Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lawnmower Man Makes Cyberhistory

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lawnmower Man Makes Cyberhistory

Article excerpt

INSIDE an anonymous building in an industrial park just north of Los Angeles, the information superhighway has finally arrived in Hollywood - with a vengeance. Patrick Bergin, the tall, rangy villain of "Patriot Games" and "Sleeping With the Enemy," is hunched up against a computer terminal with Austin O'Brien, the kid from "Last Action Hero," as director Farhad Mann ("Max Headroom") lines up a complex shot that will blend live action with computer graphics. The scene is from the new high-tech, virtual

reality thriller, "Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace," which opens today. It is the follow-up to the surprise 1992 hit that grossed over $120 million worldwide.

But this is no ordinary sequel, nor an ordinary Hollywood production. In fact, history is being made, as producer Edward Simons explains. "What's really innovative and exciting about this movie is that at the same time as we're shooting the film, we're also creating the CD-ROM game. So the director is shooting specific sequences that are being set up for the game; we're also filming the key members of the cast on the same sound stages, and these scenes also will be integrated into the CD-ROM version."

Mann, a veteran director of special effects projects, is well aware of the many challenges facing Hollywood's marriage between old-fashioned film and the brave new world of interactive media.

"The biggest one is to create an environment in virtual reality that has never been seen before," he says. "In most virtual reality, only one element, such as the background, is created. But here we're literally creating a whole universe inside the computer. It's extremely cinematic and action-oriented, but there's also a lot of focus on the characters and their relationships.

"I was a big fan of the first `Lawnmower Man,' but this is a lot different," stresses the director. "It's much more futuristic and we've worked hard to stay as cutting-edge as possible with our look and effects."

The filmmakers spent more than a year on pre-production before cameras started rolling, and more than a third of the film's $15 million budget has gone into effects.

"There have been so many great special effects developed over the last few years, and you have to keep topping them," he says. "The great thing now is that if you can imagine something, computer graphics can create it. You can have anything you want."

"I think this will be as significant as the first one was in virtual reality," executive producer Clive Turner says. "The effects that you see here will be light years ahead of anything else that's been done in this arena. …

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