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McDowell no great fan of S.L.

Location isn’t what sold actor on Sci Fi film

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PASADENA, Calif. — The Utah Travel Council probably won't be hiring Malcolm McDowell as a spokesman anytime soon. Or ever.

The actor, who recently completed filming the upcoming Sci Fi Channel movie "Firestarter: Rekindled" in the Beehive state, didn't exactly gush over Utah when appearing here at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Basically, he said that the chance to work in the Salt Lake area isn't what sold him on the Sci Fi movie. "I've said this before, but James Mason gave me a bit of good advice," McDowell said. "He said there are three criteria that he uses for whether he does a film project or not. The first one is — do I like the part? The second is — are they paying me my money?

"And the third is location. If you can get two out of three, do it. That's smart advice."

So, which two out of three did McDowell get to do "Firestarter: Rekindled"? "Ah! Well, I don't know whether I want to rush back to Salt Lake City in a hurry, but I don't know," McDowell said. "It was a good script. And they paid me decently. I'm not saying they broke the bank, but. . . ."

Well, that would be two out of three, and location wasn't one of the two.

"No, this project, it was good all the way through," McDowell said, backpedaling a bit. "And even Salt Lake City — you know, there's some quite interesting golf courses up there. So Dennis (Hopper) and I did manage to get out occasionally when we weren't working. It was fun."

McDowell was the only member of the "Firestarter" cast who sort of, kind of, dissed Utah. Marguerite Moreau, whose two projects before "Firestarter" were the theatrical films "Queen of the Damned" and "Wet Hot American Summer," said, "Well, 'Queen of the Damned' was just gigantic and grand, down in Australia, and these two were in rural towns. I guess Salt Lake City isn't rural, but it's Small Town — Smaller Town USA."

Well, OK, we can live with that.

But when one critic asked director Robert Iscove how the production ended up in Utah, actor Danny Nucci, who also appears in the film, laughed out loud.

Iscove, however, said "Firestarter" — a sequel to the 1984 film, which was based on the Stephen King book — went to Utah because Los Angeles "was incredibly busy, as was Canada and all those places, because of the upcoming threat of the writers' and the actors' strike." (A threat that has since fizzled out.)

The choice of Utah was also made because it was close to L.A.; the terrain could stand in for a variety of other areas; and because "We could bring our pyro people" and count on the cooperation of local authorities to "let us build half a town that we could blow up. And they were incredibly receptive in terms of the fire department and their pyro people and the local people in letting us build a main street and destroy it."

Now there's a slogan — Utah: A Pyro Great Place.

"Firestarter: Rekindled," a two-part, four-hour TV movie, is tentatively scheduled to air in December. And if the ratings are good, it could turn into a weekly series.

And, while no such decision has been made, if it does become a series, it could return to Utah for production — a prospect that McDowell insisted didn't trouble him.

"Well, you don't want to get stuck in something that's going to last for five years — or has a possibility of lasting five years — if you're not excited by the stuff," he said. "I'm excited."

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com