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H Entries
Earl Hamner, Jr.
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Gale Anne Hurd
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HURD, GALE ANNE
(1955– ). American producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Produced: The Terminator (and co-wrote with James CAMERON, original story Harlan ELLISON) (Cameron 1984); Aliens (Cameron 1986); Bad Dreams (Andrew Fleming 1988); Alien Nation (Graham Baker 1989); The Abyss (Cameron 1989); The Abyss: Special Edition (Cameron 1989); Tremors (Don Underwood 1990); Terminator 2: Judgment Day (executive producer) (Cameron 1991); Cast a Deadly Spell (tv movie) (Martin Campbell 1991); Raising Cain (Brian DE PALMA 1992); No Escape (Campbell 1994); Witch Hunt (tv movie) (Paul SCHRADER 1994); The Relic (Peter HYAMS 1997); Dante's Peak (Roger Donaldson 1997); Armageddon (Michael Bay 1998); Virus (John Bruno 1999).

Also: Assistant production manager, Battle beyond the Stars (Jimmy Murakami 1980). Production assistant, Humanoids from the Deep (Barbara Peters 1980), Alligator (Lewis Teague 1980). Executive consultant, Tremors 2: Aftershocks (video) (S. S. Wilson 1995).

 
Of all the titles attached to the contemporary Hollywood film, none communicates less than the word "Producer." The term may be applied, as a favor or by some arcane contractual obligation, to a person who had nothing to do with the film; or it may simply honor a person who made no creative contributions but was a key constituent in the byzantine fund-raising and empire-building process that now precedes any film project. Yet a third type of producer still exists, one who functions as a genuine co-creator of films and actively participates in all aspects of their production, and such producers (like William ALLAND and George PAL) have, for better or worse, long stood among the true heroes of science fiction films. Today, Gale Anne Hurd is one of the few active representatives of this tradition; and if she has not quite emerged as the heroic science fiction film producer we once might have hoped for, her body of work does command respect and engender hope for the future.

She entered the industry as a protégé of Roger CORMAN, serving as assistant production manager for his Battle beyond the Stars and co-producing Smokey Bites the Dust (1981) with him, but something in her background—perhaps, her distinguished education at Stanford University—imbued her with a stronger desire for class and quality than her erstwhile mentor ever displayed. Forming an alliance with, and marrying, James CAMERON, she co-wrote and produced The Terminator, surely the most unlikely film to ever end up on major critics' top-ten lists. A movie starring Arnold SCHWARZENEGGER as a killing machine from the future hardly sounds promising, but Cameron and Hurd made it intelligent and involving (though they were belatedly obliged, after a lawsuit, to acknowledge their debt to a story by Harlan ELLISON). Their success with the film led to another rewarding assignment, Aliens, where they effectively abandoned the horror-movie framework of the original Alien (1979) and instead created a rousing science fiction war movie, with Sigourney WEAVER as its tough but caring commanding officer. But the Cameron-Hurd partnership floundered when they went under the sea into The Abyss; while better than many reports suggest, the film suffered because it uneasily blended the genres of submarine drama and sentimental fantasy, the sort of film that might result from randomly shuffling together pages from the scripts of Crimson Tide and E.T. Its radically shifting moods perhaps reflected some heated arguments between the director and producer; and certainly, anyone observing the film's subplot about a collapsing marriage must ponder the potential autobiographical resonances.

Even before her relationship with Cameron ended, Hurd started to produce films with other directors, beginning with Bad Dreams, an unremarkable slasher film, and the more successful Alien Nation, a film that, for all its panache, is little more than a routine cop drama with some characters in alien masks, not much above the level of Gerry ANDERSON's Space Precinct. More noteworthy is Tremors—the Citizen Kane of giant earthworm movies—a movie that immediately decides exactly how serious it wants to be and maintains that tone throughout its horrific setpieces and obligatory character development scenes, also making good use of a limited special effects budget and an uneven cast. (She went on, as an "Executive Consultant," to offer advice—evidently, not enough advice—to the producers of the film's inferior direct-to-video sequel, Tremors 2: Aftershocks.) Other worthwhile products of her early solo career included No Escape, an exciting science fiction adventure in the Terminator mode, and Cast a Deadly Spell, a clever tale of sorcery in the form of a film noir detective film (which generated a sequel, Witch Hunt). However, in a brief partnership with another director-husband, Hurd was unable to prevent Brian DE PALMA from Raising Cain.

There is no discernible pattern in her more recent efforts, which vary in quality and sometimes venture beyond the fantastic territory that was once her specialty. While Armageddon is frenetically entertaining, if not thought-provoking, it is hard to see how the producer of The Terminator and Tremors could have presided over halfhearted exercises like Dante's Peak and The Relic. Perhaps, as she becomes more prominent as a mover and shaker in Hollywood, Hurd is evolving into the more distant sort of producer, who limits her involvement in films to making deals and writing checks. If this is the case, one can only hope that the spectacular failure of the teen comedy Dick (1999) will persuade Hurd to choose future projects that better match her talents, and to spend some more time on the set.

 

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