The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 8, 1997 · Page 32
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 32

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Wednesday, October 8, 1997
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4 WEDNESDAY. OCTOBER 8. 1997 TOPIC THE SALINA JOURNAL Women In Action Directors Take on Unfamiliar Genres ol tde BuwfeCea. John Horn AP Entertainment Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mimi Leder wasn't the first. She won't be the last. But for now, she's among the very few: women who direct action movies. Leder, a veteran of television's "China Beach" and "ER," directed The Peacemaker," the first feature film from the new Dream- Works studio. While much of the attention surrounding the nuclear terrorism thriller focused on DreamWorks' debut, the more compelling story is that so few women directors are handed the keys to big star vehicles. If they're not carrying a Y chromosome, film makers in Hollywood can forget playing with blazing guns, high-speed car chases and fiery explosions. Comedies and sappy romances, maybe. Action movies, fat chance. Male directors can move from making music videos to action films without stopping for a decaf latte. Women have to scale Everest without oxygen before they get so much as a reserved parking space. "It's very odd," Leder says of being one of a virtually invisible breed. "But I just want to do good work. If my good work can open the door for other women to do good work, I'm happy to be here." "The Peacemaker," Leder's first feature film, is arguably the most prominent modern action film ever directed by a woman. Yet several women preceded Leder in the genre. Rachel Talalay directed "Tank Girl," "Ghost in the Machine" and "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare." Kathryn Bigelow's action credits include "Near Dark," "Blue Steel" and "Point Break." One of Alicia Silverstone's first leading acting roles came in 1995's "True Crime," written and directed by Pat Verducci. Antonia Bird, the maker of 1994's "Priest," recently completed "Face," an often violent drama about a band of British robbers. The movie, which played at September's Toronto International Film Festival, opened in England on Friday and is nearing a deal for a U.S. distributor. "Face" stars Robert Carlyle from "The Full Monty." Lake Leder, Bird was attracted to the genre not because it was forbidden, but because it was filled with possibilities. Most action films are long on pyrotechnics and short on emotion and relationships. It's as if men went straight from the caves to behind movie cameras — they still know how to swing a club, but try getting them to talk about their feelings. "What I wanted to say in this film is that criminals are real people," Bird says. "In my experience, society encourages criminal behavior — it's an endless message of self-gratification. It's been fashionable in Britain to be selfish, to go after the money. Nothing matters more than that." In fact, the most villainous character in "Face" is a crooked policeman who deals drugs on the side. As for Carlyle's robber, he learns personal connections are worth more than any money he can pilfer. "What he comes to realize is that his attitude when he got involved in crime — that if you can't beat them, you might as well join them — was wrong," Bird says. Leder's "Peacemaker," staring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, seeks to develop the movie's villain Dusan (Marcel lures), a Bosnian piano teacher whose daughter was killed by a sniper. In a desperate act of revenge, he tries to detonate a stolen nuclear device at the United Nations. "In 'The Peacemaker,' it was the characters who attracted me. I was challenged by the action," Leder says. "If anything is unique about this movie, it's those personal touches. I wanted to humanize the villain — I hope there are a lot of personal moments. "I had to keep in my mind the story — I couldn't worry about this being the first DreamWorks film. I couldn't worry about it being my first movie. I had to worry about the story," Leder says. "DreamWorks didn't hire me because of my gender. They hired me because of my work. I don't want to be known as Mimi Leder, the woman director. I want to be known as Mimi Leder, the director."' Leder says the film's action scenes — particularly a car chase that evolves into a bloody destruction derby — were the most difficult. During one especially chaotic day staging the chase sequence, Leder stopped filming for two hours while cast and crew stood by because she felt she was losing control of the scene. It's an unwritten rule a director never stops the cameras just to think, but Leder did — because she wanted the chase to be something more than squealing tires. "There was no emotional satisfaction for me," Leder says. "Doing the car chase doesn't do it for me." DreamWorks didn't always make Leder's life easy. Walter MraKt Cmpta lateral Ira tains > Unstick drain Toil free 1-888.825-5280 HOOW.GrandBldg.I Salina, KS (913)825-5280 Salina's Own 4x4 Specialists! 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Leder, who has won two Em- mys for her "ER" work, is now 70 days into 90 planned days of filming "Deep Impact," an expensive DreamWorks-Paramount movie about an earthbound asteroid. It stars Elijah Wood, Tea Leoni and Morgan Freeman. Proving that old habits die hard, John Goldwyn, president of Paramount's motion picture group, concedes he wouldn't have entrusted "Deep Impact" to a woman director unless Steven Spielberg was her producer. If that weak endorsement wasn't disconcerting enough, Leder's under separate pressure: Disney is making a similar movie, Bruce Willis in "Armageddon," and Paramount wants its film to be the first asteroid movie in theaters. Leder shows no signs of anxiety. On the weekend "The Peacemaker" opened nationally, she didn't spend her days checking out theater lines or sweating box- office grosses. Instead, Leder picked up a cake and shopped for party favors. It was her 11-year- old daughter's birthday. 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