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    Movie company targets old retired submarine

    The submarine might co-star with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson in a Cold War thriller.

    [Times photo: Fred Victorin]
    This Russian submarine docked at the Port of St. Petersburg was intended to be a tourist attraction at The Pier, but it never made it that far.

    By SHARON BOND

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 2000


    ST. PETERSBURG -- The unwanted Russian submarine docked at the Port of St. Petersburg might be leaving (finally) to star with Harrison Ford in a movie.

    Producers are interested in chartering the retired Russian submarine, a Juliett class guided missile launcher, apparently to use in K-19: The Widowmaker. The Hollywood trade magazine Variety reported recently that both Ford and Liam Neeson might star in the movie, described as a Cold War thriller.

    Port director Michael D. Perez said he was contacted by a movie production company about chartering the submarine. He would not disclose which company but said he put it in touch with the sub's owner. Perez thinks a deal could be signed in the next few weeks.

    "It is possibly a great opportunity to be a win-win situation for the submarine, the port and the potential charterers," Perez said.

    The sub was intended to be a tourist attraction at The Pier but never made it that far into St. Petersburg.It was damaged when it broke loose from its tugboat during a storm. It docked at the port where it opened for tours. Another attempt was made to move the submarine, and it was damaged again and returned to the port.

    Then the submarine's Canadian owner filed for bankruptcy, and it was closed to tourists. After the bankruptcy filing, the sub reverted to its original owner, Oy-Sub Expo of Finland, Perez said.

    In September the St. Petersburg City Council authorized attorneys to file an injunction in federal court to get the sub out of the port. But council member Bill Foster said the council later agreed to give the Finnish owner a chance to move it.

    The city did increase the daily rent at the port from the bargain $65 a day to the normal fee of $288 per day. Foster said that as of Nov. 1, the owners are in arrears on the rentfor thousands of dollars.

    "We just want to be paid and want it out," Foster said Tuesday. "Before we let it get too far off shore, we want to make sure we are paid."

    Perez said that if the deal is completed, the submarine would go to Tampa for dry dock repairs before being towed to the movie location.

    Actor Ford was in St. Petersburg a few weeks ago and spent half of a Saturday at the port looking over the submarine, Perez said.

    Joan McGowan, marketing manager at the port, said Ford had a dozen or so movie people with him. She said Ford was in the sub a lot and also looked at the port's dredging equipment.

    "He just visited." McGowan said she did not get a chance to talk to Ford.

    Variety said the movie is being made by National Geographic Films and described the plot as a submarine crew's attempt to prevent a meltdown of its nuclear payload. National Geographic had no comment Tuesday night.

    In June 1961 there was a radioactive leak on a Soviet K-19 nuclear submarine in the North Atlantic, and more than a dozen sailors died. The Russian sub at the Port of St. Petersburg is not a nuclear submarine but would be refitted to look like one.

    - Neighborhood Times Editor Jim Verhulst contributed to this report.

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