Peter Bowman in Proof of Life

David Morse - Proof of Life

Times Colonist (Victoria) December 8, 2000 Friday Final Edition

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Times Colonist (Victoria)
December 8, 2000 Friday Final Edition
SECTION: Arts; Behind the Screen; Pg. D1 / FRONT
LENGTH: 678 words

Morse a Witness to Insanity and Death During Shoot

SOURCE: Times Colonist
BYLINE: Michael D. Reid

After shooting Proof of Life high in the Andes for three months, David Morse says he considers himself lucky to be alive.

The tall, soft-spoken actor (The Green Mile, Dancer in the Dark) says he knew he'd be tackling the toughest challenge of his career when he was cast as a kidnapped American engineer who undergoes hell on earth in a fictional South American country.

Like the rest of the film's international cast and 250-plus crew, Morse had to contend with mudslides, altitude sickness, erupting volcanos, the wettest weather in 40 years, a driven, obsessive director Crowe has described as "crazy," and the threat of violence from guerillas in Colombia. Castle Rock went so far as to hire a K&R company to secure the film's locations. "They warned me it would be as difficult as anything I've done which, of course, got me all excited," said the intense actor of his endurance test at 14,000 feet. His ordeal was made more challenging since he also had to lose and regain 25 pounds.

Morse said the shoot at "Camp Insanity" was so gruelling it made it easier to act.

"You really are that high and that cold for 14 hours a day with people literally being carried off on stretchers, and the DP (director of photography) there with an oxygen mask over his face so he could get through the scene."

Recalled Morse: "Taylor wanted actors to go to the edge of the cliff."

Some cast and crew literally rolled off the cliff, however, resulting in the tragic death of Will Gaffney, a 29-year-old American schoolteacher based in Ecuador who was Morse's stand-in.

The horrific accident occurred on a winding road near the Ecuadorean capital of Quito when a second-unit vehicle carrying Gaffney and several extras inexplicably drove off a cliff, even though it was only doing 15 miles an hour on a sunny day.

If Morse hadn't had to return to the U.S. for a family matter, he says he might have died and Gaffney's life spared. He's still haunted by the death of the stand-in described by Hackford as "a lovely guy who was having a ball."

Although Morse emphasizes no one can be blamed for the freak accident, Hackford, who wasn't there, says he feels responsible.

"It was tragic because it was absolutely, completely without reason," he said. "You live with these things. No film is worth anyone's life."


If Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe were sleepless in Ecuador while filming Proof of Life last spring, their co-stars and director say it was news to them.

"I cast these people. They didn't know each other and -- kaboom! -- there's nothing you can do," said Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman), the gregarious director of Warner Bros.' and Castle Rock Entertainment's $70 million drama about a kidnap-and-ransom expert's attempts to rescue an American engineer kidnapped by leftist guerillas in South America.

"They were incredibly professional and discreet," said Hackford. "We didn't know until we got to England and read about it in the tabloids."

Co-star David Caruso (NYPD Blue, Michael Hayes), who plays a veteran negotiator, claims he was just as surprised to learn about the affair that prompted Ryan to file for divorce from husband Dennis Quaid.

"Actually, he was my beard. Thanks, Russell," quipped Caruso during a chat about the movie in a hotel room.

"Seriously, we really didn't have any knowledge of it," insisted the wiry, red-haired actor.

"It was Meg and Russell digging into scenes. There was some emotionally raw material and that's what I saw."

Based on past experience, Caruso says he understands how on-set romances can bloom.

He won't say who he fell for, then deadpans: "Actually, it was (NYPD Blue co-star) Dennis Franz. Nah, that would be too complicated."

Caruso said it can be hard to let go of emotions summoned for love scenes.

"Sometimes you connect with somebody and go home and it's the weekend and you go, 'What's going on here?" he said. "You play around emotionally and try to find these moments and some guy says 'That's a wrap!' but it's not as simple to put it down."

GRAPHIC: Photo: David Morse stars in Proof of Life.

LOAD-DATE: March 29, 2002



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