Fun in the sun
Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz bring Clive Cusslers
adventure novel Sahara to the screen
Photo and text by Chris Betros
Matthew McConaughey is hoping cinemas
next long-running hero will be Dirk Pitt, the adventure-loving
protagonist of Clive Cusslers best-selling novels. The
35-year-old Texan actor, who is starring as Pitt in Sahara
alongside current girlfriend, 31-year-old Spanish beauty Penelope
Cruz, said he badgered Cussler for permission twice to star
as Pitt and was turned down both times. But he finally
said yes the third time, McConaughey said during a recent
visit to Japan with Cruz.
Pitt was brought to the screen once before, played by Richard
Jordan in the forgettable 1980 film Raise the Titanic. Even
though it bombed, McConaughey thinks Pitt is the coolest action
hero there is. I got turned on to the books about seven
years ago. Pitt is an adventurer who has fun all the way and
never loses his sense of humor. I feel the character is organic
to me and I would like to do it as a franchise. Of course,
that all depends on audiences.
In Sahara, Pitt, a seemingly indestructible explorer and undersea
treasure hunter for the National Underwater and Marine Agency,
is looking for a lost Civil War battleship in the deserts
of West Africa when he gets sidetracked into helping a World
Health Organization doctor (Cruz) who is investigating the
source of a deadly plague that involves a dictator and a French
industrialist. Its vintage action-comedy,
McConaughey said. Where else would you see a crashed
plane turned into a land yacht to cruise across the desert,
or galloping camels racing a train?
The petite Cruz recalled that the hardest thing about filming
in the desert was the sandstorms that would spring up suddenly.
You need a sense of humor to deal with things like that.
The whole time I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie.
McConaughey said it wasnt the harsh location or climatic
extremes that bothered him; rather, he said he always feels
anxiety on the first day of work on any film he does. Its
nerve-wracking because you are about to make something that
will always be there on film for everyone to see. Youll
never be able to change it once its done. I can never
sleep the first night after shooting.
After having starred in a range of films such as Lone Star,
A Time to Kill, Contact, Amistad, U-571, The Wedding Planner
and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, McConaughey is hoping to
make the Pitt character his own and bring the dozen or so
Dirk Pitt adventure stories to the big screen. However, Cussler
has expressed reservations. In April, the author filed a suit
against the films producers, claiming they breached
their contract with him by making 15 significant changes to
the movies plot without his approvalthe result
being that the film is a bit heavy on comedy, whereas the
books tend to be more serious. Although the movie, directed
by first-timer Breck Eisner (the son of outgoing Disney CEO
Michael Eisner) opened well at the box office in the US, it
dropped off significantly in the following months. Apparently,
Cussler is worried that the films mediocre performance
will diminish the value of the Pitt novels. Meanwhile, McConaughey
isnt sitting around. He already has three other films
in pre-production and three more projects in the works, including
a drama called The Loop, in which he will once again co-star
Drinking for a living
Whisky is a big part of David Crolls life. Always keen
amateur whisky drinkers, he and his wife Noriko jumped at
the chance of becoming involved with the new Isle of Arran
Distillery. In 1995, they established Arran Japan to act as
sole importer and distributor. In 2000, they became Japanese
representatives for UK-based Whisky Magazine, as well as taking
over the Japanese franchise of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Today, the business, now known as Whisk-e Limited, represents
the cult Springbank distillery and the premium Merchant Bottler
Duncan Taylor and Co., whose collection of casks from the
1960s has received rave reviews around the world. Whisk-e
also organizes Whisky Magazine Live in February.
What first brought you to Japan?
I came in 1985 on a three-month graduate training program
with Nomura Securities.
How did you get involved in the whisky business?
Whisky had been a hobby of mine. When Arran Distillery started
up, the son of the founder contacted us and asked if wed
like to do some PR work out here.
What trends do you see in the whisky market now?
Single malts continue to grow quite well. There has been a
big shift away from blends.
Tell us about the Whisky Live event.
It was held at Tokyo Big Sight with over 2,200 participants
in a day-long celebration of whisky. Some 30 distillery managers,
blenders and whisky writers hosted a series of master classes
for bar professionals and individual enthusiasts from around
the country, with the day culminating in a party hosted by
DJ Kaori from Tokyo FM.
Are you a big whisky drinker?
Yes, I love whisky, and I have to drink a lot of it, especially
at events such as tastings and promotions. Its getting
harder to keep fit because there is a lot of eating and drinking
in this job.
Have you ever seen any drinking habits that made you want
Once, at a bar in a major hotel, I saw an elderly Japanese
gentleman order a bottle of incredibly expensive whiskymaybe
it cost about ¥1 millionand a little bottle of Coke.
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