Posted tagged ‘fortunes of war’

Michael Ironside and “Catch A Taxi Productions”

January 16, 2009

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by Michael D. Sellers

As many of you know, Michael Ironside will be joining the cast of Way of the Dolphin for the Los Angeles shoot.  He’ll be playing the role of Captain Elias Blaine.  I haven’t spoken to him yet and I’m not sure he’ll remember me (I’m almost certain he won’t), but we’ve met and actually worked together once, long ago.

It was in the Philippines in 1992.  I was line producing my first bona-fide international film — Fortunes of War — starring Michael, Martin Sheen, Haing Ngorr (of Killing Fields fame), and some others.   Michael worked on the first day of filming, which was to take place at a residence in some very remote corner of “Metro Manila” (which means the whole 15 million population mega-city), probably a good hour in nasty traffic from the hotel.  Although as line producer I was generally responsible for all aspects of the below the line production, which would normally include getting the actors to the set — the American producers (I was considered a Philippine producer because I lived there) didn’t want to entrust this to the Filipino side, and insisted on organizing this themselves.  picture-114

So, on this first day, I remember arriving there before daylight, checking to make sure that the camera truck was there; the grip/electric truck; the catering; the craft services; all the different pieces of production.  Everything was good.  We had cameras; we had lights; we had film; we had all the picture vehicles; the set was ready; set dressing was in place; props were there — you get the idea, it’s a long checklist and when you’re production manager or line producer it’s all your responsibility.

Then the actor’s started arriving and — Michael Ironside was missing. It wasn’t that he was late.  It was just that he wasn’t in the van bringing actors to the set and he wasn’t in his hotel room.

By this time the US producers were there too and there was a big scramble to try and figure out where Michael Ironside was.  The communications weren’t good — we had radios for communicating around the set, but this was before there was any cell phone coverage in this section of Manila (might have been pretty much before cell phones entirely).

I remember standing on the balcony of the house that was our set, looking down a road that was a long, slow climb down a hill. Eventually I saw a decrepit Manila taxi (all taxis in Manila were decrepit in those days) putt-putting up the hill.  It slowed down and seemd to be searching for an address (no street numbers, of course), and my hopes rose.  And sure enough, the taxi stops, the door opens, and Michael Ironside gets out.

I’m pretty sure I was the first one to greet him and he was pretty cool about the whole thing.  Seemed to be taking it in stride.  I thanked him profusely for finding his way to the set on his own (no small feat), didn’t ask too many questions about how it happened, and walked him up the driveway to the house where we were filming.  There I handed him off to the First AD and breathed a sigh of relief.  We were complete.  Whew.

But the PS to all this is the following:  As I said, Michael was totally cool about it when it happened and didn’t show his anger at anyone, and in fact seemed to take the whole thing in stride.  If you’re not in the film biz this may not seem that big a deal — but let me assure you, in a foreign country, on the first day of filming, to somehow miss the pickup of one of your major stars and leave him standing at the hotel with no ride to the set and no way of communicating with the crew — this was a huge screwup and many/most actors of Michael’s stature would have been spitting nails by the time they got to the set.  Michael didn’t do that.  He did, however, get his comment on this when he showed up the next day wearing a T shirt with a beautifully designed logo and inscribed:  “Catch A Taxi Productions, Manila Philippines,” and then the date on it.

Message received, loud and clear.  And, all things considered, it was a very gentle way of chiding the production for a pretty big mistake on day one.

Anyway — I did some searching around the net and was able to find the trailer for that film.  It brings back memories for sure, and it’s worth a look.  It wasn’t a bad film at all.  And I brought in the entire below the line Philippine cost at $297,000 — pretty hard to imagine doing that now.  Take a look:  FORTUNES OF WAR TRAILER