Feature:Luxembourg movies pull big names

March 1, 2002 at 2:25 PM
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LUXEMBOURG, March 1 (UPI) -- A dragon's egg has been found at an abandoned steel mill in Luxembourg. Covered with yellowish-green scales, the 6-foot-tall egg is not a product of genetic engineering, but part of the film "George and The Dragon" being shot in the Grand Duchy.

It rests on a movie set, inside a former steel mill. Empty mills, with their generous space, have been partially converted to studios to boost the small but growing film industry here.

There is actually a virtual nest of dragon eggs, according to Peter Powis, the production designer for the film.

"We have a translucent egg in which ... we can actually see the form of the baby dragon inside. We have a heavy rig for crushing sequences ...We have a light weight egg ...and we have in effect what are hatching eggs."

Powis confesses he is not a dragonologist, and he had to draw on his imagination to create the eggs, "...combining facts from dinosaur structure, present day alligator eggs, turtle eggs ... and you go off to your childhood fantasies of ... dragons and these mystical things that floated around ... it becomes very much an aspect much closer to the heart."

No matter how you like your eggs, there are other interesting aspects to the film. It has attracted plenty of big names.

Screen-stud Val Kilmer is doing a cameo as El Cabillo, one of the bad guys. Patrick Swayze plays a knight in less-than-shining armor, Piper Perabo a princess in waiting, and Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile") a Moorish soldier of fortune. A studio source described this as Swayze's first major role as a villain.

And of course James Purefoy is the legendary George the dragon slayer. You may remember him as the Black Prince of Wales from "A Knight's Tale," the film where people were singing "We will rock you ..." at a jousting tournament. As for the dragon -- that's computer generated. You have to make some concessions to technology.

Nature dominated for a while though. Stormy weather in the form of rain, snow and hail gave a dramatic flourish to the Medieval mayhem at the Brandenbourg castle. Work is now turning more to studio scenes. There was earlier location shooting in France.

Dig deep into your pocket for this epic. Luxembourg's Carousel Picture Company is footing a bill of around $30 million with its German partner ApolloMedia. Filming is expected to run through late April.

This is Carousel's first large budget in-house movie, with the script entirely developed by the company. Carousel has co-produced at least 17 other films with scripts from other partners. Carousel is one of several film companies in Luxembourg, which offers lucrative tax incentives and inexpensive labor to film makers.

That's just the business side, there is also growing glamour. Robert Moore, Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, Christopher Lambert and John Turturro are a few of the stars have recently graced the stage here.

There is no equivalent of Grauman's Chinese theater, yet. There is a miniature Venice here complete with canals and Ghetto, however. It was built for the film "Secret Passage" with Turturro last summer and is being used for other applications.

At least one dozen feature films were made in Luxembourg in 2000 -- a good showing for this small nation of 440,000, according to the Luxembourg government's film fund office. France produced the most feature films in the 15-nation European Union in 2000, turning out 171 flicks, said the European Union's official statistics agency, Eurostat.

"There are more and more films going on in Europe and also in Luxembourg," says Romain Schroeder, Carousel co-founder. "So it's nothing unusual in the business anymore to shoot a film in Luxembourg."

"Boffo in Boston", "Socco in San Fran" -- you haven't heard that kind of Variety-lingo in Luxembourg yet. However, hints of Tinsel Town are insinuating their way into the Grand Duchy, the cinematic bosom of Europe.

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