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The Secret Service is something of an enigma to us mere mortals. Do people actually have to throw themselves in front of important bureaucratic types to intercept a bullet? Or, as with many things, is that merely an exaggerated image manufactured by Hollywood?
Former Assistant Director of the United States' Secret Service Mickey Nelson should know. He recently consulted as a technical advisor on Angel Has Fallen - the third instalment in the Fallen franchise starring Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman.
Nelson decided to take the gig after retiring from service, following a 29-year career that saw him work under the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Speaking to LADbible, he admitted that there are many misconceptions about life in the Secret Service - although many of these might not be what you'd assume.
Most of us would probably deduce that the ideal candidate for a role within the agency would be someone of Herculean build, with the ability to take out an opponent using nothing but their little finger.
But Nelson explained that it's more about brains over brawn, saying: "I'm often asked what the Secret Service looks for in an employee - do we look for the strongest person, the fastest runner, the best shooter?
"I would always say that those are great qualities, but what the Secret Service really looks for is someone who's smart, innovative, able to collaborate with others - like other emergency responders, the White House medical unit, and so on.
"It's a challenging job, it's not a job for everyone."
Nelson also said people often think the biggest downside must be the threat of sudden death, but in reality it's something much closer to home.
He said: "Secret Service personnel face the same challenges as others every day.
"They're not robots, so they face the same challenges that everyone else does - most of them miss a lot of birthdays and holidays and weekends and dance recitals and football games along the way, so they face the same challenges that everybody else does."
On the other hand, Nelson explained that although some of Angel Has Fallen's action sequences may seem far-fetched, they are actually grounded in some element of reality - including the fairly epic drone sequence, in which Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) and President Trumbull (Freeman) are ambushed by a swarm of armed drones.
Nelson said: "I think that reflects a lot of the emerging technology that the Secret Service and all the protective agencies in the world have to really stay in front of, to stay ahead of the adversary.
"It's a pretty intense scene and not too far from some of the challenges that are actually out there today."
Sure, real-life Secret Service dramas might not see Gerard Butler gurning down the camera during a high-speed car chase, but according to Nelson, that's because the predominant aim is to prevent rather than to attack.
Explaining that such dramatic scenes might happen less regularly than we are often led to believe, he added: "But that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of people out there that would like to harm or try to harm the president - or any world leader for that matter.
"And I think the challenge of the Secret Service throughout the years is staying in front of that and really getting more proactive on that, as opposed to reactive - doing things ahead of the adversary that would beat an attempt from ever happening to start with, whether that's intelligence, whether that's employing technologies, whether that's employing personnel, whether that's employing covert or overt resources."
Angel Has Fallen is available on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray™, DVD and on Digital Download now.
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