Screen Violence Would Stop if It Didn't Sell Tickets, Filmmakers Say : Hollywood: Director of 'Aliens' says people would chop off one anothers' heads even if all movies were like 'Driving Miss Daisy.'


On the movie violence scale, a debate Saturday between Hollywood filmmakers over movie violence would have drawn a G rating.

Sure, actor Edward James Olmos talked hypothetically of slashing the man sitting next to him, "Terminator 2" director James Cameron, in the face with broken glass as the pair disagreed over film content.

And actor Charles Dutton, an ex-convict who served time for manslaughter, differed with studio head Michael Medavoy as he confessed that fellow inmates used to compare their own killing techniques with those depicted in "The Godfather."

And "Robocop" director Paul Verhoeven minced no words by telling a crowd of 300 attending a daylong anti-violence conference: "I always liked violence."

But in the end, Olmos, Cameron, Dutton, Verhoeven and other Hollywood leaders taking part in the unusual forum seemed to agree that American moviegoers get what they pay for.

Medavoy, chairman of Tristar Pictures, said he dislikes watching violence on the screen. But he cautioned that "to make a claim that films are responsible for violence in society is ludicrous."

"We do live in a commercial world," he told the audience at the Sony Studios in Culver City. "If you don't go to violent pictures, I promise you they won't be made."

The filmmakers' debate was the finale of the conference, dubbed "Violence--the War at Home" by organizers of the Show Coalition, a Hollywood political education group.

The day's earlier panel discussions involved educators, social activists and politicians such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). Many of them also had show business on their minds.

John Key, a psychologist who counsels families of murder victims, complained that movies romanticize violence. "We glorify it. It's almost an erogenous act, sometimes," he said.

Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan suggested that movies have contributed to the desensitizing of children as young as 13 to acts of violence. "I see kids everyday who have killed and don't care," he said.

Robert D. Arias, director of a school dropout prevention program, urged filmmakers to take their skills to the classroom. "We sit among the most creative people in the world," he said, surveying the crowd. "You in entertainment must take the lead and make education entertaining."

Actor Olmos agreed--even though he acknowledged that nonviolent films such as his "Stand and Deliver" are often unspectacular at the box office.

"Every person who makes a movie should take total responsibility of what they show," he said, turning toward Cameron, whose thrillers have included "Aliens" and "The Terminator."

"I could take this water glass and shove it in James Cameron's face and it wouldn't have the effect" of a make-believe movie slashing "done in 70 millimeter and Dolby stereo," Olmos said. "Nothing that we can do will ever stop the damage we've done."

Cameron defended his new "Terminator 2" as a film with socially redeeming features. But he said he felt responsibility "as an artist to make it as potent on the screen as I could."

According to Cameron, "people would still chop each others' heads off" even if the only movies produced were films such as "Driving Miss Daisy."

He was backed by fellow director Verhoeven, who suggested that "every human being has a nasty, shadowy side."

"Art is a reflection of the world," Verhoeven said. "If the world is horrible, the reflection in the mirror is horrible."

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