Trinidad and Tobago


The Bodyguard Too

August 14, 2001

JACK WARNER, founder of the movie-making empire that still carries his family name, also helped pioneer the sequel concept, Hollywood's way of repeatedly milking celluloid cash cows.

His local namesake is no less an entrepreneur. So when news broke that Warner was contemplating a sequel to the Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston movie, The Bodyguard, I was suitably confused. Was it the Trini mogul in the producer's chair? Or was it Warner Bros, the company that, in 1992, released the original version?

The producer's identity remains a mystery, although a few clues have surfaced. Word is, for instance, that Warner chastised scriptwriters for failing to keep under wraps the plot for The Bodyguard Too, a movie soon to be shot here, on location at the Prime Minister's official residence.

Having routinely chronicled events taking place at the La Fantasie Road house, scriptwriters noted several trends. Much of it was formal and consequently normal, but recent developments highlighted a curious thread common to daughters of prime ministers. From this single angle, they could churn out scenarios of sadness, humour, love, intrigue and the perfect happy ending.

Erica, 50, daughter of inaugural PM, Dr Eric Williams, is currently enjoying a holiday in Switzerland with recently retired husband Jim Connell and 15-year-old daughter Erin. Surely, inclusion of that sequence would neutralise petty local politics and bring smiles to romantics everywhere.

By the same opportunity, it deliberately sneers in the direction of those who promulgated that vicious rumour about a forbidden affair much earlier in her life, or when mauvais-langue peaked; on first hearing that the only child of the Father of the Nation planned to wed an American.

Williams's successor, George Chambers, provided screenplay feedstock, when daughter Andrea teamed up with Rennie Bishop, a radio jock who labelled himself "The Starchild" and whose on-air accent, coupled with an apparent reluctance to highlight indigenous music, also rendered him an honorary foreigner in the eyes of passionate locals.

Following the Chambers episode was one that delivered the dream of every movie produceróa friendly military presence. It happened with Margaret-Ann, daughter of a prime minister whose middle name already was Napoleon, opting for companionship from a member of the Coast Guard. Quite naturally, the wags attacked with full force.

Gunplay came to the script on April 19, 1999. Corporal Anthony Caesar, once a member of Prime Minister Basdeo Panday's security detail, turned his weapon on military head of the household, Commander Noel Penco, then committed suicide. The bloody incident stemmed from an intimate relationship between the shooter and Mr Panday's secretary at his home office.

Wayne Armour, another Coast Guard officer who followed Commander Penco at La Fantasie Road, reportedly asked to be written out of the script and was succeeded by Major Sharon Alfonso, daughter of a former Pan Trinbago president. Alfonso's replacement was Captain Gary Griffith.

It was this move that triggered renewed enthusiasm in the Warner boardroom about The Bodyguard Too, as Capt Griffith, whose duties involve the personal security of Mr Panday, his wife and three daughters, was reportedly something of a ladies' man.

This section of the screenplay has both a ponderous protocol position and good ol' fashioned fairytale appeal: Mr Panday's daughter, Mikela, 23, a law student in London, comes home to spend her summer holiday. She and Capt Griffith, 36, fall in love.

Mr Panday, recently dubbed "The Godfather" in movie circles, is also Minister of National Security. He meets regularly with Defence Force Head, Brigadier Jon Sandy. After one such session, talk of the romance between Mikela and Capt Griffith suddenly exploded on front pages everywhere, stoking speculation about the officer's future in the military or, for that matter, his options as a basic bodyguard.

Being a man whose business it is to know rules of engagement, we took his word that he had no such plan. But reports say Warner, swiftly estimating the value of pathos in a touching farewell scene, must be among those waiting to wish Capt Griffith goodbye.

And with a special spy-squad now detailed to follow every move of Mikela and Capt Griffith, Warner will probably need to call in John Ashker, celebrated stunt coordinator from The Bodyguard, in the event there is an exciting car chase one of these nights.

Warner's anxiety to close the deal is being interpreted by some as safeguarding against unpredictable results of a snap election already hinted by Mr Panday; a poll that could return current Opposition Leader Pa-trick Manning to the official residence.

Were that to happen, the plot would certainly fizzle. Spoilsport that he is, Mr Manning has just two childrenóboth male.

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