I don’t have to take any job that comes along,” says George Lazenby on the Los Angeles set of Fox Hunt, a spy thriller in which he plays a paunchy, middle-aged variation on his James Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But, he acknowledges, ”that’s this year. Next year I may have to go back to Hong Kong and make kung fu movies.”
It’s not quite a kung fu movie, but the bargain-basement Fox Hunt represents the latest bizarre twist in the evolution of multimedia: live-action games that are shot simultaneously with, or subsequently reedited into, feature films. A moderately successful CD-ROM when it was released early this year by Capcom (it has sold 25,000 copies), Fox Hunt also featured Rob Lowe, Timothy Bottoms, and, most important, a whopping 3 1/2 hours of movie footage.
”We had a feature film just sitting there,” says director Mike Berns. ”In the back of our heads we always kept thinking ‘Yeah, maybe we’ll go back at some point and make a movie out of it.”’ To beef up the plot, Berns and his partners at the multimedia company 3vision recently shot a week’s worth of additional scenes with former Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman, but even before that they had inked deals at the Cannes film festival with distributors from Korea, Italy, Brazil, and Germany (where, Berns proudly notes, the reconstituted Fox Hunt will be aired on prime-time TV).
The total cost of Fox Hunt’s original and added footage came in at a trifling $2 million — not bad, says Berns, for a production that involved 2,200 camera setups (about eight times more than usual) and more than 20,000 edits.
But Berns shouldn’t expect any praise from David Wheeler, director of the forthcoming live-action game and movie Tender Loving Care, who says: ”Tender Loving Care has one vision, one creative team, and all the original actors. The words extra added footage make my skin crawl.”
Tender Loving Care, a psychological drama starring John Hurt (Alien), was produced by Trilobyte — the Pacific Northwest studio behind the mother of all live-action games, The 7th Guest — for $2 million. The presence of Hurt, the kind of instantly recognizable, mid-level actor who can be touted prominently on a home-video package, has attracted the interest of such independent studios as Samuel Goldwyn, Trident, and New Line Cinema. And the casting of TLC offers a glimpse into big-time Hollywood talent agencies: According to Wheeler, William Morris offered a list of actors including Martin Landau, F. Murray Abraham, Danny Aiello, and Hurt.
No such luck for Peter Maris (director of the horror/action game Phantasmagoria), who’s helming the bugs-from-outer-space invasion thriller Alien Species, which he hopes to market simultaneously as a movie and a CD-ROM. The best he could manage on his million dollars was character actor Charles Napier (Philadelphia).
Not all CD-ROM movie adaptations involve such shoestring budgets, however. Take a look at Spycraft, the phenomenally successful PC game from Activision that has just been optioned by Lawrence Gordon Productions, the force behind Die Hard. ”We think this could be a franchise spy series for Universal,” says Gordon executive Adam Wohl. He says that the three-disc game has been mailed to ”all the A-list writers in Hollywood with a background in action pictures” and that he’s been receiving calls from former intelligence agents eager to work on the project. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that a similarly convoluted spy flick, Mission: Impossible, has raked in more than $173 million this summer and that former CIA director William Colby — who appears in the game — died recently in a mysterious boating accident.