Star-Bulletin Features

Post office receives
makeover for movie

The downtown site
is a Nigerian palace
in Bruce Willis' film

By Tim Ryan

There's going to be a military takeover sometime within the next two weeks at the downtown post office on King Street, when dozens of African soldiers commandeer three floors.

The threat isn't from terrorists, but staged for the opening scenes of the $80 million-plus, untitled Bruce Willis/Revolution Studio film commonly referred to as "Hostile Rescue."

An interior section of the post office, which is being transformed into a Nigerian presidential palace, and the exterior of the state Supreme Court building, Aliiolani Hale, are both getting time in the spotlight.

Neither Willis, who will complete his filming here Wednesday nor co-star Monica Belluci will be in the downtown scenes.

The movie is about a special-operations military team, led by Willis, sent into the heart of Nigeria to rescue a doctor played by Belluci. The doctor agrees to leave only if 70 refugees are rescued, too, which changes the mission's scope.

Filming in the post office should begin next week. Only sections of the post office's interior three stories on the Diamond Head side of the building are being used, according to U.S. Postal Service officials, who said the production will film in a third-story hallway, two second-floor stairwells and what has become a presidential suite in a ground-floor room.

The "suite" windows are covered with lacy drapes and are in public view. When tradewinds blow the drapes, it's easy to see the room's 19th-century-style furniture finished in gold and bronze, artwork, African masks, chandeliers and red carpets rented from a Hollywood prop house or purchased in Nigeria.

The post office was selected in part for its large windows and high ceilings, said Ernie Malik, unit publicist.

The items were brought to Hawaii in 13 40-foot containers, including one container just for the eight large chandeliers, a Revolution official said.

Production officials contacted the postal service late last year about using the empty building, said Felice Broglio, the service's Hawaii spokeswoman. The contract allows the production to use the facility at no cost through mid-July, although there could be a nominal fee if the service's station manager is required to monitor construction or filming, she said.

"We don't anticipate that; the Postal Service has never charged a film company to use the building," Broglio said.

The production, about a month behind schedule, will finish filming here in mid-July, said Malik. Production began in March. Some scenes have been eliminated, including that of a riot on the streets of Waialua, where filming continues at a "refugee camp" of about 80 huts.

One of the most interesting aspects of the filming is director Antoine Fuqua's decision to hire about 200 Africans as extras, including some amputees, to portray refugees and soldiers as opposed to U.S.-born African Americans.

These include six known as "The Lost Boys of the Sudan," who have been staying at the Ilikai Hotel during the filming.

One is John Anyak, who a year ago was in a refugee camp near his native Sudan, sources said. Revolution Studios declined the Star-Bulletin's request to interview Anyak and his Lost Boys co-workers.

Most of the Lost Boys were 5- to 7-years-old when soldiers from Northern Sudan attacked their villages, forcing them from home. The boys marched from one refugee camp to another, their numbers nearly halved by hunger, disease and wild-animal and bandit attacks.

The U.S. government flew hundreds of Lost Boys, named by aid workers and journalists after the "Peter Pan" characters who banded together to avoid adults, to a new life in group and foster homes nationwide. The government resettled 3,800 Lost Boys last year. Anyak ended up in Atlanta.

"The water of the Pacific Ocean is very, very warm," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution upon his arrival. "It is salted water, but I swim in it every day. There is so much food here, but it is food I am not used to, like the seafood."

Anyak, now 23, lost a leg at age 12 after he and other unarmed boys were shot as they slept in the desert, Hawaii extras told the Star-Bulletin.

Anyak, who never saw a movie until he came to Hawaii, has told other extras and crew that Willis is "a nice man."

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