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
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
While Cameron cannot be held accountable for what the completion bond company
agreed was "...an 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
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
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."