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CNN Entertainment On 'Taken'

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates@virtuallystrange.net>
Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 10:33:32 -0500
Fwd Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 10:33:32 -0500
Subject: CNN Entertainment On 'Taken' 

Source: CNN Entertainment


Spielberg Presents UFO Encounters
'Taken' a 10-part miniseries on alien subject

Monday, December 2, 2002 Posted: 11:36 AM EST (1636 GMT)


LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The sky's no limit for Sci Fi
Channel's "Taken," which is big by just about any measurement.

The 10-part miniseries dramatizes more than five decades of
alien-abduction and UFO mythology. It clocks in at 20 hours. Ten
directors worked on it. The budget was a reported $40 million.

And here's the clincher: Steven Spielberg, a sizable name when
it comes to movies and aliens, is the guiding hand behind the
series showing on 10 consecutive weeknights (December 2-6;
December 9-13) starting Monday.

Spielberg, whose famed otherworldly musings are "Close
Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,"
approached Sci Fi Channel in 1998 about an epic alien project.

"With a storytelling legend behind you, you're not going to
throw it away on a four- or six-hour miniseries," said Sci Fi
President Bonnie Hammer. "We wanted to give him time to tell the
story ... and we were willing to go along for the ride."

The filmmaker's cachet is not squandered: The miniseries' full
title is "Steven Spielberg Presents: Taken."

It is in the tradition of such grand 1970s dramas as the 24-hour
"Centennial," both in length and in the compressed airing. Other
recent miniseries, such as HBO's "Band of Brothers," have been
spun out week to week.

"We wanted to create a true event as opposed to a weekly
series," Hammer said. "In a sense, it's a bit of an experiment
scheduling it this way, but there's a level of excitement
attached to it because we're breaking some rules."

A family and its contacts

"Taken" is, rather remarkably, the work of one writer, Leslie
Bohem ("Dante's Peak," "Twenty Bucks"), who also served as
executive producer along with Spielberg.

Starting in 1945, the drama follows four generations of the
Keys, Crawford and Clarke families and their part in
extraterrestrial encounters that affect both Earthlings and

In the first episode, World War II fighter pilot Russell Keys
(Steve Burton) is in a dogfight over France when an eerie blue
light envelops his plane, saving him and his crew but with
lasting and dire effects. Also central to the tale is government
research into a spacecraft that made a crash landing near small
-- but destined for fame -- Roswell, New Mexico.

The saga is narrated by 10-year-old Allie (Dakota Fanning), a
girl with an intriguing family tree and a crucial role to play
for humanity.

Co-stars include Eric Close, Catherine Dent, Matt Frewer,
Michael Moriarty and James McDaniel -- and a spaceship-sized
load of visual effects supervised by James Lima ("Strange Days,"
"Space Jam").

The film strives for emotional depth as well as sci-fi razzle-
dazzle, said Bohem, who spent more than three years crafting
"Taken" with guidance from Spielberg.

"Our initial conversations were, 'What's intriguing about this
[the subject], how do we treat it with respect, how do we make
it seem as real as possible,' " Bohem said.

Spielberg posed his own question to Bohem: If tales of blank-
eyed, spindly alien invaders who spirit away humans aren't true,
then why are stories told by alleged abductees so similar?

"I glibly said, 'Your movies,' " Bohem recalled.

Explaining the draw

In a statement, Spielberg said he's uncertain about whether
Earth has received visitors but insists "I know there is life
off this planet."

Does Bohem believe aliens have been booking regular Club Earth
tours? Maybe, which means "God's got a bigger canvas" and our
view of the universe must change, he says.

But the writer admits favoring a negative answer.

"I find it even more compelling if it's not true. Then the
question of why we are all drawn to these stories and have been
for so long comes to the fore, and I think that is the even more
profound question."

In line with that, Bohem saw the miniseries as a means of
examining the broader concept of being taken, not just by
invaders but by "love, by lust, by power, by drugs, by alcohol."

"I believe what will keep people tuned in, hopefully, is that
the characters are very compelling and you watch these
characters evolve and age before your eyes and give birth to
special children who themselves have a purpose in our story," he

While Bohem was the sole writer, each two-hour chapter of
"Taken" used a different director, among them Tobe Hooper
("Poltergeist") on Episode 1 and Jeremy Kagan ("The Journey of
Natty Gann") on Episode 7.

"They did it the opposite way it's often done," said Breck
Eisner, who directed the second episode. "They had one writer
write everything, every word. I think they thought, 'Let's try a
couple different visions from directors and get multiple points
of view.' "

Spielberg is cited by those involved as the unifying force,
offering counsel and suggestions -- among them his vision of an
alien spaceship interior that is "not quite within
comprehension, blown-out and unclear," Eisner said.

"What could be better than directing a project that Spielberg is
producing, based on alien mythology. For me, a sci-fi fan, it's
the greatest thing you can imagine," Eisner said.

For 10-year-old Sci Fi Channel, the miniseries represents a
splashy way to try and expand its audience beyond die-hard
science fiction fans, Hammer said.

There's some evidence the strategy might pay off. A November 22
feast of UFO and alien documentaries, a promotional platform for
"Taken" with Spielberg serving as host, made Sci Fi the No. 1
adult-targeted cable channel during prime time.

Bohem, however, is looking for rewards beyond ratings: the
audience's recognition of a united, self-reliant world that must
function without the expectation of help from more-evolved

"It's important to me you come away from this comforted by the
fact that we're all in this together, but not comforted by the
fact there's somebody showing up on Thursday from Alpha Centauri
with all the answers.

"They won't be coming on Friday, either."

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