February 10, 1996
Web posted at: 8:10 a.m. EST
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Director John Woo likes his movies big, bright, and fiery. And from the looks of his sets, you might wonder if he likes his actors charbroiled.
John Travolta, Samantha Mathis, and Christian Slater learned to take some intense heat, especially when it came roiling off humongous explosions in the new movie "Broken Arrow." (306K QuickTime movie) Courtesy - 20th Century Fox
"I usually put the actors and the stuntmen in a real explosion, in real gunfire. They run scared, really scared," Woo says. He used to direct the same kind of action fare in Hong Kong.
Slater says that working with that kind of pyrotechnic power teaches some basic lessons. "You don't realize how hot fire really is until you are standing right next to a huge explosion," he says.
The heavy-artillery approach to "Broken Arrow" had delicate-boned Mathis wondering about her life insurance policy. "Is this really a good idea for me to have a helicopter three feet above my head?" she asked herself during shooting.
And with the battle cry, "I've never lost one yet!" Woo assembled his troops for the story of a nuclear weapon in the hands of some trigger-happy villains.
Filming was intense, the actors say -- a real muscle-cramping kind of intense. Travolta couldn't decide which stunt will be emblazoned on his psyche. "I think once we got into the meat of the stunts, they were all equally difficult," Travolta says.
For Slater and Mathis, their toughest shooting days were spent on a train. Slater's account reads like a typical trip to the grocery store for Buster Keaton, but he wasn't exactly as limber as the great silent film star. "Climb up on top of the train, run across, do all this crazy stuff, get shot at, have helicopters coming at you, falling off the train, getting dragged underneath ..." Gee, hope he stretched before all that.
Mathis says it was a wild ride. "We were both underneath the train when the explosion happened with the helicopter. You're two feet above the track, racing along at 40 mph."
But Woo's actors aren't just flung out into the wild blue yonder. He insists on safety first. "I looked like Pinocchio. There were wires coming out of me everywhere, just to make sure that I wouldn't fall or slip," Slater says.
Travolta says Woo employs a complex combination of calculated strategy with his actors. "Every move he makes is a selling shot. I was overwhelmed."
And you get to watch it, without the wires, in a safe movie theater this weekend.
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