If you're convinced that an expensive computer, sophisticated software and the technical savvy of a "propeller-head" is the only route to the information superhighway, take heart.
With studio development and production pipelines around town filled with close to a dozen high-tech films dealing with computers, virtual reality and the Internet, the only thing you may need is a movie ticket.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 14, 1995 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 4 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
Screenwriter-- A story in Tuesday's Calendar section about on-line-themed films misspelled the surname of Rafael Moreu, who wrote the script for "Hackers."
And why not? With reports of computer break-ins routinely making the evening news and hackers being heralded as heroes by many denizens of cyberspace, it's a subject that seems to have slipped into the mainstream consciousness faster than you can say "Bill Gates." That probably means that a slew of movies can't be too far behind.
Even Steven Spielberg, considered one of Hollywood's most high-profile techno-buffs, is developing a computer movie at Amblin/Universal. Based on an idea by the Oscar-winning director, "Mainframe" deals with "artificial intelligence," a term applied to computers that can think and theoretically take on a life of their own.
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick's next project is rumored to be an artificial intelligence story aptly titled "AI." According to sources, Kubrick has already been testing various special-effects processes for the film at George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic.
And Miramax recently said it would develop a film based on the pursuit and arrest of Kevin Mitnick, America's most-wanted hacker.
One film likely to benefit from the current computer craze--with computers installed in close to 50 million homes throughout the country--is UA's "Hackers," which is due to hit theaters this summer. Directed by Iain Softley from a script by Rafael Moreau, it's the story of a group of teen-age cyber-surfers who make their way through the Internet until one of their excursions makes them prime suspects in a high-tech industrial conspiracy case.
But Hollywood's current fascination isn't just with hackers: It's with all facets of the computer world, especially on-line services, e-mail and the Internet--not surprising given the sudden explosion of interest in exploring cyberspace.
"I get pitched stories about on-line romance, on-line thrillers and on-line horror about as often as I send e-mail, which is quite frequently," says producer Jim Wedaa, who heard dozens of computer pitches while he was a studio executive at Hollywood Pictures. Now a producer at Parallax, Wedaa says he hears even more pitches about computers.
"Five years ago, I would hear a pitch for a computer story every few months and most executives didn't understand what a movie with computers would be about," Wedaa recalls. "Two years ago, more people were pitching computer ideas and everybody was buying. Now even more people are pitching computer ideas, but nobody's buying."
One high-tech on-line thriller already in production is Columbia's "The Net," which stars "Speed" star Sandra Bullock as a computer systems analyst who gets caught up in a murder scheme after accidentally tapping into a classified computer program. Directed by Irwin Winkler, the production recently shot scenes at MacWorld, a San Francisco gathering of Macintosh computer aficionados.
Another on-line thriller, New Regency's "Copycats," starring Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, just wrapped production. In the film, directed by Jon Amiel from a script by Frank Pierson, Weaver plays an agoraphobic who maintains her link to the world through her computer, while being stalked by an on-line psycho.
Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, producers of "Top Gun" and the soon-to-be-released "Crimson Tide," have turned their attention from flying and submarines to the on-line world and are currently developing "f2f"--computer shorthand for "face to face"--at Touchstone Pictures. Based on Phillip Finch's soon-to-be-published novel, it's the story of a serial killer who finds his victims through an on-line service.
Finch, who's currently writing the script, feels that the time is now right for films using cyberspace as a backdrop.
"Two years ago this would have been impossible to sell," Finch admits. "I think the thing that's driving the interest all of a sudden is that the number of users is increasing very fast. This is a fact of life that affects a lot of people. Within the last year people saw the word \o7 Internet \f7 a lot. They now know what it is."
With that in mind, it's not surprising that even a classic story is being recycled and given a face lift courtesy of the computer and e-mail.
"The Shop Around the Corner," Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 comedy starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as co-workers who don't realize they are lonely hearts pen pals, is being developed by producer Lauren Shuler-Donner for Turner Pictures. According to sources, the latest version will be written by "Sleepless in Seattle" director and co-screenwriter Nora Ephron and playwright Wendy Wasserstein and will feature the two pen pals communicating '90s style with electronic mail.