

"First of all, going from a set of estrogen to a set of testosterone was exciting to me, just for a change of pace; but I found it exhilarating because I don't get to do that every day," she added. "That was the whole point of picking this movie: I wanted to do something completely opposite of Gabrielle and Desperate Housewives and I found it in Jill Marin. Actually, she's a lot closer to who I am as person. I'm a tomboy, I love shooting guns and running around. To be able to do that in a movie was just like a vacation."

Although The Sentinel is a thriller meant for entertainment, star and producer Michael Douglas says the cast and crew came away with a renewed admiration for the real Secret Service.

"You talk about how to get into a character, [but] there's no way you can understand how you can lay your body in front of somebody else, instinctively, to take a bullet. It's really hard to understand that," he added.

"Whatever you hear about me in the next few days, I want you to know I was framed ... We're going to get out of this."
"I haven't figured that out yet."

The Sentinel also features Kim Basinger as the First Lady. The original novel is adapted for screen by George Nolfi and the film is directed by Clark Johnson.