Housing Tract May End Its Days in Blaze of Celluloid

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Mel Gibson and Danny Glover need houses to burn for their upcoming action movie “Lethal Weapon III.” Lancaster has a half-built, abandoned housing tract that city officials would like to see leveled.

Could it be a match made in Hollywood? The hottest scene since sets standing in for Atlanta were torched for “Gone With the Wind”?

The reviews are still out, but representatives of the movie, the city and the federal government--which acquired the housing tract from a failed savings and loan--confirmed Monday that they are talking about a deal to torch the houses for the climactic scene in the upcoming flick.


“We are still in negotiations,” said Anne Reilly, publicist for the movie, which is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. in May. Filming has been under way in the Los Angeles area since October. The burning of the structures, if the deal is made, would be shot in January, she said.

Dennis Davenport, Lancaster assistant city manager, said the city government is considering the request, figuring it might attract some jobs and attention and rid the city of an eyesore.

The city’s major concern is that the movie makers might not be destructive enough.

In a bit of Hollywood irony, the site of the proposed pyrotechnics is the defunct Legends tract at 30th Street West and Avenue J, a collection of rotting frames that were briefly marketed with billboards featuring a likeness of screen legend Marilyn Monroe before the project’s demise.

Its Burbank-based builder, the defunct U.S. Housing Corp., stopped work on the project in 1989, about the time the federal government seized and liquidated the project’s lender, Pennsylvania-based Hill Financial Savings Assn., and took over the property.

The collection of hulks, four mostly completed model houses and about 50 framed skeletons, has sat decaying ever since. Last month, Lancaster officials decided to try to buy the site from the federal Resolution Trust Corp. with plans to demolish the houses.

But if Mel Gibson wants to do the honors . . . .

Actually, the filmmakers would like to use propane gas flames to create the effect of a fire, in case they need to reshoot.


The final say rests with the RTC and the private company it has assigned to manage the site.