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Toronto Sun
Monday, November 29, 1999

Sinkhole goes deep

T.O. becomes New Orleans for disaster flick shoot


"Somebody told me this business was glamorous. I want to find that guy. I have something to say to him," director Mario Azzopardi said, shaking his damp shaggy head ruefully over the rain drenching his movie set.

"I didn't want to get out of bed," admitted Azzopardi, a big bear of a man. "It's so difficult to come to work on some days. And this is supposed to be Louisiana."

Yes, Toronto, the city that wears so many movie faces well, is being called upon to pose as that most flamboyant of Southern belles -- New Orleans -- for the disaster movie, Sinkhole. Friday was production day eight on the month-long shoot of the film being produced by Alliance Atlantis Communications for broadcast on the TBS superstation next June.

Despite the day of distinctly inclement weather, the show did go on, all of it outdoors, with the grounds of Osgoode Hall doubling for New Orleans' Jackson Square. It's one of those technical oddities that all but the heaviest of rainfall is invisible on film.

"Look straight ahead. If you can't really see it, we're okay," explained producer Frank Siracusa.

Sinkhole stars Brittany Daniel and John Corbett were faring okay, if not perfectly comfortable.

"Well, for me it's hard because I'm from Florida and I live in California now, so adjusting to this weather is kind of difficult," said Daniel, 23, who slipped a full-length down coat over her belly-baring crop top outfit between takes.

"It's not that bad. They're taking care of us. We have a lot of silk underwear on."

Special movie underwear! Another Hollywood North secret revealed!

"I'm not wearing my special underwear today," confided Corbett, 37.

"But you're in your Superman garb, aren't you?" teased Daniel.

Sinkhole is set during New Orleans' madcap Mardi Gras party week. Corbett plays a geologist whose warnings of impending disaster from giant sinkholes opening up in a city that sits below sea level are ignored by politicians afraid of losing the tourism riches the annual celebration brings in.

Despite a budget richer than the US$3-million movie-of-the-week average, Siracusa believes a disaster movie, even one he describes as "action, action, action," needs to also focus on relationship plots to hold viewers these days.

"Audiences today, with movies like Armageddon, they've seen it all," he said.

An Armageddon cast member, Toronto hometown girl Jessica Steen, completes Sinkhole's lead acting trio. She's cast as New Orleans' chief administrator, whose business interests conflict with the safety concerns of her fiance, Corbett's character. Daniel plays Steen's visiting niece.

"Luckily I have a stunt double," Daniel said. "My character falls into the sinkhole, almost dies and saves her boyfriend's life. There's a lot of stunt work involved in it, which is tough in this cold weather. And the outfit! I have this little sexy James Bond kind of outfit that I'm wearing in half of the movie so there's not much room for warming up in that thing. They're trying to line it with fleece right now because it's so cold."

Again with the cold! Honestly, if Daniel weren't so darned adorable, she'd need to be smacked.

"I hear it gets worse than this," she said, dead serious. "That's hard for me to believe."

After Sinkhole, Daniel will head south to her recurring role on Dawson's Creek as Eve Whitman, "this free-spirited, focused woman who's trying to de-virginize Dawson." On her last Dawson's appearance, it was revealed that Eve and series regular Michelle Williams' Jen are long-lost sisters.

Sinkhole co-star Corbett has more experience with northerly climes -- his old TV series Northern Exposure, on which he played mellow, spiritual DJ Chris, was filmed entirely on location in Roslyn, Washington. He's also been there, done that, when it comes to major urban centres being menaced by highly unlikely natural phenomena. He was in the 1997 feature Volcano, in which hot lava lapped at Los Angeles.

Next week, production of Sinkhole moves to an Uxbridge gravel pit that's portraying the crater-like sinkhole. In March, the cameras head to New Orleans for four days to capture some real local flavour.

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Last update: November 1, 2000 3:28 AM