Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida on May 4, 1997 · Page 137
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Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida · Page 137

Tallahassee, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 4, 1997
Page 137
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Cover Story May 4-10, 19973 Rebecca. Gayheart in fine form The flu that becomes a hostile takeover. Tallahassee Democrat By DaveLarsen v , , TVDATA Robin Cook's latest thriller was ripped from recent headlines. NASA's historic announcement last summer about the possibility of microscopic life existing on Mars inspired the best-selling author of "Coma" to imagine a frightening science-fiction scenario in which small, stone-shaped UFOs unleash a life-threatening virus on Earth. Victims are stricken with debilitating flu-like symptoms, which give way to euphoria, confidence and a strange remoteness. And before you can say "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," millions of people are infected. Robin Cook's "Invasion," a two-part TV movie airing Sunday and Monday on NBC, is a riveting adaptation of the author's new techno-medical thriller. The author's works have inspired other TV movies, including "Mortal Fear" and "Virus," but "Invasion" is the first of Cook's novels to be published concurrently with its television premiere. Unlike recent special effects-laden events such as NBC's "Asteroid," "Invasion" is well-plotted and suspenseful, and should grab viewers. "Our director (Armand Mastroianni) did not want it to be just a special-effect movie," says Rebecca Gayheart, who stars as Cassy Winslow, the heroine of the story. "He really made an effort to allow the actors places to act. It's not just like running from whatever." Cassy's boyfriend, Beau Stark (Luke Perry), is the first person in Phoenix to be "stung" by the tiny meteorites. His reaction is different from those of later victims: He becomes a power-mad egomaniac who founds an institute for "the betterment of humankind." Cassy and a handful of others who avoid becoming infected discover the stones' extraterrestrial origin, and they race to find an antidote for the virus before Beau and his cult can realize their plan to colonize the Earth. Cook's story is unusual in that a female hero saves the day. "That's what attracted to me to the character," Gayheart says. "In the beginning, she seems like this very normal, stable girl who has her life together - engaged, about to be married, a little teacher. And then, throughout (the course of the film), she finds this inner strength. Her survival instinct basically kicks in and she's sort of the one who pushes everyone else not to lose their hope." " I I ' '-:V. '" -. v- ! ) ' Rebecca Gayheart and Luke Perry star in Robin Cook's "Invasion," a two-part TV movie airing Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m. on Channels 40, 10 and 7 (cable 12 and 28). The premiere coincides with the release of the author's novel of the same name. The 24-year-old Kentucky native, who was a regular on "Earth 2" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," performs a number of action sequences in "Invasion" that dirty her delicate features. She also adopts a sickly pallor after her character is exposed to the virus. "It was fun because I got to come to set and not worry about how I looked," she says. Wearing no makeup except for dark circles under her eyes was quite a switch for Gayheart, whom many first noticed in commercials for Clairol and Noxzema. Gayheart, who makes her feature film debut in July co-starring with Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins in "Nothing to Lose," acknowledges that she's usually cast as the pretty girl. "This was fun because it wasn't at all about that - which I really, really liked," she says. "And I also liked the love story that was there. I think that it had a lot of heart." Cassy still has feelings for Beau despite his transformation. Her love also transcends his physical mutation into an alien life form. "I think that's pretty amazing," Gayheart says. She prepared for her romantic scenes with the heavily made-up Perry by delving into Cassy's relationship with Beau before he became infected, even though it wasn't outlined in the script. "I was thinking of my fiance," Gayheart explains. The two met the day she moved to New York City. Gayheart, 15 at the time, was an aspiring model and film director Brett Rat-ner was a first-year film student. "I've been with him for nine years now," she says. "If he suddenly changed into an alien, I don't think that my feelings for him would change that much ... as far as the love that I have for him and the concern for his well-being. "I tried to put all of that there - which was hard because, yeah, he looked pretty gross. So I just looked right into Luke's eyes. I ignored the scaly skin." Gayheart previously played love scenes with Perry when she co-starred as his character Dylan's fiancee, Toni, on" 90210." The two made an effort to develop a different relationship for "Invasion," rather than falling back on what they had done before. Things don't go quite so well for the characters stricken by the alien virus in "Invasion." But in keeping with sci-fi classics such as "Body Snatchers," the movie leaves itself open for further invasions.

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