'Patriot Games' also produced behind-the-scenes thrills

June 19, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Now that "Patriot Games" is packing crowds into theaters, Mace Neufeld can afford a look back at how the high-profile project came together -- and almost didn't. Mr. Neufeld and partner Robert Rehme produced the Harrison Ford thriller based on Tom Clancy's tome, and he's been involved on every level of the project.

The picture made news before the cameras even started rolling, when Alec Baldwin -- CIA analyst Jack Ryan in "The Hunt for Red October" -- ankled the sequel because of a schedule conflict (he was set to star with Jessica Lange in the Broadway revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire"), and Mr. Neufeld and Paramount Pictures were left hanging.

"It was very distressing personally," remembers Mr. Neufeld, "because I made "Red October" with Alec, he did a great job, and we were quite friendly. The failure to get him committed to the film when we needed the commitment was a blow.

"The fact that, miraculously, Harrison read the script and said he'd do it after he'd turned down 'Red October' initially, was a great omen. . . . Harrison brings an international star-power to the film, as well as great experience and maturity."

Once shooting got under way, more trouble erupted when Mr. Clancy, having read an early draft of the script, loudly separated himself from the project, accusing the studio and filmmakers of compromising the integrity of his book.

"The Clancy thing was disturbing," acknowledges Mr. Neufeld. "But I never really took it as seriously as some people did, because one of his complaints, at one point, was that Harrison was too old for the role, which was contradictory to what I knew he thought."

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