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City of Angles

Climactic Hurricane Scene, Take Two

April 10, 2002|GINA PICCALO AND LOUISE ROUG

Writer-director Mitch Davis had everything he needed to whip up a hurricane on Rarotonga, a tiny verdant island off the coast of New Zealand, for the climactic scene in his first major film, "The Other Side of Heaven." Four cameras were trained on the chaos created by several giant fans, clouds of artificial debris, rain towers and fire hoses operated by two stuntmen. Several trees and "huts" had been rigged with bungee cords to blow away on cue.

With just 20 minutes of daylight remaining, Davis was poised to call "action" when he noticed the actors weren't in place. Instead, they were dodging water blasts from a misdirected fire hose. The director followed the stream to a stuntman high above the set, who was filming the chaos on his own video camera, while unknowingly pounding the actors with water.

To get the stuntman's attention, Davis waved his arms. The actors spotted Davis, took his signal as "action" and took off running through the "storm." The huts blew away on cue. Trees fell. And suddenly, the scene was over. "And we didn't have a single frame of film to show for it," Davis said during a phone interview Monday. In the melee, Davis had neglected to cue the cameras. "It was a humbling moment," he said. The mistake put the production half a day behind schedule, a huge loss for the independent film. But crews worked through the night to rebuild the set, and the scene was reshot in the morning--with cameras rolling.

The film, which stars Christopher Gorham as an Idaho farm boy who leaves his girlfriend (Anne Hathaway) to work as a missionary on a South Pacific island, opens Friday, hurricane in place.

French Toast

Director Bertrand Tavernier held Jacqueline Bisset in his arms. Then, moments later, he fell into John Frankenheimer's arms and began talking about his love for "The Manchurian Candidate."

The occasion for the hugging, air-kissing and back-patting was the opening-night gala for the French film festival City of Lights, City of Angels and the screening of Tavernier's "Laissez-Passer" ("Safe Conduct"), a movie about movie-making during World War II, screened for a movie-making audience at the Directors Guild of America Theatre on Sunset Boulevard.

"For us, [the festival] is a way of showing the movies to people we admire, like ... " Tavernier said, gesturing with a stab of his thumb toward Frankenheimer, who was now standing behind him. "It's a good way to meet and to go on with our collaboration."

And, of course, to lift the flute.

Both champagne and appetizers were in high demand. One woman who really liked the tuna sashimi, said, with a faint apology, "It's for my husband," after grabbing several pieces. The waiter looked at her squarely and replied, with the whiff of a smile, "but you don't have a husband." Unfazed, she retorted: "I'll go and find one," before vanishing in the Monday night crowd of several hundred French and Francophile guests.

Frankenheimer, surrounded by fans and friends in the main room, beamed.

"It's great to see this kind of a turnout," he said. "To see the American and French directors, producers and writers to come together like this is wonderful."

Even Jack Valenti came from Washington, D.C., to show his respects (and to kiss the back of Bisset's hands.)

"To see this happen ... ," said Tavernier after Valenti's introduction. He grinned. "Anything is possible."

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'Evil' Preview

Parents started yelling during an "Ice Age" showing Saturday at the Pacific Theaters in Sherman Oaks when a trailer for the R-rated film "Resident Evil" was shown to an audience with many children present. After the parents' protests, and a slight delay, a more family-friendly preview reel was located and put on.

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Quote/Unquote

"I've never come across a bad kisser," actress/pop singer Jennifer Lopez said of her leading men in the May issue of Cosmopolitan, due out Tuesday. "All actors have their thing. But I would have to say Sean Penn, who I kissed in [the film] 'U-Turn' was the best. I just remembered thinking that at the time."

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City of Angles runs Tuesday through Friday. Email: angles @latimes.com.

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