Chad Michael Collins reports it’ll be an April or May production start in Colombia for the sequel to his hit “Sniper: Reloaded” with Billy Zane. “Billy is directing this one,” he adds. “We’ll be out in the South American jungles, going after bad guys.”
Collins has just seen the DVD/BluRay video release of the latest in his popular “Company of Heroes” franchise for Sony. The WWII movie also stars Tom Sizemore, Vinnie Jones, Jurgen Prochnow and Neal McDonaugh. “There are plans for at least another two, and I’m really excited about it. It’s a great thing to have as an actor,” he notes.
That’s in spite of the grueling demands of the productions. It was a very physical shoot, it really gave you a sense of what these soldiers did for months and years at a time before the day of waterproof gear and Gortex — stuff that keeps you warm and protected. We were up in the mountains for the first eight days in two and a half feet of snow. It was below freezing every single day, and the boots weren’t waterproof. It’s basically like you were wearing cotton towels, and once they got wet in that first hour, you were basically stuck with it for the next 14. Luckily, there was no gangrene, no hypothermia though a couple of us came close,” he says with a smile. “We made it out alive.”
Askedwhether he was concerned about working with Tom Sizemore, given the other actor’s troubled past of arrests, rehabs, etc., Collins told us he made a point of keeping an open mind, and found Sizemore to be “just great. It was me and Tom – we worked together every day. I love learning things from theseveteran actors.”
With History’s new “Vikings”series freshly launched, Jessalyn Gilsig says she’d love to go back to her medieval Norsewoman garb – and do a Season 2. That’s because, she says, her troubled Viking queen character Siggy, “would rise again, and that would be a fantastic story opportunity to play.”
Certainly the series, which stars Travis Fimmel as the legendary Viking leader Ragnar Lothbrok, depicts the murderous raiders of the North in all their bloody ingloriousness as a male-dominated society. However, to the surprise of many, “shield maidens” — women in battle – are not just a conceit for the drama, but a standardpart of Viking lore. Gilsig notes, “The role of women in Viking society showed in that there is evidence that they participated in battle and were trained in sword fighting, that they could rule, that they had rights, that they could literally divorce their husbands.”
The actress, who rose to fame with“Boston Public,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee,” notes that yes, the Viking women are “reallyfascinating, but I think women have always been interesting. It’s just that the telling of telling ofhistory is different – it’s only been comparatively recently that we’ve shown an interest in them.”
Playingthe wife of Gabriel Byrne’s Viking chieftain character in the nine-hour, $40 million production, Gilsig got used to wearing clothing “with not a lot of structure, a little bit primitive…I wish everyone could see these clothes close up, the handwork, the detail,” she adds. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Without exception, every article of clothing had a reason.”
Shooting took place mostly in Ireland, mostly in authentically dirty and cold environments, and Gilsig acknowledges that it took a while to “get the grime off” once production wrapped. But she felt it was worth the discomfort. “We’re all very proud of it. I just hope we get an audience.”
Kevin Sorbo is pleased with the real-life role he’s taken on – as an inspirational force and example of someone who’s come back from serious illness. The actor who rose to fame as the mighty Hercules came out a couple of years ago with his frank memoir, True Strength: My Journey From Hercules To Mere Mortal And How Nearly Dying Saved My Life – disclosing the full extent of his battle back from three strokes and an aneurism that left him physically weak and with permanent blind spots in 1997. The paperback version of the book came out a few months ago, and to his surprise, “I’ve actually gotten more attention from the paperback than I did when it originally came out,” Sorbo admits.
As a result, he finds himself being approached “not only by stroke survivors, but people who’ve battled cancer, come back from car crashes, whatever it may be. People tell me that this book inspired them to really find their own true strength.”
Once having done his utmost to hide his condition from the public, he now concedes, “It was a fight to get back, I’ll tell you. I told my wife many times, you know, if it wasn’t for my support I don’t know how I would have done it, but I had great people around me and I also believed in myself and had a strong will.”
Sorbo is cohosting “‘The View’ Friday (3/8), “so I’m hoping we can talk about these things,” he says.
He will definitely be talking about his two latest projects — his March 23 “Shadow on the Mesa,” a Hallmark Movie Channel Original movie Western, and his newly-released on DVD “Abel’s Field” movie that he also produced.
“I love doing Westerns it’s my third Western with these guys,” he notes of the Hallmark project. “It’s a great old classic Western, with two families fighting over some land — a Hatfields and McCoys type of situation. Gail O’Grady plays my wife and she’s not so nice in this one. She’s been having an affair with Greg Evigan, who is the bad guy who tries to take over my property.” Meredith Baxter is also in the cast, and Wes Brown of “Deception” plays Sorbo’s son he knows nothing about, who’s tracking him down intent on killing him in revenge for his mother’s death.
“I wish I could do more Westerns,” he tells us. “They used to play very well overseas, but that’s not so much the case anymore. I don’t know what happened there.”
He has movies and how they play very much on his mind, with a slate of six film projects of his own in development. As soon as Sorbo finishes his promotion tasks for “Shadow on the Mesa,” in fact, he says he’s heading to Arizona for huddles with potential investors.
His “Abel’s Field” movie, with Samuel Davis as a teen struggling to overcome a terrible home situation, was five years in the making, and Sorbo was aboard for two and a half of those years helping bring the film to fruition.
“We shot it in Texas, put some of it together, and Sony – who I did ‘Soul Surfer’ with – loved what they saw and picked it up for distribution, which was awesome.”
There is a mentoring aspect to the film, in that “the character I play is pretty much thrown in a situation with a teenage kid who’s thrown in a situation with me. At first we don’t want to deal with each other at all, but eventually we become friends and mentors to each other and ultimately that helps lead him lead his own life.”
Mentoring, of course, is a subject close to the actor-producer’s heart, as Sorbo’s Fit for Kids program continues strong. “The mentoring started back 15 years ago, in my ‘Hercules’ days,” he recalls. “It was something I’ve always wanted to do, and we’ve created the Number One after school program in the States, with a 98 per cent graduation rate for kids in the program and we’re very proud of that.”
As far as his health these days, “Oh, I’m feeling good, yeah,” he says with a smile. “The stroke happened in 1997, and it took six years for me to fully recover but I went on and did the last year of ‘Hercules.’ I did 110 episodes of ‘Andromeda,’ and I’ve done about 40 movies since then, so I think I’ve proven I’m back in good health.”
Not too surprisingly, Sorbo says he has another book percolating. Write on.
The March 3-debuting “All Star Celebrity Apprentice” is bigger and tougher and faster than other “Celebrity Apprentice” seasons. At least, that’s the idea one gets from talking to Marilu Henner, who is among the contestants who’ve returned to tackle the NBC reality show a second time, along with names including Gary Busey, Dee Snider, Trade Adkins, LaToya Jackson, Penn Gillette, Lil Jon, Stephen Baldwin and past winner Bret Michaels.
“The tasks were more challenging. Also, because people had played the game before, they knew what to expect, so you didn’t have people breaking down as much as you saw them really putting their best efforts forward, and everybody got to play to their skill set,” says the actress, author and memory maven. “The first time I played I enjoyed myself and this time I enjoyed myself even more. Really, you learn your personal best. I came back from this experience on fire. Like, ‘I’m the project manager of my life and I’m going to whip this into shape and that into shape!’” She laughs, and adds, “Trump is a character and he’s a lot of fun to play the game with himself. He’s very: ‘I love the smell of business in the morning.’ You sort of pick that up from him.”
Marilu is also on fire with her drive to help people get the most out of their memories. Famous for her eidetic memory that gives her extraordinary powers of recall, she has translated her best-selling “Total Memory Makeover” book into a calendar format with tips to enhance our autobiographical memories day by day. The paperback edition of “Total Memory Makeover” comes out in June. A side benefit of Marilu’s program is going through each day with more acute awareness and more of a sense of being present in the moment.
In May, she’ll go back into production work on CBS’ “Unforgettable.” You may recall that Poppy Montgomery-Dyaln Walsh series was canceled — then un-canceled — by the network and is now slated to return in summer with 13 new episodes. To refresh your memory: Montgomery’s character is a detective who has an eidetic memory like Marilu’s, and Marilu is a tech advisor, part of the creative team, and has been established in the character of Montgomery’s aunt. Ironically, the aunt has early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Will she make more appearances this coming season?
“Probably. I think that’s going to happen,” answers Marilu.
Also, viewers can expect to see Montgomery going through the process of clinically testing her memory, as Marilu did. “You’ll see some of that in action. You’ll see the person who was kind of her mentor in this the way.”
The character is based on Marilu’s own memory mentor, neuroscientist and Fello, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California at Irvine. “The first time I was tested I had to answer over 500 questions. I went through every memory test ever devised. There were tests for HSAM, highly superior autobiographical memory — they have kind of this gold standard test that’s 60 questions. And then they put things from my own life, because they were able to look up a lot of information about me,” recalls the actress who rose to fame on “Taxi.”
Marilu had fun going through some tests set up for her on Anderson Cooper’s show that airs tomorrow (Feb. 22). Her commitment to memory improvement stems from her belief that “if all we’re doing is living our lives where we wake up, go through our day, turn off the light and go to sleep – wake up, go through our day, turn off the light and go to sleep — nothing has moved forward with us. No experience has had any meaning for us. I feel like developing a strong autobiographical memory is the strongest line against meaninglessness that we can have. Because then we can take the information every single day, bring it to our present and then let it inform our future, and that makes a huge difference.”
It’s something worth remembering.
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are bracing themselves for reaction to their ambitious, 10- hour History Channel adaptation of the Bible that launches this Sunday night (3/3) and runs through Easter. “I’m sure people will hurl what they want to hurl,” the “Touched by an Angel” actress told us. But, she added, the miniseries was made “with full hearts.”
Certainly the Burnetts and the History Channel are putting their all into pulling viewers into “The Bible,” with a full court press of promotion including: advance screenings in theaters and sports arenas; plugs from faith leaders including Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes and Maya Angelou; a huge array of support materials available to churches and individuals; a webinar; a You Tube video in which Roma asks believers to pray for the miniseries; even a kit for hosing Bible viewing parties (http://www.outreach.com/campaigns/the-bible-resources).
“We’ve had scholars and theologians help. We’re not pretending to be biblical experts,” she stressed. “We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible, but obviously we’re making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that.”
Roma is hoping the TV event will attract the faithful and those unfamiliar with the Bible alike. “Yes, it’s going to be a faith journey, but it’s also going to be really exciting and dynamic television,” as she put it. The filmmakers were able to bring up-to-the-minute CGI special effects artistry to familiar stories from Noah’s ark and Moses’ parting of the Red Sea to Jesus walking on water — “Genesis to Revelation.”
The intensity of their belief in this project is such that Burnett told Variety, “I am certain that if you took ‘Survivor,’ ‘The Voice,’ ‘Shark Tank,’ ‘The Apprentice’ and all the other shows I’ve done, over the next 25 years more people will see ‘The Bible’ miniseries than all those other projects combined.”
Roma is seen in the miniseries as well as serving as an executive producer along with her husband. She plays Mary, mother of Jesus, in scenes depicting the final chapters of his life story.
“We have a young actress of course playing Mary during the nativity and the early years of Jesus’ life, and 30 years go by. An early version of the script referred to that as Young Mary and Old Mary and when I stepped into the role, I said, ‘You know, could we have Young Mary and Mother Mary?’” she recalled, laughing.
Perhaps there was a bit of destiny involved. As Roma also mentioned, “My middle name is Mary. All the girls in my family have the middle name of Mary.”
She also told us that the making of “The Bible” proved to be a great husband-and-wife collaborative experience for her and Mark. They toiled side-by-side in Morocco, in extreme heat and cold, dust storms and more.
The Burnetts are, of course, quite rich and certainly did not need to make a Bible miniseries. What drove them, Roma said, was that “The Bible fits in really with who we are and what we believe and how we live our lives.”
The actress grew up in Derry, Ireland, was taught by nuns back in school, and today holds a masters degree in spiritual psychology from University of Santa Monica. “It’s an extraordinary journey, to come from the Sisters of Mercy to where I am today,” she said, “and it was a great honor and a privilege for me to step into the role and to step into the project. I think it’s going to bring the Bible alive in new and exciting ways to a lot of people. I think it’s really going to touch another generation.”