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Miami Herald, The (FL) - June 24, 1982
Author: BOB THOMAS Associated Press

Most producers of war movies start by opening negotiations with Yugoslavia or the Philippines. Al Ruddy wanted to try something novel: filming in the United States.

It wasn’t easy. Ruddy had to go to the Pentagon four times before winning approval.

Ruddy is no faint-hearted producer. He made The Godfather despite pressure from Italian-American groups, which objected to the concept of a Mafia, and from Paramount Pictures, which wanted to fire Francis Coppola early in filming. He also put together Cannonball Run for the Hong Kong-based Golden Harvest Productions, paying Burt Reynolds $5 million for showing up.

The $20-million Megaforce, which opens Friday in South Florida theaters , marked a reunion of Golden Harvest, Ruddy and director Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit). It concerns a fictional U.S. battle force with futuristic weapons and vehicles which can be transported swiftly to any trouble spot in the world.

"I always wanted to make the picture in the United States," says Ruddy. "But I needed to have the use of troops and material, and all approvals must come from the Department of Defense. A producer submits the script and receives one of three responses:

"1. The picture shows U.S. equipment and personnel in a flattering light and is eligible for full cooperation.

"2. The picture is not in the best interests of the military and can receive no help.

"3. The picture does not put U.S. equipment and personnel in a flattering or unflattering light and cooperation is possible at a user’s rate -- meaning the producer pays for use of equipment, gasoline, troops, etc."

Ruddy said his first three trips to the Pentagon were fruitless "because the Defense Department didn’t like the idea of portraying a phantom army with exotic equipment, ready to fight anywhere in the world." He had hoped to film in Nevada, combining studio-made war gadgets with equipment of the National Guard.

"While I was in Washington, I went country-shopping," said the Montreal-born producer. "I found interest from South Africa and Israel, and I was about to leave for Africa when word got to Nevada authorities that the state was going to lose the $10 million we planned to spend there."

Pressure was applied, and the film was allowed to rent National Guard gear with one constraint: Location of Megaforce headquarters would not be identified.

Now the National Guard is lending C-130s to fly Megaforce props around the country to help promote the opening. Included are megadestroyers -- armored cars with cannons, rockets, sidewinders, Gatling gun and lasers -- and a six-wheel battlewagon with a computer to monitor all the equipment during warfare. The guard will use the tour to help recruitment.

Ruddy isn’t around to oversee the tour. He’s leaving for locations of another Golden Harvest war epic, High Road to China. That one’s shooting in Yugoslavia.

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