The Specialist Starring Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods, Rod Steiger, Eric Roberts. Directed by Luis Llosa. Or, Mad Bomber Strikes Again. Speed lit up the box office and Blown Away bombed this summer, and here’s yet another movie about some quick-witted, short-fused villains. This time, Stallone stars as an explosives expert hired to help Stone wreak revenge on the Cuban-American mafia types (Steiger and Roberts) who murdered her family when she was a little girl. Woods shows up as Stallone’s old nemesis (or the Tommy Lee Jones role for all you Blown Away fans). * Has the world had enough blowups for one movie year? No, says Llosa, directing his first big-budget assignment. Besides, ”all our explosions take place in a movie that wants to have a lot of sensuality,” he says, ”a lot of mood, a lot of atmosphere, and basically, character relationships.” This means that, yes, Stone and Stallone do ignite on screen. But lest Llosa sell the film short, he adds, ”I mean, you’ll see explosions, don’t get me wrong.” * One of the movie’s more memorable blowups shakes the walls of Miami’s swank Fountainbleau Hotel, which the production team re-created in the form of a seven-story replica. In a surgical strike, Stallone’s character blasts a glassed-in, terrace-like suite overlooking the ocean out of the building, ”like an elevator gone mad,” says Llosa. * Many insiders expected the Miami set itself to be explosive, given the reportedly mercurial temperaments of Stone, Stallone, Steiger, Woods, and Roberts—and the director’s inexperience with big American movie stars. A Peruvian TV and film producer-director, Llosa was discovered by American junk auteur Roger Corman only four years ago, and his only major credit until now was last year’s Sniper, starring Tom Berenger. ”It’s true that all these people have reputations for being difficult,” he concedes. He compensated by having his crew hyper-prepared by the time the stars arrived. ”If (the cast) saw any kind of hesitation from the director, they would eat me alive,” he says. ”I did a lot of homework.” He says that Stallone and Stone ”were good friends and that made things a lot easier.” That was especially important when the two stars began filming the love scenes. ”When they had to be naked in front of the camera and making love and all that,” says Llosa, ”they really went for it in a professional way.” But isn’t Stone a lot, uh, taller than her love interest? ”When you see them together,” says Llosa, who’s mastering Hollywood diplomacy, ”it doesn’t stand out.” (Oct. 7) *What’s At Stake: Though the world expects-and forgives-a flop from Stallone about every other year, Stone could use a hit to retain her two-year-old Basic Instinct heat.
Ed Wood Starring Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette. Directed by Tim Burton. Only a singular and powerful Hollywood director could ignite a bidding war over a film about the man once voted ”worst director of all time.” But in April of ’93, with Tim Burton intent on shooting the Ed Wood story in the same glorious black and white that Wood used in such surpassing ’50s schlock as Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space, Columbia bailed, and at least three major studios began vying for the peculiar prize. (Disney prevailed.) ”If directors of Tim’s stature don’t stand up for their vision, then nobody can,” lauds Patricia Arquette, who plays Wood’s wife, Kathy. As in their previous collaboration, 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, Burton and Depp find both pathos and humor in the title character. Wood, who died in 1978, liked to relax at home in something comfortable, like his wife’s sweater. But Ed Wood, which covers four years in the mid-’50s when the director made his landmark films, doesn’t mock the man’s private or professional choices. ”I think Ed was as much an artist as anyone in the industry,” says Depp. ”With what he had available-which was not a lot of money, and not the greatest actors-he made good films. He stayed true to himself.” It took practice for Depp to be true to Wood. ”I’d get home, put a slip on, some high heels, hang out,” he recalls. ”Wearing bullet bras, garters, the whole shebang has given me newfound respect for women and profound respect for transvestites. It takes serious commitment for a man to really want to dress as a woman.” How did Depp look? ”Lovely, he’s got a great pair of gams,” says Arquette, who’s behind the Depp-in-a-dress concept. ”It’s nice-one of the most beautiful, wanted men in the world exploring and expressing something that’s not everyone’s idea of manliness. And it’s a good laugh.” Always a friend to misfits, Wood employed his fellow cross-dressers (Bill Murray portrays stock player Bunny Breckinridge, who spends the movie longing for a sex change) and neglected actors, like Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), whose morphine addiction made other work scarce in the ’50s. Lugosi’s name still helped Wood raise capital, and unlike the rest of his troupe, the man who was Dracula could act. ”Most of the others could barely say their names without bobbling, including Wood’s girlfriend, Dolores Fuller (Parker),” says Landau, whose portrayal has insiders buzzing about an Oscar. ”If there was a train wreck three inches away, she’d look as if she’d been lobotomized, and as if she’d done it herself.” (Oct. 7) *What’s At Stake: Batman director Burton could be crowned the new King Midas if his man-in-a-dress does even a quarter of the business of his $250 million man-in-a-cape.