In an attempt to ground these extraordinary effects in some kind of human reality. De Bont took great care in casting the two lead roles: Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt play Bill Harding and his estranged wife lo. a pair of storm chasers reunited by their obsession with twisters.
‘l licel very strongly.‘ explains De Bont. ‘that il’ you choose actors people can relate to. who don‘t look bigger than life. or like huge movie stars. it makes the movie a lot more accessible. The level of identil‘iability is much greater. It was hard to convince the studio. but I was very
‘Those two hours that you spend in the movie theatre, you’d better be spending them right. When you take a rollercoaster ride, you don’t stop it in the middle of the track and say, “OK, let’s have a little break here”.’
lucky when l cast Keanu and Sandra in Speed. and in this case Helen and Bill did such a fantastic job that nobody was complaining. Of course they will be huge stars alter this movie. so we won’t be able to use them anymore.‘
The storm chasers rush l'rom one twister to the next. trying to place their prototype data- gathering equipment pack — ‘Dorothy' — into the path ol‘ the swirling. unpredictable monster. but the relentless. gale-force l'un l'inally degenerates into a feeling ol‘ just one damn storm alter another. Surely it would have been better to give the audience a little more time to catch their breath. De Bont thinks not.
"l‘here’s so much time lel't alter the movie‘s over for you to relax. You can go to a bar and have a beer and talk about it. but those two hours that you spend in the movie theatre. you‘d better be spending them right. When you take a rollercoaster ride. you don‘t stop it in the middle ol' the track and say. "OK. let‘s have a little break here". No. you keep going. You‘re scared and excited. but then you get to the end and you just go. “Wow!”
Predictably. l)e liont's next movie will be Speed 2. but only t\\ o weeks bel'ore our meeting in Amsterdam. it had been announced that Keanu Reeves had got cold tea and pulled out ol' the project. Naturally. De liont is disappointed. but also a little concerned: ‘When we lirst started talking about Speed .3. before (‘hristmas last year. Keanu really wanted to do it. But a lot has happened to him in the last six months. he's going throuin a dil'l'icult time. He has a lot ot~ trouble accepting his lame. It's hard for him to deal with not being taken seriously as an actor: the criticism that he got l‘or his other
It's an ill wind: Bill Paxton awaits the coming storm
movies. the ones that weren't well received. have got to him. 'I le wants to be seen as a serious actor but. to me. the important thing is to know your limitations. He doesn‘t want to grow up either. he wants to be like a twenty-year-old and he's 30 already. I hope that he doesn’t go on a very sell-destructive path. which some of those actors do. ljust read about Robert Downey Jr. [recently jailed for drug ol‘l'encesl and I hope that doesn't happen to Keanu.‘ 'Iii'isler goes on general release on Friday 26 .la/v.
What a disaster!
Twister’s tornadoes are just the latest in a long line of mankind-in-peril scenarios that guarantee cinema thrills. Alan Morrison heads for the disaster zone.
,/ a " if I
Sailing into danger with The Poseidon Adventure
Pick a confined space. An aeroplane, skyscraper or ocean liner will do. Add a diverse collection of human beings. Then, think of the worst thing that could happen. A mad bomber, a fire, capsizing in rough seas. You’ve got what you need for a classic 705 disaster movie.
This was the time when technology was getting carried away with itself, when egotistical men threw aside the safety plans in a drive to make everything bigger, bigger, bigger. But somewhere among the potential victims, a hero was waiting to be born, a natural leader who’d bring the ever- declining group of survivors hack into the calm of the outside world.
The 70s cycle began with terror in the skies in the shape ot Airport, where a bomb creates an extra backdoor on a jet, leaving a motley crew ol Hollywood stars to sweat it out as the stricken plane tries to land. The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno topped the box office charts, but soon the genre fizzled out with cliche-ridden set-ups that merely twanged the same old nerves -
George Segal saving an amusement park from a bomber in Rollercoaster or Sean Connery avoiding a galactic collision course in Meteor.
Two decades on, another batch of disaster movies is about to be unleashed following the multi-million dollar success of Twister. Movies such as Earthquake and Avalanche were the 70s precursors of this new narrative seam, but they didn’t show the same reverence for the forces of nature. Maybe it’s millennium fever, maybe it’s recognition that man and the elements are out of synch, but there’s an increased environmental awareness in this 90s genre as Mother Nature, with some justification, bites back.
Just going into production are The Flood, a heist movie which pits Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater against a torrential downpour, and Dante's Peak with the ‘volcanologist’ Pierce Brosnan saving a town in the Pacific Northwest from a river of lava. The budget on the latter is rumoured to be around the $100 million mark, with special eftects courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic.
How long will this disaster cycle last? (in-screen drama is now so eye-bogglineg realistic that the thrill level continues to rise, but the danger is that filmmakers are tempted to focus on one grand set-piece at the expense ot story and characterisation. Maybe that master of screen spectacle, James Cameron, will get the balance right with his latest project, Titanic, a period retelling of the famous encounter with an iceberg, described by the director as ‘a love story set in a historical backdrop . . . it will also be a kickin’ action epic’.
The List 26 Jul-8 Aug l99619