Just like comedians famously always want
to play Hamlet, movie stars, especially those of the action variety, always seem to want to either/or act in straight drama
and direct. Directing his own vehicles proved the route to critical respectability for Clint Eastwood, so what the hell, why
shouldn't everyone have a go? From the studio's point of view it's worth a try too, after all, Costner didn't do a bad job
with Dances With Wolves. Maybe these actor types aren't so faft after all.
Steven Seagal, probably the nearest screen
equivalent to the younger Clint Eastwood, was originally slated to direct his breakthrough into the big leagues, Under Siege,
after co-producing most of his previous hits. As it transpired, he had to wait until now to make his debut behind the camera
with On Deadly Ground.
|Director Steven Seagal "ON DEADLY GROUND"
After Under Siege, which was given
a major boost by a top-of-the-line supporting cast including Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey, Seagal has learned to surround
himself with the best. In On Deadly Ground that includes Michael Caine (who colud do with being in a hit) and Joan Chen, from
The Last Emperor and Oliver Stone's Heaven And Earth.
who began his directoral career with the relatively small scale Play Misty For Me and Breezy, Seagal took on the script for
a tough Alaskan shoot, where howling blizzards one day can be followed by temperatures in the nineties the next, with blizzards,
explosions, oil fires, dogsleds and oil chases.
|MICHAEL CAINE & STEVEN SEAGAL
|STEVEN SEAGAL & JOAN CHEN
The Aikido master turned world famous
actor also refused to make a carbon copy of the action films that had made him a star, with its concerns about the ecology
and the rights of native Americans, On Deadly Ground wears its heart on its sleeve. "This is a picture that I care deeply
about", says the first time director. "If it wasn't something special, I wouldn't have gone to the great effort and risk".
quality of the script was also a major factor in attracting such a big name cast to the project. "I wouldn't have come and
done a crash, bang martial arts film", says Michael Caine. "There's more to On Deadly Ground than that. Although we have an
exciting piece of entertainment, the film does carry an important message as well".
|STEVEN SEAGAL ON THE SET
A commitment to the project was sorely
needed by the production team during the arduous location shoot. Apart from the predictable problems caused by the weather,
many locations were inaccessible by road. This didn't stop Joan Chen from travelling to Alaska before filming began to research
her character, an Inuit activist. "I tried to learn the Inuit language and something about their culture", she explains. Their
way of life is so beautiful. It's a simple, basic life, with a complete lack of greed".
Other aspects of the production
strived to be just as srupulously accurate to the Inuit way of life. Production designer William skinner and costume designer
Joe Aulisi referred to tradditional Inuit designs when depicting the Native American aspects of the film, in contrast to the
ultra-modern offices and refineries of Aegis Oil. To ensure accuracy, two technical advisers were hired, Brian Westcott and
Leona Blink (the wife of Chief Irvin Blink, who plays Joan Chen's tribal chief father in the film), both native Alaskans.