Samples of Brad's Writing
"Noah's Ark" Sinking in a Sea of Red Ink

Normally, the cool, wafting breezes on the coast of this Central American nation make life tranquil. That was until James Cameron decided to shoot part of his newest epic here.

After "Titanic" successfully blasted into port, Cameron has seemingly done the impossible: he's come up with a concept for a new film even more colossal in nature--and accordingly--with an even larger budget.

Reports of the actual negative cost of "Titanic" set tongues wagging in its time. Yet now, the actionmeister has somehow finagled $300 million from three different studios in order to meet the demands of the unfinished and already infamous "Noah's Ark."

Making a bigger splash was obviously his intent, as Cameron has exponentially increased the scope of his filmmaking to now include scenes of not just boats sinking but entire villages.

Cameron used his own money in part to fund the building of an ancient Biblical town. The town, officially owned by Cameron's Digital Domain and named Ojo del Muerte, currently boasts 7,000 inhabitants. When the master of water-based filmmaking is through, the town will be underwater, destroyed forever.

As has been discussed extensively by the media recently, the potential for an on-set disaster is huge. Many of the Central American extras, posing as Bibical citizens, will be under a deluge from an enormous tank of water, the largest ever built. In a never-before-attempted stunt, hundreds of men and women will have to swim to a safe cove out of range of the stunt's seven camera placements.

Wisely, each extra has been forced to sign a waiver, so that lawsuits will be out of the question. Eudora Himmelfarb, an associate producer on the set in Belize, graciously acceded to a brief phone interview, admitting, "Jim knew that a tsunami-type wave washing out a village of screaming people is still not within our CGI abilities. But it sure as hell looks great from a helicopter with real people gasping for breath."

The likelihood of set injuries is not the only thing that could wash "Noah's Ark" up on the Red Ink shore. There's all those animals.

Cameron's notorious battle to use live animals to put into the gigantic, three-quarter mile long mahogany ark may be over. But he still has to work with 672 species of male and female animal partners.

To be fair to the visionary, feisty director, one must expect trouble with so many wild animals forced to work on a movie set. Ironically, it is not the wild cats--the jaguars, bobcats, panthers, lions and pumas--that have cause the most woe. Rather, disaster has befallen the wrangler of the tapir, which bit off three fingers from the left hand of Aranxta Lourdes Gritarlo.

Further bollixing up release date plans is the death of Lowell Pertwee, who was the wrangler for the giraffes, until one grew inexplicably enraged, sunk its teeth into Pertwee's groin, picked him up and hurled him headfirst into a Chapman crane.

While Cameron cannot be held accountable for what the completion bond company agreed was " unexpected biochemical mood shift in the giraffe," the director, as many have contended, could have used fewer animals, creating computer effects to suggest their presence. Again, an aesthetic beyond normal film recognition determined that real animals and the danger they pose would further the impact of the newly crowned, most expensive movie ever made.

If Cameron can keep afloat despite water and animal challenges, what will remain to conquer is the human element.

It is now two full weeks since Cameron's Noah, in the guise of Matt Damon with much makeup and prosthetics, walked off the set. Unlike experiences with "The Abyss" and "Titanic," when Ed Harris and Kate Winslet resented the danger and amount of time in the water, Damon's complaint is of another stripe entirely.

Caught in an unguarded moment, Damon told the upstart media magazine "Youngbloods" that the unbearable stench of animal excrement has forced him to retreat into his air-conditioned trailer between laborious takes. Damon's storming off the set is alleged to be due to his accidentally stepping into the droppings of some hyenas.

Damon, who got the director's nod for the role over vet Gene Hackman, has also been felled by dengue fever, as have many of the cast and crew. His whereabouts have not been disclosed, but the production office acknowledged a fax from Damon, assuring them he would return in a few days, when he feels better.

The letter included a drawing of a man hung by the neck on an ark sinking into an ocean with a tidal wave about to swallow it up.

"You have to know Matt personally to understand his sense of humor," Himmelfarb insisted. "And sure, it's rough going now. But Matt's a real pro and a terrific talent, and as soon as he's released from the sanitarium, he's going to come back and do the best work of his career."