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Production Notes


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, who continues to set blockbuster milestones -- from "The Terminator" and "Total Recall" to "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and "True Lies" -- returns to the screen in "Eraser," an electrifying action-thriller.

Schwarzenegger stars as the best of the elite federal marshals working for the Federal Witness Protection Program, one of the government's most clandestine agencies. When all hope is gone, he moves in and saves the lives of those at risk by eliminating all evidence of their existence. He will do anything to keep his witnesses safe. Operating in secrecy by necessity and anonymity by design, he is United States Marshal John Kruger. John Kruger is "Eraser."

Now he faces his greatest challenge:

Lee Cullen (VANESSA WILLIAMS) saw what she wasn't meant to see . . . and now some of the most powerful forces in the world want her dead. While working at one of the nation's leading defense contractors, she inadvertently uncovered a scheme to deliver one of the most advanced super-weapons ever developed -- the rail gun -- into hands that could shift the balance of power in the world forever. What she doesn't know is that the conspiracy reaches the highest levels of government and industry, and the players involved will stop at nothing to keep her from exposing the truth. To survive, she must sacrifice her life and her identity. To reveal her shattering secret, she needs a protector. She needs "Eraser."

For Marshal Kruger, the stakes are higher than they've ever been since the threat against this witness comes from somewhere within the government. Kruger is matched against an unknown challenger whose cunning skill equals his own as he guards Lee against the conspirators. As Kruger himself falls under suspicion as the traitor within the program, he sets out to prove his innocence to Robert Deguerin (JAMES CAAN), his mentor, and Beller (JAMES COBURN), the head of the Witness Protection Program.

Entangled in a web that grows more complicated and confrontations that grow more explosive, Kruger comes to encounter the devastating power of the rail gun itself, a weapon of awesome destruction and unstoppable force. With the rail gun in their hands, his enemies can see through walls and fire aluminum rounds at just under the speed of light . . . leaving Kruger and Lee nowhere to hide.

In a world where allies could be enemies, Kruger and Lee come to trust only each other as the deadly players in the conspiracy close in on them, and time continues to run out.

Also starring in "Eraser" is ROBERT PASTORELLI as Johnny C, a witness who was erased and becomes an unexpectedly resourceful ally to his former protector, Marshal Kruger.

"Eraser" is directed by CHARLES RUSSELL, who last brought audiences the smash summer hit "The Mask." ARNOLD KOPELSON and ANNE KOPELSON, whose most recent credits include "Seven," "Outbreak" and "The Fugitive," are the producers. The script is by TONY PURYEAR and WALON GREEN from a story by Puryear and Green & MICHAEL S. CHERNUCHIN. The film is executive produced by MICHAEL TADROSS ("Die Hard With a Vengeance") and Russell. The Arnold Kopelson production is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros.

To create the spectacular and innovative visuals that constitute the non-stop action in "Eraser," a team of some of the industry's most accomplished talents was assembled. Director of photography ADAM GREENBERG earned an Academy Award nomination working with Schwarzenegger previously on the unforgettable spectacle,"Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Production designer BILL KENNEY is an action-film veteran who counts "The River Wild," "Under Siege" and "Rambo: First Blood Part II" among his credits. Editor MICHAEL TRONICK, A.C.E. has cut such breakneck-paced films as "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory" and "Days of Thunder." The rousing score was composed by ALAN SILVESTRI, who earned Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for his stirring compositions in "Forrest Gump." (top of page)

About the Production . . .
John Kruger is an exquisitely skilled specialist whose sense of duty eradicates all hesitation, whose commitment to his mission is unwavering and whose personal sacrifice is unlimited. He is equally adept at absorbing complex technical information and handling the world's most advanced weaponry. He is as likely to use his brain as his brawn as he confronts the most deadly circumstances. The filmmakers knew from the earliest stages of development that there was only one actor who could embody this peerless action hero: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Director Charles Russell was busy developing another project with Schwarzenegger when "Eraser" was brought to them, and both recognized a serendipitous match between character and actor. "I see Arnold the way a lot of people do -- as a mythic, bigger-than-life character -- and that's who Kruger is," the director explains. "The character and the scenario are based firmly in reality, but I liked the mythic proportions of this man with a strong sense of duty, a strong sense of honor, who will literally do anything to protect a noble witness. I was excited about doing a film that had heroic proportions," the director explains.

Producer Arnold Kopelson was equally enthusiastic about casting Schwarzenegger as the film's titular hero. "For many years, Arnold and I have talked about working together. I knew that `Eraser' was the perfect project for him. When Arnold committed to the title role, I was thrilled. That thrilling feeling was reinforced each day of the production as I watched him perform. Working with Arnold has been one of the most pleasurable experiences of my filmmaking career."

As the foremost icon of the action genre, Schwarzenegger is certainly no stranger to films with ever-larger stunts and excitement. What set "Eraser" apart was its complicated lead character and the natural evolution of breathtaking action from the world in which he operates. "Kruger is a loner. He is the best at doing what he does, and the only way he can do his job is to do it alone," Schwarzenegger says. "He is totally committed to protecting the lives of his witnesses. He will do anything in his power -- go through hell, confront the most dangerous moments -- to protect them, and that dedication leads him to some really explosive scenarios."

Schwarzenegger was further intrigued by exploring the shadowy realm of these real-world top-secret government operatives. "The witness protection program is something that is fascinating because we know so little about it," the actor continues. "Because of the secrecy it demands, no information gets out. We really wanted to show our audience what this world is all about."

Russell emphasizes that the discreet realm in which Kruger and his colleagues function is based in reality. "There are more than 14,000 people in witness protection right now in America," he notes. "Kruger is the best option in witness protection. When a witness needs to be relocated, he is the one guy who can come in and make this witness disappear to the point that even others working within the witness protection program don't know what's been done with him."

Typically, witnesses who are offered protection by the federal government are criminals themselves, "lesser evils" who leverage their position into anonymous freedom in return for turning in more sought-after felons. But in "Eraser," Lee Cullen is simply a concerned citizen who stumbles across an explosive discovery in the course of doing her work.

"Lee Cullen is a patriot," offers Arnold Kopelson. "She brings in the FBI when she discovers what may be an illegal sale of a superweapon to foreign buyers. The FBI asks her to do some spying for them, all the while assuring her that she'll be safe, when, in fact, she's not. Lee gets caught by her boss, and she is forced to change her identity in order to survive."

Lee is suddenly in a situation far more dire than she had imagined when she agreed to help the authorities. "She doesn't want to enter the witness protection program," says Russell. "She was never told she would have to. She simply agreed to testify. The gravity of her situation doesn't hit her until an attempt is made on her life, and that's when Kruger steps in."

Producer Anne Kopelson appreciated the inclusion of a character like Lee. "I'm very pleased to have produced a film that portrays a woman as being strong and intelligent. Lee Cullen is not just another `damsel in distress' as we have seen in so many films throughout the years."

Lee Cullen is portrayed by Vanessa Williams, who first came to the attention of the Kopelsons when Maria Shriver, the wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, suggested her for the role. Williams enthusiastically campaigned for the part and secured it after an impressive screen test that made the filmmakers forget all other hopefuls. Williams has spent the last several years establishing an acclaimed career in music, with three multi-platinum albums and an Academy Award-winning single to her credit; on stage, with a celebrated nine-month run on Broadway in the title role of "Kiss of the Spider Woman"; and on television, with noted recent starring roles including the revival of "Bye, Bye Birdie." "Eraser" marks her first leading role in a major motion picture, and she approached the production's rigorous demands with her characteristic professionalism and good humor.

"Sure, it was physically demanding -- the amount of running and shooting and jumping and dodging objects being hurled at you. But action films are all about getting dirty, rolling around on the floor, getting beat up a little bit and dealing with it," laughs Williams, who also contributes the film's closing theme song, "Where Do We Go From Here?."

Williams gained confidence from her more experienced action partner, Schwarzenegger. She notes, "Arnold is wonderful to watch because he's so disciplined. Just to observe him work out the choreography, loading the gun, getting the marks down, really taking the time to understand that it's almost a dance, was a great education."

As Lee commences her odyssey with Kruger, she must come to terms with leaving her life as she's known it. Williams explains, "Lee believes she was just being a good citizen, and now she faces giving up her life just because she was trying to do the right thing. It's devastating for her, and she has to depend on the only person that she can trust, Kruger."

Similarly, Kruger comes to trust only Lee as he realizes that even his closest advisors have questionable motives, and he becomes their scapegoat in the conspiracy.

One of the most complicated relationships emerges between Kruger and his mentor in the witness protection program, Deguerin. "There's a backstory to these two characters," says Schwarzenegger. "They both inhabit the ethical and political gray area of organizations like the witness protection program and the CIA, organizations which are almost above the law. But while Kruger has kept a sense of honor and duty, Deguerin has become accustomed to the privilege of his position."

To play Deguerin, the filmmakers required an actor who could convey intelligence, skill and magnetism -- a more mature version of the Kruger character. "I've always been a fan of James Caan's," comments Russell. "We wanted Deguerin to have a sense of humor with an edge, and Jimmy can certainly convey that kind of threatening benevolence."

Caan describes his character as "the guy who taught Kruger how to be great, which makes him even greater up to a point. Kruger and Deguerin came up the ranks and worked together for many years, so there's both a respect and a rivalry between them."

Another character embroiled in the cat-and-mouse cover-up is Beller, the head of one of the nation's most secretive agencies. The filmmakers cast political thriller veteran James Coburn. "Coburn has been in some of the greatest movies in history," says Arnold Kopelson. "We knew immediately when we met him that he was right for the role. He has accomplished so much in this business that he brings a certain depth of experience to the role that is totally believable and true to life."

Surrounded by characters whose allegiances are questionable at best, Kruger finds himself at the heart of an intricate, wide-reaching conspiracy in which no one is above suspicion. Ironically, he turns to the only people upon whom he can truly rely: those whose lives he's saved in the past, and in particular, one colorful character known as Johnny C.

Says Schwarzenegger, "One of the fun ideas in this story is that while Kruger can trust no one in the Department of Justice, the one person on earth he's sure is not a part of the conspiracy is a mafia informer, a con man."

Robert Pastorelli, who became known to millions of television viewers as the philosophizing house painter Eldin on "Murphy Brown," plays Johnny C. "Johnny C's life is saved by Kruger and he is so overwhelmed with gratitude that he pledges to always be there for him," explains Arnold Kopelson. "Johnny C borders on being a mobster, but, in his way, he's trustworthy and reliable, and Kruger knows that he can depend on him. Johnny C also brings humor to the film."

A film whose action pushes the limit of what audiences have seen on the screen before required a director who was comfortable with orchestrating the many different elements that must seamlessly weave together to create the propulsive energy of "Eraser." Charles Russell, who balanced the integration of the live action antics of Jim Carrey with some of the most advanced on-screen technology ever developed in "The Mask," was among the few who had the credentials to attempt such a feat.
"We needed a director who could handle all different dimensions. This film required someone very good with directing actors and scenes, understanding the intimate relationships among the characters and who was not afraid of the big stuff," explains Schwarzenegger. "Because this is a big movie. The action was written really big -- monstrous, explosive. We needed someone extremely experienced with visual effects. Chuck is great with that."

Producer Arnold Kopelson agrees: "`Eraser' is the biggest project I have ever produced. The screenplay that I set out to produce presented a canvas so large that we needed a star bigger than life to match its scope. That star could only be Arnold Schwarzenegger," he says. "We also required a director who had worked with special effects and computer graphics. Chuck Russell had worked with these elements in `The Mask,' and the studio, Arnold and I agreed that Chuck was the correct choice."

With Russell and the cast set, the filmmakers began the adventure that would become "Eraser." (top of page)

Technology, Stunts and Effects
To make a film about an actual existing government agency, especially one as shrouded and mysterious as the Federal Witness Relocation Program, the filmmakers strove to ground the tale in reality. This involved creating technology and weaponry comparable to what's currently in use. The filmmakers made a controversial new weapon one of the film's main plot elements: a super-secret weapon known as the rail gun.

"Rail guns are hyper-velocity weapons that shoot aluminum or clay rounds at just below the speed of light. In our film, we've taken existing stealth technology one step further and given them an X-ray scope sighting system," notes director Russell. "These guns represent a whole new technology in weaponry that is still in its infancy, though a large-scale version exists in limited numbers on battleships and tanks. They have incredible range. They can pierce three-foot thick cement walls and then knock a canary off a tin can with absolute accuracy. In our film, one contractor has finally developed an assault-sized rail gun. We researched this quite a bit, and the technology is really just around the corner, which is one of the exciting parts of the story."

According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the rail gun added not only menace but the special effects that action moviegoers have come to demand. "We paid a lot of attention to making the audience feel the danger of this weapon, that anyone can be outside of your house, looking right through the walls. It really leaves you nowhere to hide," he explains. "But, on top of that, we show the sophistication of the weapon in a lot of fun ways: you not only see through a building, you see a person's skeleton and even their heart beating inside. There are some great visual effects there."

Kruger's flight with Lee is beset by a series of sequences unlike any seen on the screen before, from a vicious battle with alligators inside a building to a breathtaking free fall from a plane that becomes a weapon itself. One of the challenges of having a star as singularly recognizable as Arnold Schwarzenegger is the difficulty in having a stunt double stand in for him during such spectacular sequences. As a result, Schwarzenegger himself performed many of the rigorous stunts in the film -- and even accomplished two groundbreaking sequences that no professional stunt man had yet performed.

"The problem with Arnold is that basically nobody looks like him. However, he realizes that, so he's used to doing most of his own stuff," explains director Russell. "We did have a stunt double, but there would inevitably be a shot where I'd need to get in close. Director of photography Adam Greenberg, who's brilliant and has worked previously with Arnold, and I would come to the conclusion that the stunt would not be worth doing unless Arnold did it. So, we either had to break it down into a couple of shots or we'd plan the stunt so that it was reasonably safe for Arnold to do.

"I've gained a lot of respect for Arnold throughout this process. We all know the craft of stunts. We're very careful, and safety always comes first. But I was fortunate to have an amazing athlete on my hands who knows the basics and, given the right circumstances, would get in there and do what he needed to do."

The most complicated and sophisticated visual challenge for the filmmakers was the breathtaking aerial sequence in which Kruger is forced to flee from a jet speeding through the skies at 250 miles per hour. "How we put this sequence together was fascinating," notes Russell. "These things are jigsaw puzzle pieces not only within shooting sequence but within each shot. You had elements that were live action, elements that were miniature, sometimes computer-generated, and they're all married together in the final processing." In the end, however, the physical stunts performed by Schwarzenegger himself make "Eraser" a new pinnacle in action stunt history.

The first unprecedented stunt required Schwarzenegger to fall 65 feet in vertical descent -- and perform a back flip in mid-flight. On Warner Bros.' Stage 16, the largest soundstage on the Burbank lot, the fuselage of the plane was constructed, and the actor was strapped into a "descender rig." Beginning with Kruger's desperate struggle to hang onto the door of the plane, the shot continues as he lets go, back flips through the exploding engine of the plane and drops off into free fall. No stunt man has ever accomplished a back flip during a drop like this, but Schwarzenegger managed the feat seven times to get the shot. On screen, aided by inventive camera angles and special effects, Kruger appears to drop along the length of the fuselage and past the flaming engine, but no wizardry was necessary to re-create the reality of the film's star clearly performing the stunt himself.

"Arnold likes to do some of the stunts himself which I considered risky," remembers Kopelson. "Arnold made me feel very comfortable that he could do the stunts and instilled confidence in me that my star was not risking his life. Arnold is a true professional."

Moments later in the sequence, Kruger catches up to the parachute and must strap it on while in free fall. Audiences see a figure who is clearly Schwarzenegger in close-up engaging the parachute and being pulled vertically into the air. Accomplishing the aerial escape sequence required at least 10 different flying rigs and kept Schwarzenegger strapped in mid-air for nearly a week of shooting.

Not only was Schwarzenegger's confidence a requisite factor in achieving shots like these, but director Russell's facility with the complicated demands were key as well. Visual-effects supervisor JOHN SULLIVAN found Russell's knowledge of effects and how they work together refreshing. "He comes out of a background of working with effects-oriented film, so he understands the concept of boarding and stylizing, determining what you want going into it, and he understands the process, which has to be very carefully planned," comments the effects supervisor. "He understood all the technologies we're dealing with, the computer generated imagery, the green screens, everything."

Schwarzenegger adds his esteem for the team assembled for "Eraser": "Every one of these people had to work together, and the efficiency factor was so high, things just naturally turned out to be straight tens across the board." (top of page)

On Location
"Eraser" began principal photography in New York City, where locations included the quiet neighborhood of Whitestone, Queens, the Harlem Rail Yard in the South Bronx at Willis Avenue Bridge, Central Park's Sheep Meadow, Chinatown and Brooklyn's Borough Hall.

From New York, the production traveled to Washington, D.C., to shoot at locations including the 17th Street Rainbow Pool and the Phoenix Park Hotel.

Following a brief sequence shot in New Jersey, the production moved to Los Angeles to utilize such locations as the docks of Terminal Island in San Pedro, where the film's action-packed climactic battle occurs. Additional L.A. locations included a rustic lodge in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles City Hall, a night club in the West Hollywood area and the warehouse district in downtown Los Angeles.

For the spectacular action sequence which takes place in the reptile house of the New York City Zoo, the filmmakers constructed exteriors in the old, unused portion of the Griffith Park Zoo. The interior was brought to life in a huge, elaborate interior set built in the soundstages of the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.

Warner Bros. Presents An Arnold Kopelson Production of A Charles Russell Film: Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Eraser," starring James Caan, Vanessa Williams, James Coburn and Robert Pastorelli. The music is by Alan Silvestri. The film is edited by Michael Tronick, A.C.E.; the production is designed by Bill Kenney; and the director of photography is Adam Greenberg, A.S.C. Stephen Brown and Caroline Pham are the co-producers, and Michael Tadross and Charles Russell are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Tony Puryear and Walon Green from a story by Tony Puryear and Walon Green & Michael S. Chernuchin. Arnold Kopelson and Anne Kopelson are the producers. "Eraser" is directed by Charles Russell and distributed by Warner Bros., A Time Warner Entertainment Company. (top of page)

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ERASER © 1996 Warner Bros.