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Oklahoma stands in for Russia in 3-D sci-fi film
Politicians turning into rats? Maybe not so hard to believe.
But Oklahoma City standing in as Moscow? Guthrie acting as the Russian capital? Now that sounds like science fiction.
Leave it all to the special effects guys. In today's high-tech movie world, everything's possible in postproduction.
And when the final cut is in the can, “Higher Mission” will hold a special place in state filmmaking history.
“It's in 3-D,” producer Gray Frederickson said. “First 3-D movie ever shot in Oklahoma.”
The sci-fi thriller — financed, written and directed by Russian architect and businessman Vladimir Uglichin — has been filming during the past month at various locations including the state Capitol, the mansion of Stephen and Cheryl Browne, residences in Gaillardia and Nichols Hills, the Temple of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Guthrie and a farm near Mustang — all being passed off as Moscow locales.
The story focuses on young U.S. Sen. John Perryman (Casper Van Dien, “Starship Troopers”) who travels to Russia to give a speech before the Parliament, and through his dreams is given a mission from otherworldly forces.
“He starts having dreams that politicians — crooked politicians — are going to turn into rats if they don't clean up their ways,” Frederickson said. “When he stands up in front of Parliament and warns them that they're going to be turned into rats, they boo and hiss and throw him off the stage.
“So he's wandering around Moscow, stranded there because they won't have anything to do with him because they think he's crazy, and all the politicians start turning into rats. They start growing whiskers and their ears start going up ... and they want the antidote, and he says ‘All you have to do is give back the money you've stolen.'”
Perryman soon finds himself pursued by criminals, military and cops alike.
Meanwhile, the sight of men in official-looking Russian uniforms and emergency vehicles with Russian lettering stenciled on the sides has made heads turn on the streets of Oklahoma City and Guthrie.
Tuesday afternoon, two police cars and an ambulance — all with Russian markings — were parked outside of a building on NW 58 east of May Avenue that director Uglichin had selected after perusing an entire block of structures.
Several men in Russian military and police garb also were standing around, watching people in civilian clothing positioning the complex-looking 3-D camera and various equipment carts at the entrance of the building.
“He's getting arrested right now,” Frederickson said, pointing out the handsome, dark-haired guy in the suit and tie. It was the film's star, Van Dien. “This is where the police finally catch up with him in front of these girls. He meets a couple of hookers at the airport and they take him in and try to protect him. And he's coming out of the door of the hookers' apartment and they arrest him.”
The man dressed as a Russian police officer standing next to Van Dien was Peter Zhmutski, the Russian-born Oklahoma resident and filmmaker who first brought the project to Frederickson.
Frederickson is an Oklahoma City native, Oscar-winning producer of the “Godfather” trilogy, and artist-in-residence at Oklahoma City Community College, where he teaches filmmaking.
When Uglichin consulted Victor Kruglov, a Hollywood agent specializing in Eastern European talent, about getting his film made economically in the U.S., Kruglov introduced Uglichin to Zhmutski, who in turn brought his fellow Russian to Frederickson.