Utah is flexing its movie-making muscles again.

During the summer, sites around the state were home to the filming crew of "Meet . . . the Deedles," an independently produced action-filled comedy, scheduled for release in the spring of 1998 as a Walt Disney Pictures "Presentation."Principal photography for the film began in early July near Park City, and all went well, despite some uncooperative weather. "We had a little rainier summer than Utah promises, but even that has not caused us big problems," said producer Dale Pollock on the Park City set. "We're in good shape."

The script follows the Deedle twins, Stew and Phil, as they are ripped from their cozy life as surfers in Hawaii and introduced to the harshenvironment of the Western wilderness. Their father, founder of a vast "Deedle empire" wants to toughen up his spoiled sons, and he thinks a boot camp in Wyoming may be just the thing. But a case of mistaken identity finds the twins in a Yellowstone park ranger training camp instead.

Veteran character actor Dennis Hopper stars as the evil Frank Slater, who plans to re-route Old Faithful to his own property before its billionth birthday celebration. Slater uses prairie dogs to dig a tunnel underground for diverting the water.

Paul Walker IV, who plays Phil Deedle, says working with Hopper was not as scary as he thought it might be. "If anyone has a right to pull a power trip, he does," Walker said. "He has done over 80 films. I thought, `I am going to be working with a living legend!'

"At one point they had him (Hopper) tied up and roped. The guy could not even sit down on his own. There's lots of downtime between takes while they set up for the next shot, and he said he was fine, he did not need to be untied. If that had been me I would have had those ropes off in two seconds!"

Co-star Steve Van Wormer, who plays Stew Deedle, agrees that working with Hopper was surprisingly easy. "He treated us as equals," Van Wormer said.

Aside from a sometimes angry-sounding exclamation - "Quiet!" - from the headset-clad crew, the mood on the set seemed pretty light. Actual filming of "takes" last only a short time, the longest being about two minutes on this particular shooting day. The rest of the 12-hour work day is spent moving equipment and people in preparation for the next small bit of live action and dialogue.

Cast and crew have enjoyed the Utah location, and Walker even named his new puppy after the Utah town of Morgan. "I wanted to name her after something to do with this project. I saw the sign on the freeway for Morgan and that's what I named her.

"I love Utah," Moran said. "We could have been stuck in some dust bowl, but as it turns out we are in one of the most beautiful places in the nation."

Stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert - who has led the actors through daring scenes involving rappelling, street luging, surfing and climbing - says he has enjoyed those sports in his free time during his stay in Utah.

Producer Pollock has already made two movies in Utah - "A Midnight Clear" and "A Home of Our Own." He says his experiences have all been positive.

"I think this state has a lot to offer visually, and it has a really great film commission," says Pollock. "What brought me to Utah was I knew I would have a really good crew here. Even though there are two series shooting here, `Promised Land' and `Touched By an Angel,' there are still crews we can hire."

The industry brings a lot of benefits to the local economy, as well, according to Pollock and publicist Daryl Wright. Even movies with smaller budgets have what Wright calls a "stimulus effect" on the local economy by way of restaurant and hotel profits.

"It's a very clean industry - no pollution, no environmental damages and the people that get trained here are often able to start a career working all over but still pay taxes in Utah."

Utahns working as extras have enjoyed the experience. Actor Vondel Hathaway of Layton says he usually works in theater but working on "Meet . . . the Deedles" has been good for variety. "You use different acting skills for film," he explained.

Utahns Erin Wilson and Michelle Murphy landed jobs as extras through modeling jobs with the Eastman Agency, and they feel being an extra is actually much easier than most modeling work they've done.

When the cast and crew leave Utah in late September, production on "Meet . . . the Deedles" will wind up with a brief location shoot in Hawaii.