Renny Harlin goes to war for love

Action helmer takes new direction for 'most personal movie'

BERLIN -- Renny Harlin was determined to go in a different direction with his newest film, "even" if it meant doing a love story. He went there with a Georgian battalion that included tanks, choppers, jets and thousands of soldiers.

Harlin unveiled footage of "Georgia," his latest action thriller, at EFM on Friday, calling the war film the "most personal movie of my career."

Harlin, the director of such high-flying action movies as "Die Hard 2" and "Cliffhanger," found his last few films wanting and was looking for a change in direction. He switched agencies last year and gave his new team a mandate.

"I've been making movies for 25 years and it's great and I love it, but even if it sounds pretentious, I really wanted to make something that makes me feel like I'm doing something that means something," Harlin said after the first screening of his 15-minute showreel. "I told them to find something different, anything. It could even be a love story."

What he made is a movie set during the barely week-long 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, starring Rupert Friend and Val Kilmer as war journalists and Emmanuel Chriqui as a civilian caught in the conflict. The footage showcased everything from the beauty of the Georgian landscape and culture to slick scenes of car explosions and aerial shots of an army invading a town.

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The production, with a budget producers tabbed at about $20 million, shot in Georgia, which welcomed it with open arms. "Arms" being the operative word. The country's army was put at Harlin's disposal.

"I had 40 tanks, eight helicopters, four fighter jets and 2,000 troops, all in one scene sometimes," he said. "I was like the general. What filmmaker gets this? Ever?"

But with Andy Garcia as real-life President Mikheil Saakashvili making impassioned speeches and scenes of crowds chanting "Georgia! Georgia," will the movie find an audience in Russia?

"It's not pro-Georgia, it's anti-war," Harlin said.