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Konstantin Karpov (Richard Bradford, l.) is the Russian intelligence agent who has placed Jeff Grant's (River Phoenix) parents in the U.S. as "sleeper" spies and turned their lives upside down when he "awakens" them to duty in Columbia Pictures' "LITTLE NIKITA." Also starring Sidney Poitier, the taut drama of family honor and international espionage was produced by Harry Gittes and directed by Richard Benjamin from a screenplay by John Hill and Bo Goldman, based on a story by Tom Musca & Terry Schwartz.
"Little Nikita," a drama of espionage and family honor starring Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix, begins peacefully in a San Diego suburb and then tautly races to a climatic exchange between global powers at the Mexican border.
From a screenplay by John Hill and Academy Award winner Bo Goldman, based on a story by Tom Musca & Terry Schwartz, "Little Nikita" is directed by Richard Benjamin and produced by Harry Gittes. Gifted actor Poitier stars as Roy Parmenter, an FBI agent, and River Phoenix portrays Jeff Grant, a teenager entangled in a web of international espionage.
Parmenter uncovers startling information about Jeff's parents that turns the teenager's world upside down. Eventually Roy befriends Jeff and asks his help with the case. Torn between love for his parents and love for his country, Jeff cannot believe his mother and father are Russian "sleepers" -- deep-cover agents planted in the United States -- until they are "awakened" and called to duty.
The young man's world is, understandably, racked by emotional turmoil. With the agent's guidance, he bravely attempts to untangle the mysterious events and web of intrigue surrounding his parents.
The John Hill-Bo Goldman script unfolds from its carefree domestic opening to a gradual peeling away of layers to divulge a dark secret hidden deep beneath the surface. "The opening looks like Normal Rockwell," says director Richard Benjamin. "It's almost like, 'What's wrong with this picture?' It opens sunny and bright and them dramatically changes."
Screenwriter Bo Goldman comments about the film: "'Little Nikita' is about a child's greatest fear, losing his parents' love -- and how betrayal not only puts love in jeopardy, but more likely, in the past. The espionage story dramatizes the theme of family love ironically. The point is, love is the only nationality."
Using the narrative of family unity as a focal point, the film explores the confrontation between Roy and Jeff, an almost surrogate father-son relationship that brings the boy pain and anguish as he is forced to face the dark side of his family.
The film marks Benjamin's fifth directorial assignment following "My Favorite Year," "Racing with the Moon," "City Heat" and "The Money Pit." Harry Gittes produced such films as Columbia's "Harry and Walter Go to New York," "Timerider" and "Goin' South."
A fine supporting cast from New York and Hollywood appears in "Little Nikita," headed by Richard Jenkins, Caroline Kava, Richard Bradford, Richard Lynch, Loretta Devine and Lucy Deakins. Among the experienced production team is co-producer Art Levinson, director of photography Laszlo Kovacs and production designer Gene Callahan.