Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, ...
Credit: The Core: Rob Mcewan

Pacemakers stop. Pigeons crash. Rome’s Colosseum crumbles, while the Golden Gate Bridge melts to slag. Such would be the dire consequences if the electromagnetic field around the earth disappeared, which could happen if the earth’s core quit rotating. Or at least that’s the theory at the heart of ”The Core,” a $60 million fantasy in the Jules Verne vein, in which Eckhart and Swank lead a team of ”terranauts” on a journey to the center of the earth to save the planet.

”I always wanted to be an astronaut, even before I wanted to be an actress,” says Swank of her character, an outer space-turned-inner space adventurer. The ”Boys Don’t Cry” Oscar winner even begged Paramount to pay for a couple of weeks at the U.S. Space Camp to help her prepare. ”Paramount was like, ‘Uh, Hilary, you actually don’t go to space,’ and I said, ‘But I need it!”’ (Permission denied.)

Eckhart’s reasons to suit up were more serious. ”I was quite depressed about 9/11,” says the ”Erin Brockovich” costar. ”I really wanted to make a movie that people could feel good about — about how things do go wrong, but we can prevail.”

Though the film includes 400 special-effects shots and features such gizmos as a giant ship modeled after an earthworm (with fore and aft lasers that help it to burrow), director Amiel (”Entrapment”) says just as much attention was given to the acting. ”I created a playing style completely the opposite of what I called the ‘Michael Bay/A.D.D.’ style of directing — ‘Oh God, we’ve been on the shot for a second and a half, the audience must be bored, let’s cut,”’ says Amiel.

However, when Paramount execs recently saw an early version, they thought it could use a bit more Bay. So the studio forked over a few million more for F/X shots of mass destruction. Quips Amiel: ”Those are the only words of encouragement a filmmaker wants to hear. Not ‘I love you’ or ‘We always want to be in the Jon Amiel business,’ but ‘Here’s some more money.”’

THE LOWDOWN The notoriously stingy Paramount isn’t known for spending more on projects it isn’t confident about.

The Core
  • Movie
  • 135 minutes