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PREMIERE OF 'SWORDFISH' Director from Niles swims in calm seas



Published: Sun, June 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The rumor that Halle Berry was paid an extra $500,000 to appear topless in the film isn't true, the director said.

By MILAN PAURICH

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

Most Hollywood directors whose last film grossed $100 million-plus would probably be quaking in their snakeskin boots on the eve of their latest movie's opening. Not Niles native Dominic Sena.

Sena, who directed last summer's Nicolas Cage car heist extravaganza, "Gone in Sixty Seconds," sounded remarkably sanguine for a man under the gun in a recent telephone interview.

Still putting the finishing touches (color correction; final sound mixes, etc.) on "Swordfish," his June 8 Warner Bros. release, Sena has adopted a healthy attitude about the business side of the entertainment industry.

His attitude: "I made the best film I can make," Sena said. "While I try to be as involved as possible in the marketing -- how the trailers are cut and so on -- eventually I leave it to the money guys on how it's going to be perceived by the public."

The "money guys" in this case include super-producer Joel (the "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard" franchises) Silver who knows a thing or two about blockbuster moviemaking.

But, after working on two testosterone fests in a row for macho men like Silver and "Sixty Seconds" producer Jerry ("Pearl Harbor") Bruckheimer, Sena is sensitive to the dangers of becoming typecast as a director.

"I want to shift gears and make a film entirely about characters instead of action: no car crashes, blue screens or effects work. And if 'Swordfish' does well, I'll be that much closer to calling more of the shots in the future about what type of movie I want to make."

Movie's plot: In "Swordfish," John Travolta plays a rogue government agent conspiring to steal $9 billion from a DEA slush fund with the aid of computer hacker extraordinaire Hugh Jackman. Assisting them is femme fatale (and Cleveland native) Halle Berry.

When asked if casting "X-Men" mutants Jackman and Berry was a deliberate choice, Sena said that it was strictly serendipity.

"For Stanley [Jackman's character], I wanted to cast someone whose performance I wouldn't be able to see ahead of time, and I knew that Hugh would surprise me. And Joel [Silver] pushed for Halle; he'd already done 'Passenger 57' and 'The Last Boy Scout' with her, and they'd developed a good working relationship."

One thing that drives Sena crazy is the criticism of Internet movie sites like "Ain't It Cool News" and "Rotten Tomatoes," which can bash a film months before its release, sometimes even before it's finished.

"Those are people with too much time on their hands, and you can't take any of it seriously," he scoffed.

Just gossip, he says: Also not to be taken seriously, Sena said, is the allegation of USA Today gossip columnist Jeannie Williams that Berry received an extra $500,000 to appear topless in the film. "Nope; not a bit of truth to that at all ... it was completely taken out of context. Sounds like something out of 'State and Main,' though," he said with a chuckle, referring to the recent David Mamet comedy.

According to Sena, the "Swordfish" shoot last fall in Los Angeles was "relatively easy. John, Hugh and Halle got along so well they made it a joy to come to work every day. And casting actors like them, Don Cheadle and Sam Shepard made me look good, too," he said. "We usually got what we needed in three or four takes max."

Post-production on any big-ticket Hollywood film can be hellish, though, and "Swordfish" was no exception. "It's been insane. I worked seven days a week last month, and averaged maybe three hours of sleep a night," Sena sighed.

No wonder Sena was looking forward to taking some R & amp;R by attending his daughter's graduation from Brown University. "It'll be Providence for four days, and I'll be forced to stop thinking about this movie!"




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