GOOD MORNING: From Camelot, on the England location of Columbia’s “First Knight.” In the forest of Burnham Beeches, about an hour out of London, I found Richard Gere, as Lancelot, sitting alongside the trunk of a giant, hundreds-of-years old tree. It was the same tree where a few weeks ago his horse bolted, tearing Gere’s left forehead, just above the eye. “I didn’t realize how bad it was until I put my hand up to it (his eye) and brought back a fistful of blood.” He said he was patched up by a nearby vet. “I’m OK, but every once in a while I neigh!”… Director Jerry Zucker and producer Hunt Lowry tell me Gere has been a good sport throughout the tough shoot, and that he does all of his own fencing and most of the stunts. And there are plenty of them in this mammoth production that has been in the works for four years. “When I read the script, ” Gere admitted to me, “at first I had no idea there would be so much action.” He plans to head to the Himalayas when the movie winds to meditate –“and take some lessons,” he told me. Although it was a rare sunny day in England, the set was being fogged by giant machines and sprayed by huge water hoses to create fake rain. The beautiful Julia Ormond, Guinevere, was thoroughly doused and beckoned by Gere (Lancelot) to be lovingly warmed. He had just saved her from the evil Malagant, as played by Ben Cross. The scene of escape from Malagant’s castle should be one for the stunt books … This epic had just returned from Wales’ giant sequences. And battle scenes with hundreds of knights on horses had filmed on the estate of the Duke of Wellington … Zucker and Lowry observe the action from nearby color monitor. Zucker told me “First Knight” will not be “Camelot.” This is, he says, a love story of Guinevere and Lancelot — told from the latter’s point of view. Natch, the two young lovers get together — the venerable King Arthur, as played by Sean Connery, makes the finale for their love story possible. You have to see the movie, of course, to learn how and why. The movie will be rated PG-13, positively, Lowry tells me … Joining me on the location to observe the goings-on were visiting Columbia exex Teddy Zee and Doug Belgrade. The former makes a trip over to look-see each month, on location and on the Pinewood set.
AT PINEWOOD, I WAS MET by veteran production designer John Box, who won Oscars for his artistry on “Lawrence of Arabia,” (his favorite picture) “Dr. Zhivago,””Oliver” and “Nicholas and Alexandra.” He showed me the working miniatures of the sets to be built on the lot. And then we were off in a Land Rover to the backlot. Behind the giant “007 Stage” stood the town of Leonesse, Guinevere’s home. It is so beautiful and lifelike, the studio workers eat their lunch in the village set and on its lawns. It is a shame to have to take it down. The modest Box says, “We are trying to keep the tradition going”– of movie grandeur. He said, “Warners is nipping around to see if they can use it for “Joan of Arc.” From this outdoor set we proceeded to the breathtaking Camelot — the castle, its courtyard, stables, royal blue turrets, etc. The set will be used for several sequences, including a tournament testing the bravery of Sir Lancelot — Gere. Box admitted there really isn’t enough space, time or money for a production this size — although what I’ve seen certainly looks the size and money (no one will guess the cost). But, as Billy Wilder once told me, “I don’t know anyone who goes up to the box office and asks, ‘How much did this movie cost? And did it go over budget?’ ” This “Camelot” is not the musical classic of Lerner and Loewe, but director Zucker admitted he’s seen it recently — his young daughter loves it.
I MET UP WITH DIRECTOR JOHN BOORMAN in the commissary at Pinewood. He was busy making a temporary dub of his “Beyond Rangoon,” for sneaks this weekend in the L.A. area. He told me Castle Rock has been “wonderfully supportive” of his mammoth movie made in Malaysia doubling for Burma, 1988. Patricia Arquette stars in the movie based on those tumultuous times, when two million people were subjected to horrors of torture, massacre, etc. Although they were able to shoot in Malaysia, he said the Burmese government tried to stop it, “and we expected to be expelled any day during the production.” He said, “All they (the government) had to do was to plant some drugs in my hotel room. I was very wary to see if anything was moved.” He said Patricia Arquette was very courageous — in spite of the leeches and mosquitoes! Because of Arquette’s performance, Boorman said Castle Rock wants to release the movie at year’s end to compete for an Oscar nomination. Following this difficult location, Boorman heads to a castle on the Loire in France to shoot one of Showtime’s “The Painters’ World” series — with other directors contributing half hours, including John Schlesinger and Joe Dante.