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'Battleship' sets sail with good will in its wake

By Mike Gordon

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After nearly two months of filming in Hawaii, the cast and crew of "Battleship" are weighing anchor for Baton Rouge, La. The $200 million production from Universal Pictures employed hundreds of local extras and a handful of actors who say the experience was largely positive, with director Peter Berg getting high marks for being an all-around good guy.

A day after filming finished, Berg praised a large group of extras. He then asked them to put their names in a hat so he could draw three names and give each person $500.

One of those extras was Teddy Wells, a part-time actor, chef and businessman who said he had never encountered that kind of behavior from directors. They often simply lord over their projects because, well, they can. If extras hear any kind of praise at all, it's secondhand, said Wells, who also runs the Hawaii Actors Network website.

Berg's project was different. He even made sure there were umbrellas for his extras.

Loosely based on the Hasbro game, "Battleship" pits space aliens against the U.S. Navy. Think "Independence Day" meets "Pearl Harbor" with warships set to accelerate the action. The world could forgive a director caught up in all that.

But during filming aboard the USS Hopper, a guided-missile destroyer, the script called for explosions, general mayhem and extras running all over the ship. Berg liked what he saw, Wells said. So much, in fact, that the director stopped the cameras and gave speaking roles to five of the extras. The lines they were given meant their paychecks grew from about $65 a day to about $700.

Wells believes Berg's motivation can be found in his lengthy resume, which includes helming "Friday Night Lights" and "Hancock" and extensive acting credits, from a recurring role in the TV series "Chicago Hope" to his portrayal of an FBI agent in 2007's "The Kingdom," which he also directed. "Here you have an actor who is now a director who understands," Wells said. "He had more empathy. That was somebody who cared."

Berg was humbled by his off-set encounters in Honolulu, especially those at the Kawano Boxing Club in Kalihi where he unleashed the stress of filmmaking. Berg always joins a boxing gym when he is on location. The workout is a good antidote for a job in which "everyone has to be nice to you," he said recently. In the ring, no one cares much for job titles.

"It has always been something dear to me," he said. "As I get older, though, I try to limit the number of head shots I take, but I love boxing and I love the mental exercise of it."

When cast and crew of the production leave, they'll take 10 local actors, a driver and a camera assistant to Baton Rouge, where "Battleship" will use some of the huge sound stages at Raleigh Studios in the Celtic Media Centre.

THE FILM and video Association of Hawaii, which helped sponsor a recent talk by Berg and a similar one this spring with Alexander Payne, will hold a writing seminar Oct. 27 with Douglas Day Stewart, his son Sean Douglas Stewart and Brian Watanabe. The elder Stewart authored screenplays for "The Blue Lagoon," "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Vision Quest," and Watanabe wrote the screenplay for "Operation: Endgame" that was made into a feature film by Darko Entertainment. Cost is $20. E-mail rsvp@favah.org.

DANYEL KILGORE, daughter of local casting agent Laurie Foi, says her mother is out of intensive care and continues to recover from a brain aneurysm suffered last month. Foi was handling the casting for ABC's "Off the Map" but now faces up to a year of therapy. "She has a lot of pain," Kilgore said. "She will have severe headaches for a while."

Foi remains at the Queen's Medical Center, and her daughter says visitors are welcome.

Meanwhile, Hawaii's Kona Carmack, the former Playboy centerfold and a University of Southern California film school graduate, has been tasked with casting for "Off the Map."

"THE TEMPEST," the Talk Story Productions film, will have its Hawaii premiere Wednesday at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Directed by Julie Taymor, the film stars two Oscar winners: Helen Mirren ("The Queen," 2006) and Chris Cooper ("Adaptation," 2002).

But the film is just as noteworthy for being the largest indie financed and produced in the islands. "The Tempest" was shot on Lanai and the Big Island with a budget of $22 million.

And that's a wrap.

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. E-mail him at mgordon@staradvertiser.com.






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