Executive Decision: Production Notes

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"I like the idea of this movie," says Joel Silver, who produces "Executive Decision." "I felt that this was the kind of film the audience could have a good time watching. They could ask themselves what they would do in this situation because the hero, David Grant, is a pretty ordinary guy who gets thrown into this situation."

Silver had previously worked with screenwriters Jim and John Thomas on the two "Predator" movies and he admired their talent for building suspense in an action-filled setting. "The close quarters of the plane and the need to remain hidden from the terrorists until the right moment kicks up the tension of this story very well," Silver asserts. "It makes the anti-terrorists' task a mental one as well as a physical one -- which allows David Grant to make his contribution."

Silver selected Stuart Baird, a respected editor and second-unit director who has collaborated with the producer on many previous films, to make his directing debut with "Executive Decision." "Stuart and I have worked on many, many action pictures together," explains Silver. "He has a terrific sense of pacing and really understands how to build a mood."

Baird, whose editing projects with Joel Silver include the "Lethal Weapon" films, "The Last Boy Scout," "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and "Demolition Man," says, "I'm pleased to make my directing debut with 'Executive Decision.' It was, of course, a pleasure to work with Joel again, but I was also very impressed with the various layers of the story, the moments of action counterbalanced by the suspense and tension.

"It was also great working with this cast, a pretty exceptional group of actors, from Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal, both known for their action work, through John Leguizamo, Joe Morton, B.D. Wong and Halle Berry, who all play characters a little out of their usual roles in this picture. We had a good time."

Says Kurt Russell about his character, "Grant is someone I haven't had the opportunity to play before. He lives in an ivory tower, surrounded by people just like himself. He makes decisions based on his intellect but never has to suffer the consequences of those decisions. Then, unexpectedly, he finds himself in the thick of the action and, for the first time in his life, has to survive by his wits. It was a lot of fun to play that person."

Russell, although he has never worked with Joel Silver before, starred in "Used Cars" for Robert Zemeckis, one of Silver's producing partners in the award-winning "Tales From the Crypt" television series. "This set is full of people who have worked with me and with each other before, which has made this shoot a very pleasant experience," says Silver. "There was excellent communication between everyone; the kind of shorthand that people who know each other well can use to great advantage."

Steven Seagal, known for his starring roles in such action pictures as "Under Siege" and "On Deadly Ground," plays a heroic part in "Executive Decision."

"I'm the direct contrast to David Grant," he explains. "Austin Travis lives and dies by the sword; his life consists of being ready to die and determined to survive every second. He's the person who has to face the consequences of Grant's theories -- which are sometimes imperfectly conceived. But ultimately, David Grant has to take my place and in so doing, he takes on some of the responsibilities that Austin Travis has carried with him all his life -- especially the responsibility for the rest of his team."

Halle Berry, who plays Jean, the flight attendant who is the commando team's only resource on board the airliner, previously played a part in Silver's "The Last Boy Scout." "This was more fun," she laughs. "In 'The Last Boy Scout,' I was killed at the beginning of the picture. This time it was great to be one of the survivors!"

David Suchet, a classically trained actor who spent 15 years performing with Britain's Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, plays Nagi as a man who is obsessively convinced that he is doing right. "Nagi doesn't see himself as evil," says Suchet. "He's only doing what he believes is necessary to the cause. We live in a very terrorized world at the moment, where individuals are seizing opportunities to hold innocent people hostage to make their points of view known. This movie encapsulates some of the fears and issues that are really at work in today's society."
Getting on Board

"Executive Decision" would have been impossible to produce without the support and cooperation of the Department of Defense. Says Joel Silver, "We were extremely fortunate to receive Department of Defense assistance; the government is very specific about what we can and cannot do with their involvement. There are a lot of liberties taken with the military in the '90s, so they are often reluctant to give their approval.

"The mid-air hookup device that puts the commando team into the 747 doesn't really exist yet," continues Silver. "For the movie we used an F-117 Stealth fighter that was modified with a pressurized sleeve."

"In the story it is an evolving technology that has never been tested," says Oliver Platt, who plays one of the team members. "My character is suddenly put into the position of explaining this high-tech device and its use, and then field-testing it with his own life at stake."

A hydraulic gimbal system created the rolling, lurching movement that made the 747 seem to be actually in midair, but the fuselage, made from the entire interior of a real retired 747, was actually securely located on Soundstage 15 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.

Additional location filming was done at Van Nuys Airport, San Bernardino International Airport (formerly Norton Air Force Base) and Mojave Airport (which stood in for Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport). Extensive aerial filming was done in Key West, Florida, Mobile, Alabama, and Puerto Rico.

Warner Bros. Presents A Silver Pictures Production: Kurt Russell in "Executive Decision," starring Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, David Suchet and Steven Seagal. The music is by Jerry Goldsmith; the co-producer is Karyn Fields; and the film is edited by Dallas Puett, Frank Urioste, A.C.E., and Stuart Baird, A.C.E. The production is designed by Terence Marsh; the director of photography is Alex Thomson, B.S.C.; and the executive producer is Steve Perry. "Executive Decision" is written by Jim Thomas & John Thomas and produced by Joel Silver. It is directed by Stuart Baird and distributed by Warner Bros., a Time Warner Entertainment Company.

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