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ART LEVINSON, co-producer of "Little Nikita," began his career as an office boy at Universal Studios, where he rose through the production ranks until achieving producer status on "The Money Pit," directed by Richard Benjamin, and the comedy hit "Mannequin."
"Little Nikita" represents his fourth association with Benjamin following stints as associate producer on "My Favorite Year" and "Racing with the Moon."
At the start of his career, Levinson moved through Universal's training program and was rapidly elevated from assistant director to production manager. His first film credit as a production manager was on "Harry and Tonto." Other films on which he was associate producer were "Breaking Away," "Mr. Mom" and "Teachers."
JOHN HILL, screenwriter of "Little Nikita," was immediately excited by the theme of the story. "It's about a tough choice: motherhood or The Flag? It's truth versus love. Children strongly suspect their parents don't tell them the whole truth -- and they're right." Hill invented Roy Parmenter to create a stranger who tells the River Phoenix character the honest truth about his parents' secret lives -- while the boy's loving parents continue to lie to him. "We tell our children to trust us but be wary of strangers. I love the way this movie turns that upside down. 'Little Nikita' is also about the importance of family, how one can suddenly be turned inside out -- and will it survive?"
John Hill grew up in Kansas City, graduated from the University of Kansas in 1969, and moved to Los Angeles to write screenplays in 1971, where he supported himself as an advertising copywriter. His eighth script was the first one produced in 1976 as the television movie, "Griffin and Phoenix" starring Peter Falk and Jill Clayburgh. Hill also wrote the feature film, "Heartbeeps," starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters.
Hill's films have reflected a wide variety of genres: A love story, a science fiction comedy, and now, with "Little Nikita," a spy drama. Recently his original screnplay, "Quigley Down Under," a western set in Australia, was optioned.
Hill and his wife, Denise, are the parents of a 7-year-old son, Brian, and a daughter, Karen, aged 4.
BO GOLDMAN is one of the most prolific and respected writers in the industry, one who is dedicated to craft and who writes about the fabric of American society. The den in his Northern California home is graced with twin Academy Award statuettes in honor of his screenplays for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Melvin and Howard."
"My work is always about America in some way," Goldman confirms. "I love this country with a passion because it's based upon choice, upon people having some say in their lives. That's the American dream -- not how much we get out of life, but how we live it."
Goldman's screenplays and rewrites have resulted in such praised films as "Shoot the Moon," "The Rose" and "The Flamingo Kid." His career as a writer began with "First Impressions," a musical version of "Pride and Prejudice" that ran on Broadway in 1959. Aside from some script editing for TV's "Playhouse 90" during the early '60s, Goldman mostly spent the next few years trying to get another show on Broadway.
The Goldmans literally lived off option money and income from a fish market that his wife opened when the family moved from Manhattan to Long Island to cut costs. It was a period of stress with a happy ending. This experience proved to be the inspiration for "Shoot the Moon," which he wrestled with for many years before it reached the screen.
"The most important thing a writer contributes to a movie is not the plot, not structure, but the essence -- the essence of the life that you are creating," he says. "Always use that active verb: It must live."
Now Goldman is ready to direct his own work. He is currently writing a script that he is scheduled to direct for United Artists. "I'm not just a screenwriter," he emphasizes, "I'm a filmmaker."
LASZLO KOVACS, Hungarian-born director of photography of "Little Nikita," reached the forefront of Hollywood after lensing "Easy Rider." He provides "Little Nikita" with a sunny, breezy surface that hides a darkness lurking beneath it.
His diverse screen accomplishments include such films as "Getting Straight," "Alex in Wonderland," "The Last Movie," "The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker" (which starred Richard Benjamin and Joanna Shimkus, now Mrs. Sidney Poitier), "The King of Marvin Gardens," "Pocket Money," "What's Up, Doc?," "Paper Moon," "For Pete's Sake," "Freebie and the Bean," "Shampoo," "Harry and Walter Go to New York" (for producer Harry Gittes), "New York, New York," "The Last Waltz," "Mask," "Legal Eagles" and "Ghostbusters."
GENE CALLAHAN, production designer for "Little Nikita," is an Academy Award winner whose contributions to the art of motion picture design have been heralded on both sides of the Atlantic.
Callahan received an Oscar in 1962 for his contribution to Elia Kazan's autobiographical portrait of his family "America, America." Callahan has since received numerous Academy Award nominations.
Among his many credits are "Black Widow" (in which he also played a small role), "Children of a Lesser God," "Places in the Heart," "Annie," "Grease 2," "The World According to Garp," "Chapter Two," "Seems Like Old Times," "Julia," "The Eyes of Laura Mars" and "Funny Girl."
MARVIN HAMLISCH, composer for "Little Nikita," was 8 years old when he wrote his first song. He was 16 when he had his first hit, "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows." He was in his mid-20s when he won an Academy Award for Best Adaptation for "The Sting" and a pair of Oscars -- Best Score and Best Song -- for "The Way We Were."
The composer's time has invariably been well spent -- and his work well received -- since he graduated from Queens College and the Juilliard School and began his career. Raised in a musical atmosphere (his father was a Viennese conductor and accordionist), he earned rapid recognition as an arranger and songwriter.
A banner year for the young musician was 1974. To match the colorful period atmosphere of George Roy Hill's "The Sting," he rediscovered the mischievous music of Scott Joplin and triggered a new interest in ragtime. For Sydney Pollack's "The Way We Were," he caught the romantic reverie of the film's characters in both the title song and score.
The result was an unprecedented three Academy Awards.
In addition to his Oscar-winning film work, he has also composed music for films including "Kotch" (Golden Globe Award for Best Song and Oscar nomination for Best Song), "Save the Tiger," "Bananas," "Take the Money and Run," "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Same Time, Next Year," "Ordinary People," "Seems Like Old Times," "Sophie's Choice" (Academy Award nomination) and "Three Men and a Baby."
Hamlisch has also scored television films including "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," and composed the theme songs for "Good Morning America" and "Hour Magazine."
For the theater he composed "Smile," "They're Playing Our Song" and "A Chorus Line," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award and went on to do the music for the film.
Columbia Pictures presents a Harry Gittes Production of a Richard Benjamin Film starring Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix, "Little Nikita." Produced by Harry Gittes, the film was directed by Richard Benjamin from a screenplay by John Hill and Bo Goldman, based on a story by Tom Musca & Terry Schwartz. Art Levinson served as co-producer.