Director finds there's less jungle out there

February 17, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD -- It may be a jungle out there, but director John McTiernan thinks there's not enough of it left. At least that's what he found out when he scouted locations for his latest film, Hollywood Pictures' "Medicine Man," which stars Sean Connery as a scientist who discovers a cancer cure in the Amazon rain forests.

Mr. McTiernan says that his original plan was to shoot "Medicine Man" in Palenque, Mexico, an area next to the Guatemalan border and the spot where he filmed "Predator" in 1985. There was just one problem: In the five years since he was there, the jungle had disappeared. "It was developed into a hotel and two or three other tourist attractions," says Nr, McTiernan. "There was basically no jungle left. I was shocked."

After scouting for jungles unsuccessfully throughout Central America and Venezuela by airplane and helicopter, Mr. McTiernan headed for Borneo, where he also came up empty-handed. His next stop was Malaysia, which, during World War II, was known for its fabled thick foliage that kept the Japanese army at bay. This is the '90s, though -- "It now looks like Southern California," he says.

Although "Medicine Man" takes place in Venezuela, Mr. McTiernan says he wasn't interested in filming in the Amazon. He cited the problems faced by the crew of "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," which was filmed in the small Brazilian town of Belem. "After hearing about cases of yellow fever and jaundice on that film, we went looking for a place that was less stressful."

While Mr. McTiernan places some blame on land developers for the rapidly shrinking jungle, he says the population explosion in Central and South America is the major cause. "It's just the press of people," he says. "Suddenly they're breeding cattle and there's a reason for cutting down a jungle because they need the land.

"We kept hearing horror stories about how universities would lose part of their land because a commune suddenly appeared one night."

So where did Mr. McTiernan end up filming "Medicine Man"? After a three-month search, the director settled on 125 acres of jungle in Catemaco, Mexico, about 100 miles south of Veracruz.

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