Film: Film Rushes

IF YOU'RE feeling generous, you may criticise The Siege, the forthcoming 20th Century Fox thriller, for bad timing. But the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) claims that significant parts of the film, starring Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington and Annette Bening, are "gratuitously offensive", according to reports in the Los Angeles Times.

In the light of the widespread Western belief that Muslim fundamentalists were responsible for the recent Kenyan and Tanzanian bombings, the film, directed by Ed Zwick, was bound to run into trouble: it deals with the harsh treatment of Arab-Americans following a Muslim bombing campaign in New York. Variety has surmised that the bombing of a Cape Town Planet Hollywood restaurant, in which Siege star Bruce Willis is an investor, may have been specifically in response to the film's purported anti-Islamic slant.

CAIR claims that it has received numerous complaints about the film's American trailer, which cuts a scene of Muslims at prayer with bombing footage.

For its part, CAIR has criticised Fox for insensitivity, given the recent bombings, and has requested that the studio "either re-evaluate and reshoot the main plot line or insert disclaimers and eliminate all religious symbolism." According to the Los Angeles Times, CAIR had already expressed concern to Fox about the stereotyped Western prejudices it believed the film depicted; in particular, "lecherous, threatening, misogynistic, fanatic, exotic, foreign infiltrators who lust after Baywatch and `American' liberties."

Zwich and producer Linda Obst have insisted that the film's intention is in fact to undermine the very stereotypes that CAIR fear go unquestioned in `The Siege'. "The point of this movie,' Zwick apparently told the L.A. Times, `is to take a hard look at this country, our country, its prejudices, its stereotyping, and oppression."

Fox, which defended the film as "thought-provoking", has announced no plans to change it, or postpone its release date.

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IF YOU want to engineer your big break in the movies you may have to break the bank first. For those who fancy "starring" alongside Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in MGM's forthcoming remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, the studio is organising an auction. Bidding is to open at $10,000 and the wannabe with the deepest pockets will report to John McTiernan in New York City when filming starts in a couple of months. The studio has pledged anything in excess of the winning bid's first $10,000 to the cure and prevention of ovarian cancer. In fact, so authentic a film experience has MGM in mind for the lucky extra that they've even laid on the usual condition that there's "no guarantee" that your blood, sweat and tears will end up in the final cut.

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IT SEEMS that Gus Van Sant, who directed Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, is to join forces with his Oscar-winning lead once again. According to Variety, the pair have got a big screen adaptation of the life of the cartoonist John Callahan in their sights. The Columbia Pictures project, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, will depict the battles with alcoholism and suicidal tendencies that Callahan faced after a car accident left him a quadriplegic.

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