LINKAGE : Paul Hogan Betting a Bundle That 'Lightning Jack' Will Strike Gold

It's as if Paul Hogan took his cue from Crocodile Dundee: When the Hollywood chips are down, turn to a little Aussie ingenuity to get a movie made.

And Hogan has done just that. Capitalizing on his immense popularity from his "Crocodile Dundee" films, Hogan went to the public markets Down Under and in the United States and put his latest movie, "Lightning Jack," on the stock exchanges to raise enough money to cover production costs--about $25 million.

The comedy, which Hogan stars in and wrote, is his first screen appearance since Paramount's box-office stinker "Almost an Angel" four years ago. After being a hot commodity in the States when riding the crest of his hit "Dundee" films in the mid-'80s, Hogan says he retreated to the Outback after "Angel" flopped.

He joked that he took a reprieve from Hollywood because he didn't want to wear out his welcome. But the droll Hogan was really piecing together a story about an Australian named Jack, who joins up with a Civil War era gang in the States that gets obliterated when its members try to hold up a town bank. Only Jack, played by Hogan, escapes with the help of a young mute played in the film by Cuba Gooding Jr. ("Boyz N the Hood"), who insists on hanging with Jack despite Jack's attempts to get rid of him.

Of course there is a love interest, the saloon gal played by Beverly D'Angelo, and a cameo role by Roger Daltrey. Simon Wincer ("Free Willy," "Lonesome Dove") directs.

Should the film be a hit when it's released in North America on March 11 and in Australia on March 31, Hogan's Aussie ingenuity in raising the financing could be the way independent filmmakers get movies made in the future.

In addition to raising $25 million on the two stock exchanges, Hogan got the remainder of the budget from fees and guarantees from Savoy Pictures, which will distribute the picture domestically, and Disney's Buena Vista International, which will release the picture worldwide except for the Australian territories (Australia and New Zealand).

While he was developing his project, Hogan went to the States to try to grease the studios' palms. But he was rebuffed by all after he refused to relinquish creative control. "Yeah, Paramount said, 'Get out.' They told me 'Lightning Jack' 'wasn't funny.' They said, ' "Coneheads," now that's funny!"' quips Hogan. That Paramount film, of course, bombed in theaters.

"But that's all right. I knew we'd get this made," adds Hogan. After all, the Australian star had no problem raising the cash for both of his successful "Crocodile Dundee" films, which he wrote and produced. But that was through private investments.

This time he did things a bit different.

He called on a few friends and advisers for help, namely investment bankers at Australia's Morgan's brokerage house; his lawyers at Sinclair Tannenbaum, Nigel Sinclair and Craig Emanuel, and Tony Stewart, his accountant and producing partner on his other pictures, who carries an executive producer credit on "Lightning Jack." Sinclair hooked Hogan up with the film's co-producer, Greg Coote at Village Roadshow.

That production funding link was critical to launch the picture in Australia and give the film its Australian support base so that it could qualify as an Australian-made picture. The picture also had to be shot partially in Australia (Queensland was the choice) and have an Australian director.

The qualifications meant Australian investors would get a tax credit on their investment--a major carrot in attracting their support.

Hogan is well aware of the perils for all involved. "Yeah, this is very risky, but the best part is there's not some humorless accountant calling the shots," he says. "I'm sharing this ride with about 5,800 people who believed in me, some people who have a coupla grand in my picture and that means a helluva lot. I'll be terribly disappointed if this doesn't work."

And if it doesn't work, is there a "Crocodile Dundee 3" on the horizon? "Oh, I don't know. It's not like Dundee is some crimefighter like Batman, where you'll do 10 sequels. I can't see Dundee joining the CIA, can you?"

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