November 06, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

The plot of Jennifer Eight — a sexy cop (Andy Garcia) protects a vulnerable young blind woman (Uma Thurman) from a serial killer — makes the $25 million Paramount film, opening Nov. 6, sound like a real thriller. But according to Garcia, Thurman, and others, it’s not nearly as chilling as the behind-the-scenes battle that rocked the production. ”They tried to fire everyone at one point or another,” says Garcia, who reports that the film’s executive producer, Scott Rudin (Sister Act), tried to ax director Bruce Robinson and cinematographer Conrad Hall. ”I had a great responsibility to protect the integrity of the movie because I felt that nobody was doing it.”

”The only reason I didn’t get fired was Andy,” concurs Robinson, director of How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Withnail and I. He describes the making of Jennifer as ”a first-rate, class-A nightmare.” The film was completed, adds Thurman, only because ”we were fiercely loyal (to Robinson). We weathered it that way. It’s hard to make a film when there’s a dispute about the movie itself.”

The bad blood between Robinson, Rudin, and executives at Paramount (who inherited Jennifer Eight from a previous regime) flowed mostly over the film’s shooting schedule, running time, and dark cinematography.

The dispute over the latter, says Robinson, (started when a handful of Paramount execs visited the set while some extended chase scenes, which looked to be illuminated only by a flashlight, were being shot. ”They got very nervous,” says Robinson. ”These guys are scratching their asses in their Gucci shoes, saying, ‘What was that?’ It’s all black and dark. So they freaked out. But no one can say this is not a brilliantly photographed film.” Because of similar disagreements, the film was trimmed by 15 minutes after test screenings.

On location in Toronto filming a new Michael J. Fox comedy, Rudin downplays the horror tales of Jennifer. Though the production was ”17 days over schedule,” he denies any serious issue with Jennifer‘s cinematographer, or with the film in general. ”I just finished my second movie with Conrad Hall a week ago (Searching for Bobby Fischer), and I’m about to produce a movie he’s going to direct. I’m happy with Jennifer Eight and with Robinson’s work on the film.”

If Rudin has forgotten Jennifer‘s travails, his colleagues haven’t — though Thurman, for one, blames money more than management as the root of all the evils that plagued the production. ”If films didn’t cost (so much), this wouldn’t be an issue,” she says. ”When there’s $20 million lying around, it’s trouble.”

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