'Under Siege II" couldn't be more aptly named. In recent weeks the film, a sequel to Steven Seagal's 1992 blockbuster, has been besieged by rumors of turmoil in the production ranks. And its budget has purportedly edged past its $47.5-million limit.
In addition, Warner Bros.' brass has finally had to step in directly to try to impose some order, by bringing in a new line producer, Steve Perry ("Die Hard II"), just three weeks before shooting was scheduled to begin on Sept. 7, a date that is a full month later than the original start date. And more exits of critical crew members may be likely.
Some sources on the project say they welcome Warners' stronger presence, since there has been so much friction among Seagal and his co-producers. Jon Peters, one of the film's producers, bailed from the project in late July, while Seagal and New Regency's Arnon Milchan, who produced the original, remain.
Since Peters' departure, line producer Chris Kinney ("The Last Emperor," "Batman"), who was brought aboard by Warners and Peters, was booted in favor of Perry after clashing with Seagal. Several of Kinney's key people, including Brian Frankish, the production manager, are reportedly nearing an announcement that they are the next to leave. (A line producer oversees the physical and fiscal components of the film's process on a day-to-day basis; a film's producer develops and produces the script, deals with the studio, looking at the overall picture, including the stars and director.)
Perry, considered to have a much harder edge than Kinney by the crew but equally capable, "can handle tough personalities like Seagal's," said one project source. "He has worked on films with ("Die Hard" producer) Joel Silver, who is one of the biggest screamers and toughest personalities in the business. You think it's an accident that Seagal named his company Steamroller Productions? The more successful he gets, the more pronounced his bad behavior."
Perry, as another source on the project put it, "has a reputation for kicking butt and being a hard-ass on keeping costs in line. He was brought aboard purely to control the budget." The studio also apparently felt he could handle Seagal a little better.
Peters, Kinney, Perry and Seagal did not return phone calls requesting comment. Warner Bros. declined to comment, except to confirm Perry's involvement and the new September start date.
The original movie, directed by Andrew Davis, involved thugs, including Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey, plotting to steal nuclear arms from a battleship. The sequel, directed by Geoff Murphy ("Young Guns 2"), is set aboard a train being ridden by Seagal and Katherine Heigl (who plays his niece), en route to a military convention and then a vacation in the Rocky Mountains, when Busey returns to try to hijack the train. Filming is to take place in Burbank and in the Rockies, a Warners source said.
"You never want to have to replace your line producer three weeks before a picture starts shooting," said one highly placed source on the project. "This picture will definitely happen but it has been a pain for Warners, which, by the way, has been very good to Seagal." The original "Under Siege" grossed $83 million domestically. Seagal's last Warners feature, April's "On Deadly Ground," grossed only $36 million.
Sources familiar with Seagal's deal say that Warners paid him about $10 million in salary and producer's fees for this project. And the picture's budget, originally pitched at $47.5 million, has reportedly climbed to $50 million before the cameras have even begun to roll, sources say. That was supposed to happen Aug. 10, but because of the changes and turmoil, the start date was bumped to Sept. 7.