Block Telesales Calls NOW
Receive no more
Sidney Poitier (r.) and River Phoenix (l.) star in Columbia Pictures' "LITTLE NIKITA," a drama of espionage and family honor that begins peacefully in a San Diego suburb and then tautly races to a climatic exchange between global powers at the Mexican border. The film 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.
One of the film's major settings, constructed on Stage 12 at The Burbank Studios, was the interior living room and kitchen of the Grant house and an adjoining greenhouse involved in several key scenes.
But it was in San Diego that Benjamin and the cast played out some of the film's most dramatic moments. Shooting began along the picturesque coastline at Torrey Pines and concluded on a Saturday morning as dawn approached, on G Street Pier in San Diego Bay. A shoot-out between Roy and Scuba (Lynch) was staged on one of the docks.
The climatic highlight of "Little Nikita" is a hostage exchange between the FBI agent and the KGB aboard the bright red San Diego Trolley. Nicknamed the "Tijuana Trolley" by some locals who take the 40-minute ride, the light-transit system travels back and forth between San Diego and Mexico's Tijuana border, considered the most traveled international crossing point in the world.
Cooperation on both sides of the border reached a high level during the filming of these sequences. For instance, San Diego Trolley, Inc., a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board, allowed the movie company to use its own trolley and worked around interruptions on its 16-mile route.
At the border pedestrian crossing, Mexican and American customs and tourism officials aided the filmmakers by opening gates under tight security for the shooting of scenes. Filming took place while thousands of visitors streamed across both sides of the international line.
Several major scenes were photographed in San Diego civic showplaces. The Performing Arts Center and nearby Spreckels Theatre were both used for filming the "Sleeping Beauty" ballet, during which a KGB agent begins to reactivate Jeff's parents.
Appearing as visiting Kirov Ballet dancers in this scene were four principals of the American Ballet Theatre -- Martine van Hamel, Michael Owen, Christine Dunham and Robert Hill -- who actually were performing in "Sleeping Beauty" in San Diego at the same time that "Little Nikita" was being filmed there.
The Harbour Excursion Line, one of the city's oldest bay attractions, provided a colorful red, white and blue ship named the Marietta for a day's filming. Aboard the Marietta, which circled the bay in the shadow of the aircraft carrier the Constellation, Scuba disposes of another agent.
It was one of several watery locations, which included water skiing action in the bay and dolphins at famed Sea World.
"San Diego has appeared in other films," Benjamin says, "but it's never really been used to full advantage. It is a beautiful and unique area. The cooperation couldn't have been more wonderful."