GOOD MORNING from New York and, to be more exact, Chinatown and a seedy site under the Manhattan Bridge. As the Queens subway roars overhead and trucks, taxis and cars cough by, major portions of Universal/Imagine’s “The Cowboy Way” are filming this second, under director Gregg Champion. The first location, in the clear, quiet air of Santa Fe, is completed and now the troupe is braving the big city. But Champion and line producer Mac Brown tell me N.Y. is a pleasure in which to shoot — including scenes in Central Park, Times Square and the bridge itself. No costs for shooting permits, no payment for police permits, etc. Imagine’s Brian Grazer, fresh from the N.Y. location of his Ron Howard-directed “The Paper,” told me that movie cost $ 14 million below the line and “Cowboy” is “a little bit more.” They all admit the only problem shooting in N.Y.: It may take forever to move the mammoth movie crew’s equipment across town. Traffic in N.Y. gets more and more gridlocked every year. And new tortures await, with street holes appearing overnight. But Grazer adds, “I’ve had good luck in New York. Everyone is cooperative.” Grazer is particularly happy to see this movie rolling –“I’ve tried for six years to get it made. I wrote the original story six years ago.” Director Champion tells me the action (and how!) comedy with Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland will probably be rated PG-13. But when I remind him of a scene in Central Park filmed last week, involving one of the cast members (sans trousers) and a hungry calf — Champion says, “Oh well, that was just one of Pancho Villa’s methods of torture.”
WOODY, WAITING TO BE CALLED into a scene that has him and Kiefer dropping down the fire escape of a tenement 50 yards away from the screaming bridge traffic noise, welcomed me into his trailer. An assistant asks if he’ll be able to take a fall in the next scene — Harrelson re-injured his ankle, sprained a month ago on the set of Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers.””I ran to jump on a horse,” Woody laughed, “but the horse didn’t cooperate — and I jumped over him!” Harrelson’s hair has grown back slightly from the shaved pate he bares in “Killers.” He thinks that movie will be a killer — calls it the ’90s version of “A Clockwork Orange” insofar as the special effects go. He says he’s wanted to do “Cowboy Way” for years and was hoping that Kevin Costner would bow out. “He (Kevin) had even written one of the scripts,” said Harrelson. “I’m glad his plate was too full and he wasn’t able to do this one.”… He is particularly complimentary of his co-star and tells me Sutherland has a great comedy sense. Meanwhile, it’s Kiefer who reciprocates by saying it’s Harrelson who makes him and the scenes funny … Harrelson, who became a daddy (of daughter Denni Montana H.) six months ago thanks to Laura Louie, tells me he’s on the phone daily with the baby — he is indeed a doting dad. He will bring mother and daughter to N.Y. next week. When’s the wedding? Harrelson says he doesn’t believe in formal marriage but assures me he and Laura have a commitment … When this movie winds, he takes a break from filmmaking for three projects: Performing his music, revamping his play “Farthest From the Sun,” and yoga.
I JOINED KIEFER SUTHERLAND outside his trailer as he, cowboy hat properly tilted back on his head, was lassoing a dummy steer’s horns from a respectable 30 feet — and not missing a toss. Neighborhood kids stood politely by and watched in awe as the Hollywood cowboy gained their applause. Kiefer admitted he’d spent time as a youngster in Montana. He and Woody do some fancy riding (as do doubles, of course) in the movie and that includes the aforementioned locations of Times Square and Central Park. It is, as noted, a comedy chase movie. Kiefer, who was full-bearded as Athos in the recently wound “Three Musketeers,” now sports only a menacing moustache — but his smile and laugh transform any “heavy” countenance. Sutherland is in excellent spirits, personally and professionally, and enjoying the “buddy” movie with Woody. The cast also includes Marg Helgenberger as the romantic interest, Dylan McDermott, Luis Guzman as the “heavy,” Matthew Cowles and Travis Tritt, who is also writing a tune for the movie. I met up with Tritt’s manager-mentor Ken Kragen in the lobby of the Regency Hotel. Kragen’s in N.Y. talking to Tritt’s WB publishers on his book “10 Feet Tall and Bullet Proof,” and Kragen’s also meeting with Wm. Morrow on (client) Trisha Yearwood’s book “Get Hot or Go Home” and — Kragen’s upcoming book “Life Is a Contact Sport,” which Morrow will launch with a one-day blitz in N.Y., Nashville and L.A. … Trisha Yearwood finally makes her once-canceled appearance on Jay Leno’s show on Oct. 25.