Originally created 12/18/00

Hollywood prepares for submarine disaster film



MOSCOW - Hollywood filmmakers are hoping that the world's fascination with the grisly fate of the Kursk submarine will continue as they prepare to make a disaster movie about the sinking of a.Russian nuclear sub.

Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson were in Moscow earlier this month to research their leading roles in the film, but out of concern for the feelings of the relatives of 118 men who died in the Kursk in August, the filmmakers have chosen to dramatize a 1961 incident which shocked the Soviet Union.

In July that year the submarine K-19 - known affectionately as Hiroshima because of its history of radiation leaks - was left stranded in the middle of the Atlantic after an accident, cut off from all contact with the shore.

A small group of heroic submariners exposed themselves to potentially fatal levels of radiation in an attempt to repair the vessel.

Several died later from radiation poisoning.

Another Soviet submarine mounted a dramatic mission to save the crew.

The 1961 incident contains much of the horror and tension of the more recent disaster, with the added bonus - from the scriptwriters' point of view - that there are survivors who have been persuaded to help with the project.

The film has been given the working title, "K-19: Making Widows," according to a report in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Survivors agreed to cooperate only on the condition that the film's directors focus purely on the accident itself and the bravery of the Russian sailors rather than their private lives.

Neeson and Ford spent several hours last week talking to veteran submariners and survivors of past accidents in an attempt to understand the sense of fear that grips a crew when catastrophe strikes.

They also went to St. Petersburg to examine a retired Russian submarine and received instructions on the workings of the vessel.

At the Sailors and Submariners Club, the K-19's captain, Vladimir Vaganov, played in the film by Neeson, gave them a detailed description of life on board.

A genuine Russian submarine - sold off as a tourist attraction in 1992 - has been obtained by the project's producers and will be taken to Florida to be prepared for filming.