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The Woman Behind 'Navy SEALS' : Movies: A radical feminist producer calls the shots in the macho action-thriller. 'I think it is feminist, humanist to hate terrorism,' she says.

July 25, 1990|DAVID WALLACE

Pfarrer eventually did retire and wrote the first screenplay.

"I took it to Orion," she says. "The minute they got it they called and said they wanted it, and by the next day it was a done deal."

Richard Marquand was hired as director, and all was ready to go when his death stopped all work. By September, 1989, a new director (Lewis Teague, "Jewel of the Nile") was on board, and filming commenced in Spain and Norfolk, Va. "Navy SEALS" was made without active Navy support because of the top-secret nature of the SEAL's activities, said Capt. Tom Lawson, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado. "Now, they're all over it," Feigen adds.

Feigen claims she imposed her woman's viewpoint in many places in the film. "There were some pretty bad things that came in a number of the drafts, and I said, 'I'm sorry guys, no way!' There were scenes with the role of Claire (co-star Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) that made no sense . . . and in one instance there was a reference to her so obscene I can't repeat it. . . . I said this has got to go!

"In the (various) scripts there was a lot more shooting than there needed to be. I remember saying to Chuck, 'Don't you guys ever do anything else to keep people quiet?' and he said, 'Yes, but using a gun is the most efficient way.' The script would say things like 'and his head was blown off. . . .' I said that this is not going to be. As it turned out it was also cheaper," she laughs.

"And there was one scene where each one of the guys was with what they call 'frog hogs,' " (a SEALS term for female groupies), "including an unnecessary amount of sexual activity that had nothing to do with feelings. That's all gone."

Feigen adds that "the guys" also made it pretty clear to her that she would be in the way when they visited bars frequented by SEALS in San Diego. "When you're not a SEAL and not 'one of the guys,' if you are a woman producer in a movie like this you seem almost expendable. I took exception to that every time it happened.

"I believe if I had been a male producer there would have been no question about a lot of the things I had to fight for."

Feigen's next films are far more what one would expect from a feminist: "Inalienable Right" is a two-hour CBS-TV movie about two black girls in the South sterilized without their knowledge, and based on a case she became familiar with while working with the ACLU; "Grounded" is a "9-to-5" type film about airline attendants, to be made with Jane Fonda for Columbia.

She is also developing a film project planned to star Meg Ryan and based loosely on Feigen's own experiences in the early days of the women's movement. And there is talk of two sequels to "Navy SEALS."

Feigen says she does regret having "Navy SEALS" as her calling card to Hollywood instead of one of the other projects. "I think that if you are a woman producer, if you get typecast as doing 'soft' movies, it's very hard to break that mold. 'Navy SEALS' was a film I knew I had to make because the stuff is so good and the story is not about nothing . . . what drew me to it was its substance. . . .

" 'Total Recall' and 'Die Hard' are fantasy, futuristic movies. My film is action-adventure, but it's real, about real situations that could happen like 'China Syndrome' could happen. It also happened to be the first," she smiles.

If Feigen doesn't fit into the film industry's mold, she certainly is enjoying its rewards. But none of this is incompatible with her political beliefs, she says.

"I don't think there is anything inconsistent with making a lot of money and being a feminist. I think it's important, though, to realize what your priorities are and who you give money to."

And no, she doesn't intend to quit railing against the system as strongly as she did 25 years ago. "It's important that women have the same power as men in order to control the creative process--at least have half of the control," she says. "There is an audience out there that does not want to see all these macho movies as much as they want to see movies about real people including real women.

"I intend to be in the forefront of trying to change this."

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