Frankenheimer's new conspiracy movie takes on Red Brigades' terror

On movies

October 31, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

Director John Frankenheimer says he has about eight more films left in him. ''More, if I'm lucky,'' he said. ''I'm 62, and I want to make sure they count. After 'Dead Bang' and 'The Fourth War,' I want to make a commercially successful film.''

His newest movie is ''Year of the Gun,'' and it opens here tomorrow. It is an action melodrama that takes place in Italy, in 1978, when the Red Brigades were terrorizing the country.

''Producer Ed Pressman came to me,'' he said. ''He wanted to work with me and asked me to read the book on which the film is based. I did. I liked it a lot, got a scriptwriter and did all those things you have to do to get a movie done.

''I really liked the idea of doing a movie about conspiracy. I've done a few of those, and I also liked the idea of working in Rome.

''I realized some of the dangers inherent in the undertaking. I realized the film would have to be done on two levels, one for the Americans, the other for Europe. I know that some people think the Red Brigades are a rock group.

''I know that a lot of younger people have never even heard of Aldo Moro, the former Italian premier who was kidnapped and murdered by the Brigades.

''I had to find a way to make the exposition as painless as possible, and I think I have. The film has played very well in front of young audiences.''

Frankenheimer said that working in Rome was no different from working in any other big city. ''It had all the problems of the big city, all the advantages, all the disadvantages,'' he said. ''There was more traffic, and the streets were very narrow, but the government left us alone. It was the same as here.''

He says the film cost $11 million, ''about the same amount that 'Hudson Hawk' went over budget.''

He mentioned ''Hudson Hawk'' several times. ''It was filming in Italy the same time we were there,'' he said.

Frankenheimer is best known for doing ''The Manchurian Candidate,'' the classic thriller that was first released in 1962. For a time, he had trouble talking about it. He knows that when he dies his tombstone will probably mention the fact that he did the film, but he has learned to live with it.

Today, he says, ''You have to remember that it was made 30 years ago, but I am extremely pleased when it is identified as a classic. I keep hoping for something else to take its place, but so far, nothing has.''

''Manchurian Candidate'' was re-released a short time ago. It was the first time audiences had seen it in a number of years, and Frankenheimer explained why.

''When we hired Frank Sinatra to do the lead, he exacted a certain number of conditions,'' he said. ''One was that he would have all the rights to the film after a period of eight years. We thought he was getting nothing. All he could do was sell it to television. Then cable and tape came along.

''The Fourth War,'' Frankenheimer's last film, won good reviews but did nothing in theaters, thanks to the collapse of communism.

''It was a movie about a small border war in Eastern Europe, and by the time it came out, P.T. Barnum couldn't have sold it,'' he said. ''Not in my wildest dreams did I think that would happen to the film. If I had known, I would never have made it. We can laugh about it now, but at the time it was very painful.''

Though the budget for ''Year of the Gun'' was low, compared to the average film, it was tough getting the money.

''But it's always tough getting the money for an independent film,'' said Frankenheimer. ''It's tough to raise that much money, but we did. Part of it came from Japan, and part of it came through the pre-sale of the film rights to television and cable.

''And working in Italy, where the dollar fluctuates from day to day, brings its special problems,'' he said. ''We lost 600,000 in lire when the dollar devalued, so we cut the shooting time from 53 days to 47.''

Asked if the film will do better in Europe than the United States, Frankenheimer said he didn't think so. ''If the American public responds to the advertising, it has a very good chance of succeeding here.''

Andrew McCarthy plays an American writer in ''Year of the Gun.'' As such, he becomes involved with the Red Brigades.

The woman he loves is played by Valeria Golina.

McCarthy was apparently part of the package when Frankenheimer became involved, but Golina was his idea. ''She was the easiest choice of all,'' said Frankenheimer. ''She is a good actress. She is foreign and speaks English, and that's all that matters. Other foreign actresses become wooden when they speak English, but Valeria does not. I wanted her. There was no one else in mind.''

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