CULTURE

Film idol Aliki Vouyouklaki set to grace the silver screen once more

On July 23, 1996, Greeks far and wide mourned the death of the country’s first silver-screen idol, Aliki Vouyouklaki, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 63. Thousands of mourners gathered at the chapel of the Metropolitan Church in Athens to pay their respects to a prolific actress and show-woman, often dubbed «the Brigitte Bardot of Greece,» who had become a national darling over the 40-odd-year course of her career, wooing fans in both her comic and tragic roles in the cinema and on stage. Today, computer-generated imaging (CGI) has allowed an international production team to bring Vouyouklaki back to the big screen and with her, a stellar parade of actors from the past and present. The company that has undertaken the «Shooting Stars» film project, Design Concepts/Stars LTD, was started by American executive producer and screenwriter Clark Westerman (who now has a branch office in Athens) and Deutsche Bank’s Luis Risco in 2001, with a business plan for making movies that decrease the risks of filmmaking. The team is headed by Westerman, producers Mark Shady and Rodney Wilson and, on the Greek side, co-creator Venetia Demou, who helped structure promotion and advertising deals with sponsors Audi and Bacardi. Design Concepts/Stars LTD has already targeted 1950s screen legends such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, Jayne Mansfield, James Stewart, Peter Sellers and Grace Kelly. The right to use most of these stars’ images is being negotiated by Mark Roesler’s CMG Agency, while the rights to Vouyouklaki’s image have been given by her estate, represented by her son Yiannis Papamichail. Today’s celebrities who have been approached with offers to appear in «Shooting Stars» include Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Kate Beckinsale, Eddie Izzard, David Bowie, Lisa-Marie Presley and Bollywood star Aishwarya-Rai. According to Westerman, selecting stars from such a broad range of genres and countries will add to the appeal of the film on a regional level and attract brand sponsors – one of the cornerstones of the film’s budget plan. «We always looked at this as a worldwide film due to the disparate origins of our producers and the undercurrent of stars is ethnocentricism at its most blatant – superpower vs superpower – so we decided to apply that stream to the business approach as well and enact ‘localization’,» explains Westerman in a press note. The concept of localization is normally used in video games, but here it will, in effect, allow the producers to offer viewers a selection of language or even actors. «In film, you don’t normally have a setup where you have, for example, De Niro and Christian Bale and then for the Indian release you sub Bale out for a Bollywood legend – it’s logistically and financially impossible for many reasons. With CGI icons, it’s a snap,» says Westerman. The spy vs spy, 1950s-set thriller is scheduled for a June 2004 production shooting in London, Dublin, Cannes and Berlin with an expected release in March 2005, while the film’s budget stands at $15 million – a small sum considering the scale of the project. «Shooting Stars» has already generated UK interest from alcoholic drinks and mobile phone companies, while a London newspaper is presently negotiating locked promotion rights for a CD/DVD sampler giveaway. The plot Loosely, the plot outline of «Shooting Stars» is as follows: The Hungarian Guerrilla Squad crashes the ninth annual Cannes Film Festival and takes Vouyouklaki, Loren, Dean, Monroe, Sinatra, Sellers, Kelly, Jimmy Stewart and Joey Bishop hostage in order to coerce the American government into living up to its promises of supporting the resistance during the Cold War. The real motives behind the kidnappings are known only by a CIA agent who fell from grace while based in Berlin and he embarks on a hair-raising investigation and adventure.