'Under Siege II: Dark Territory" could easily be dubbed "Steven Seagal: Forbidden Zone" if any weight is given to the rising tide of complaints and accusations from its crew that continue to plague the film.
Former line producer Chris Kenny has surfaced with a big bone to pick. He insists that he wasn't fired to be replaced by Steve Perry as stated in a Times article Aug. 28. And he and others involved with the production say that Seagal, the film's star and one of its producers, has been given so much control by Warner Bros. that Seagal is personally dictating who spends what. The reason: Warners decided that any cost overruns on the $51-million budget should come out of Seagal's $10-million fee because at times he is responsible for costly last-minute changes, production sources say.
The studio, which allegedly had about $18 million committed to the movie before the cameras even began to roll last week (including an estimated $4 million already paid to Seagal), had to punt when Seagal decided four days before shooting to bump co-star Gary Busey off the picture. The actor reportedly was being paid $750,000 whether he was in the movie or not.
There's been a lot of bumping since development of the sequel to the 1992 hit "Under Siege" began, with producer Jon Peters (who brought Busey aboard) bailing in July; then Kenny, production manager Brian Frankish and other Kenny loyalists exiting in August.
At one point, Kenny said, there had been a plan to replace director Geoff Murphy ("Young Guns II") with Peter MacDonald ("Rambo III"), who is now second-unit di rector. MacDonald, considered tougher, was reportedly being wooed to better rein in Seagal. But Seagal insisted on Murphy.
"There have been continuous changes on this picture," says Kenny. "When Steve Perry was brought aboard he was supposed to serve as a creative producer to keep (Seagal) in line." Since both Kenny and Perry are line producers, Kenny opted to leave: " . . I had no conflict with (Seagal)."
Kenny also says that the script is constantly being rewritten. "The problem is the studio sees one movie and Steven sees another. He wants this dark, intricate CIA movie and Warners just wants an action movie, which is what Seagal fans want to see."
Then there was a fire near Boulder, Colo., on Aug. 23 that scorched 200 acres of forest and grasslands, which was sparked by a locomotive rented by the film's production company, Dark Territory, during a trial run for the film, according to local news accounts. Warner Bros. and the company declined to discuss the costs of that episode.
Issuing comments through a Warner Bros. spokesman, Seagal had no comment on the fire, but said: "I wanted both (Kenny and Perry) to stay. I was disappointed that Chris left, but it was his decision to leave."
He says that it was he who pushed to excise Busey because the story that allowed Busey to be reincarnated as the villain "didn't ring true." In the original "Under Siege," Busey was one of two thugs who plotted to steal nuclear arms from a battleship. The decision to oust Busey was the last straw for Peters, who had fought for Busey to stay.
Like Warners, Seagal refused to discuss the picture's budget, but said he was the one who offered to keep costs in line. "I have complete faith in the ability of this production team to deliver this movie on budget," he added.
"I always wanted this film to have upbeat action and humor," Seagal said. He said the strategy of the counterterrorists needed to be "beefed up" so he brought in some consultants from the CIA. "But I have to say ("Dark Territory") is not darker," adds Seagal. "It's now smarter and more realistic."