The scene was eerily familiar, but it had a twist.
Police cars screeched to a halt beside a black man, and officers piled out with batons in their hands. So far it resembled the Rodney King incident, but this time the suspect ended up beating the police.
Welcome to San Angeles, the city that replaces a Los Angeles destroyed by an earthquake in "Demolition Man," a big-budget, futuristic action-thriller being filmed this week in Irvine.
The filming of the movie, which stars Wesley Snipes as a psychopathic criminal and Sylvester Stallone as the maverick cop who goes after him, has been drawing crowds of onlookers and star watchers from buildings in the Koll Center office park, where portions of the movie are being shot.
"It's a lot of fun. I've never seen a movie set before," said Peggy Massey-Burnam, who works at a computer firm across the street from the office park. "Now I have to go and see this movie, just to see the scene they just did."
She and co-worker Diedra Whitmill heard from their secretary that Snipes was on location, and they came in hopes of glimpsing him. "We're real pleased with seeing Wesley," Whitmill said.
Both liked the sleek, curvy, futuristic cars in the movie, including the black and white, gull-winged cars with "SaPD" (for San Angeles Police Department) emblazoned on them.
A steady stream of workers from nearby businesses gathered around the set Thursday, searching for Snipes--Stallone wasn't filming this day--or admiring the cars and props, which included a rotating street sign for the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards and a "CompuKiosk" that dispenses psychotherapy as well as money.
The 200 cast and crew members arrived Monday and are expected to end filming in Orange County today, according to the movie's publicist, Peter Silverberg. He said that other units are filming in San Diego and Burbank and that the movie is expected to be released in October.
The plot goes something like this:
Snipes is a killer who has been staking out turf in a riot-torn 1996 Los Angeles. Stallone is the officer who catches him, but Snipes kills innocent hostages before he is arrested, and Stallone is blamed for their deaths.
The two are sentenced to be frozen as punishment, and while they sleep, Los Angeles is destroyed by a massive earthquake and reconstructed with shorter buildings, more greenery and a nonviolent population that can be arrested for things like swearing. Snipes escapes when he is thawed in 2032 for his parole hearing, and Stallone is thawed to catch him.
For the future city, production designer David L. Snyder created a sort of future anti-Los Angeles. Director Miguel Brambillo said the city would have a more "two-dimensional" look, with squat buildings, lots of plants and no urban blight.
Also, people in the future don't want to tan, so they cover themselves head to toe in long, flowing garb, complete with hats and gloves, because the ozone layer is damaged and the risk of cancer is greater.
Kristopher Logan, who plays a "troubled guy" Snipes pulls away from the kiosk in one scene, said he was comfortable in his long, dark blue tunic with a long, loose, matching jacket. He had been on the set since 6 a.m. waiting to be called for a scene, watching the technicians, camera operators and production assistants set up the shots.
"There are so many people and so much energy I find it hard to relax," he said.
Producer Joel Silver, king of the action genre with credits that include "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard," walked around the set gesturing while talking to his staff.
Snipes seemed to have fun, practicing his fight sequences while the shots were being set up and stopping briefly to sign a few autographs during the lunch break.
Co-workers Toni McCombe and Gwen Tyson, accountants for LG&E; Power Systems in the nearby Wells Fargo Building, waved goodby to Snipes as they left to return to work.
He waved back.