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'Soldier's Story' Due In S. Africa

January 25, 1985|MICHAEL LONDON | Times Staff Writer

'A Soldier's Story," the provocative racial drama set in the segregated Army of World War II, is scheduled to make its South African debut--in segregated theaters.

The movie will open Feb. 8 in South Africa's whites-only and blacks-only theaters, according to Patrick Williamson, president of Columbia Pictures International. "It's very important that this picture be seen in South Africa," Williamson said. "It can only be an influence for good."

Washington-based Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid decried the booking of the film and what it termed Columbia's "flimsy rationale."

"A large number of individuals who were formerly duped into sending their works to South Africa as a form of cultural advancement have found, almost invariably, that these works have been shown to and enjoyed only by white audiences," said spokeswoman Hazel Ross.

South African blacks are being systematically relocated to "barren patches where there is no running water, so they certainly have no cinemas," Ross added.

Norman Jewison, who produced and directed "Soldier's Story," was vacationing in Canada and could not be reached for comment. The trade paper Daily Variety reported Thursday that Jewison planned to meet with Columbia executives in New York Monday in an attempt to have "A Soldier's Story" seen by integrated audiences.

"Gandhi" director Richard Attenborough has pledged his support to the effort and also plans to meet with Jewison in New York. Attenborough canceled plans to attend segregated premieres of "Gandhi" in 1983 after a storm of criticism. But South African authorities did allow "Gandhi" to play, in contrast to Columbia's 1967 drama "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" starring Sidney Poitier. That film was banned, according to Williamson.

Anti-apartheid spokeswoman Ross said that "even if arrangements could be made for ("Soldier's Story") to be shown to blacks, we are terribly opposed. Our aim is to dismantle apartheid, not to see that minor symbols (of integration) are temporarily advanced."

'FALCON' FACTS: As "true" movies go, "The Falcon and the Snowman" takes few liberties with the story that inspired it. But there is one intriguing fictionalization: the TRW Defense and Space Systems Group, known simply as TRW, is identified in the movie as RTX.

It was TRW in Redondo Beach from which Christopher Boyce (played by Timothy Hutton) copied defense secrets in the mid-'70s. With the aid of his boyhood friend, Andrew Daulton Lee (Sean Penn), Boyce sold them to the Soviet Union. In Robert Lindsey's "Falcon" book, TRW security was depicted as laughable and its employees were portrayed using drugs and alcohol on the job.

TRW was deleted from the script at the last minute, according to Steve Zaillian, who adapted Lindsey's book for the screen. Zaillian said that there were no discussions with TRW but that the film's insurers were concerned about a possible lawsuit. Viewers familiar with the saga will "know it's TRW anyway," he said.

(A TRW spokeswoman said that she had not seen the movie but added, "We hope people remember that both the book and the film are largely from the perspective of Christopher Boyce, who was convicted in the courts of this land as a traitor." She said that allegations of mismanagement at TRW were not borne out in court.)

Zaillian said of "Falcon" that it was "kind of intimidating to have the final word on these people as far as millions (of moviegoers) are concerned." Hutton and Penn had extensive conversations with their real-life counterparts in prison. Boyce was generally pleased with the script, Zaillian said; "interestingly," he added, Boyce's chief concern was that the falconry scenes be handled properly.

Daulton Lee was more unhappy with the script, Zaillian said. He protested a scene in which he was depicted carrying a gun, which was removed from the script. He also objected to a scene in which he sold heroin. "He admits to using heroin but he says that he didn't deal," Zaillian said. Lindsey's book had mentioned the heroin dealing, he added, but since there was no conclusive proof, it was deleted from the film.

'POPE' HOPE: For the producers of most of 1984's dramatic offerings, the closing of Oscar nomination polls today represents a shot at the record books. For Gene Kirkwood, it means something more basic: the last chance for "The Pope of Greenwich Village."

"Pope," the Mickey Rourke-Eric Roberts ethnic drama, was released by MGM/UA at the height of last year's summer fluff in a doomed attempt at counterprogramming. The movie disappeared so fast that even MGM/UA Chairman Frank Rothman acknowledged that the studio had erred when the episode was raised after a recent stockholders' meeting.

There was talk of re-releasing "Pope" last fall; recently, the studio scheduled a Feb. 15 distribution. But a company spokesman said this week that the re-release is now "up in the air."

"If I don't get nominations, I'm in trouble," acknowledged Kirkwood, who finds himself lobbying MGM/UA for the re-issue after five years of lobbying various studios to make "Pope." "You start to wonder, when should a producer give up on a picture? I feel like I'm romancing the stone."

TRAILERS: Steve Guttenberg and Alan Arkin will star in 20th Century Fox's "Bad Medicine," about a medical student from a distinguished line of doctors whose poor grades force him into "a wayward Latin American institution." Guttenberg, who made his name in "Diner," also stars in the upcoming "Cocoon" and "Police Academy II."

Shooting begins in Spain on Feb. 4 for release in August, another example of increasingly prevalent quickie production schedules. Harvey Miller, who co-wrote and co-produced "Private Benjamin," is making his directorial debut.

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