Movie news for August 3, 1990 -- Sylvester Stallone, ''The Freshman,'' and ''Backdraft'' made news this week

Leapin’ Lizards

Sure, The Freshman features a terrific Godfather send-up by Marlon Brando, who also generates some nice chemistry with costar Matthew Broderick. But the film’s best performance is delivered by a seven-foot water monitor lizard. Actually, seven water monitors were recruited from Reptile Rentals in Los Angeles to portray a Komodo dragon, a near-extinct (and now protected) species from Indonesia that plays a pivotal role in the comedy caper. During filming, one feisty young lizard — tired of being prodded — charged at the crew. ”I jumped on top of a Dodge and Matthew ran up a ladder,” recalls Whaley, who plays Broderick’s college roommate. ”Our favorite was named Brutus. He had the most character. The old ones were pretty much devoid of personality,” he says. ”They couldn’t even hold their bladders. Plus, they ate dead rodents and chicken necks.”

Turtles Too

Just when you thought they had disappeared into the sewers, those pizza-loving karate-kicking, surf-talking superheroes are coming back. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is gearing up for production and will crawl into theaters next spring. But the real question remains: Is there anything left for these revoltingly rich reptiles to merchandise?

Yo! Laugh or He’ll Slug You

Sly Stallone has a big problem: His mucho macho characters are running out of steam. With the November release of Rocky V, it looks as if the Philly pug has decided to hang up his gloves for good. And with peace breaking out all over the globe, poor Rambo is left without any battles to fight. What’s an action hero to do? Take a shot at comedy, of course. America’s favorite pugilist-commando is set to star in Oscar, a lighthearted film about a ’30s mobster who tries to honor his dying father’s last wish by going straight. Disney’s Touchstone Pictures — which jump-started the stalled careers of Richard Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, and Bette Midler — will handle the production, which is scheduled to begin this fall. But how will audiences respond? When Stallone tried delivering punch lines instead of punches once before — in the 1984 cornball comedy Rhinestone — he got KO’d at the box office.

Sweating It Out

Several of Hollywood’s hot leading men are about to get hhtter. In fact, they’ll have to be careful they don’t catch fire. Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell, Billy Baldwin, Scott Glenn, and Jason Gedric spent time recently with a Chicago fire academy to prepare for director Ron Howard’s upcoming film Backdraft. Now in production, the action-drama about two fire-fighting brothers is scheduled for release next summer. De Niro, who plays an arson investigator, has already accompanied officials to several three-alarm fires. Meanwhile, the others underwent two weeks of four-hour daily training sessions. ”Yesterday it was 90 degrees, and we had them dressed in full gear pulling heavy hoses all over the lot,” says Chief Stanley Span, one of the academy’s supervisors. ”They got hot, tired, and they sweated a lot, but they’re learning the job.” Span’s looking forward to seeing movie fire fighters portrayed authentically. ”We told Ron Howard last year that we would cooperate as long as he wasn’t going to make The Towering Inferno II in Chicago,” he says. ”That was the biggest embarrassment to a fireman that could ever happen.”

Melina Gerosa, Jess Cagle, and Christopher Henrikson

The Hunt for Red October
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