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The Testoster Zone

By land or by sea, action pics bring nothing but trouble

At first blush it's hard to imagine Kevin Costner and Steven Seagal having much in common. Costner is one of Hollywood's favorite sons whose life, until recently, appeared seamless. Seagal is a blunt-edged, blue-collar star known for his tumultuous personal life and rough-hewn manner. So it's somewhat ironic to see that both Costner and Seagal have worked themselves into similar situations: under siege, with no way out.

The actors are finishing work on high-profile action movies of which they are both producer and star: Costner's postapocalyptic thriller Waterworld; Seagal's Under Siege sequel Dark Territory. Both films have suffered production delays, cost overruns, and tawdry gossip-column tidbits that have forced their stars and studios into defensive postures. ''Like O.J.,'' says David Weitzner, a spokesman for Waterworld's Universal, ''we're tired of being tried in the media.'' How did these heroes end up on the hot seat?

ALEXANDER HAIG SYNDROME
Even before shooting began on Dark Territory, Seagal insisted on his ''I'm in charge'' authority. First, producer Jon Peters left because of ''creative differences.'' Then Gary Busey, hired by Peters to reprise his Under Siege role (his death in the first film notwithstanding) was forced out; Seagal didn't buy Busey's reincarnation. Finally, during preproduction, Warner Bros. considered replacing director Geoff Murphy (Young Guns II) with Peter MacDonald (Rambo III) -- but Seagal showed them who's boss.

Similarly, Waterworld suffered a time delay at the outset as Costner insisted on perfecting the script. The actor had Speed's Joss Whedon brought to the Hawaiian set to punch up the screenplay, a job made difficult by Costner's ever-expansive ideas. According to one production source, Costner would tell Whedon, ''Let's put in this, let's put in this.'' And, according to The Wall Street Journal, Costner also nixed the studio's choice for director -- Gump's Robert Zemeckis -- in favor of longtime friend Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Universal denies Zemeckis' involvement.

DON'T FOOL WITH MOTHER NATURE
The cast and crew of Territory had to stop mid-shoot when snow blanketed their Colorado location and forced the production to head for warmer climes. But even before the snow, the crew had been pressed into service as firemen when a train they were filming threw off sparks and ignited a 200-acre grassland blaze near Boulder.

By contrast, fire was the least of Waterworld's problems. The logistical difficulties of shooting on floating sets, combined with all manner of bad weather (winds, rainstorms, hurricanes), turned its shooting schedule into a five-month ordeal. And once the production had finished in Hawaii and shooting had moved to suburban L.A., filming was immediately drowned out by January's torrential rains. ''The rain is killing us,'' moaned one Waterworld insider, all too aware of the irony of the situation.

IT'S GOING TO COST HOW MUCH?
The production delays only served to jack up both films' already hefty budgets. Sources say that Territory began with an initial budget of $47 million, but is now closer to $55 million. Of course, such numbers pale in comparison to Waterworld's alleged $160 million price tag, although most of the budget overruns (its initial cost was reportedly $100 million) can be blamed on the weather and the problems of shooting on water.

To make matters worse, Universal can't even cap the red inkwell yet. Just as a crew was ready to film additional scenes in Hawaii, the production's 40-foot-high main set sank in rough waters. At press time, salvage specialists had been hastily dispatched to investigate.

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