Events overtake Hollywood's coming attractions

September 16, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Movie Critic

Reality and Hollywood came a little too close to each other for comfort this past week, as attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caused several studios to delay opening films that are either set in New York or have plots that hinge on terrorist acts.

Touchstone's Big Trouble and Paramount Classics' Sidewalks of New York, both of which were scheduled to open Friday, had their release dates pushed back. A third film, Collateral Damage from Warner Bros., also has been postponed.

Big Trouble, which stars Tim Allen, Rene Russo and Stanley Tucci in a comedy centering on the pursuit of a black-market nuclear bomb, has been shelved indefinitely, according to a spokeswoman for Touchstone, an arm of Disney. The bomb in question ends up on an airplane, a scenario unlikely to generate much in the way of laughter after last Tuesday's events.

The studio also canceled the pre- release press junket for the film.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this terrible tragedy," Touchstone spokeswoman Vivian Boyer said.

Sidewalks of New York, a series of intertwining love stories starring Edward Burns, Heather Graham and Tucci, also will not be released as scheduled Friday. No new date has been set.

"Due to recent events and sensitivity to current issues, we decided to postpone release of the film until later this year," Paramount Classics co-presidents Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein said in a statement.

Collateral Damage stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a firefighter whose wife and children are killed when Colombian terrorists blow up a U.S. consulate. The film had been scheduled for an Oct. 5 release, but Warner Bros. executives met yesterday and decided against moving it into theaters anytime soon. No new release date has been set.

The studio also is attempting to retrieve all outdoor advertising and other promotional materials for the film, and plans to pull the film's Web site and cancel all radio and television advertisements.

In addition, Columbia pulled trailers for its Spider Man because it featured shots of the World Trade Center's twin towers. The film is set to be released next year, and a studio spokesman said scenes depicted in the trailer were not planned for the final film.

And DreamWorks has pulled its national ad campaign for "The Last Castle," a prison drama starring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini. Promotional posters for the film, which is still scheduled for an Oct. 12 release, feature an upside-down American flag, a symbol of distress.

The fates of a host of other films scheduled to open over the coming months, many of which are set in New York and may very likely include shots of the famous World Trade Center-dominated skyline, have not been addressed. Those include Don't Say a Word, a thriller starring Michael Douglas as a Manhattan psychiatrist; K-PAX, with Kevin Spacey as a man who shows up at Grand Central Station claiming to be an alien; and Serendipity, with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale as potential lovers who meet while strolling along the streets of Manhattan (the film's posters include the twin towers in the background).

"I think everybody has looked at their release schedule and the content of the films and tried to do what is reasonable," said a spokeswoman for Sony Pictures, noting that her studio had decided against taking any action. "We don't really have a terrific number of films opening in the near future," she said.

Even films now in production in New York, such as Men in Black 2, are being affected by Tuesday's tragedy. The film's finale, which was set against the World Trade Center towers, is being rewritten, a Sony Pictures spokesperson said, and any other scenes including the buildings will be reshot or digitally altered.

Jackie Chan's next film, Nosebleed, which was set to feature the martial arts star as a World Trade Center window washer who becomes aware of a plot to blow the towers up, will also have its plot changed, according to Zap2it.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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