(2 of 2)
Liman has a knack for making bad luck work for him. That first shot is a good example: the Smiths are trying couples counseling, and their unfamiliarity with each other as actors and as people plays perfectly onscreen as the awkward distance of a husband and wife who have become strangers. But Liman's MacGyver-like improvisational style can come at a price. "It was a very hard shoot," he admits. "I don't necessarily go into a movie with the characters figured out." He built an entire snow-covered mountain on a Fox sound stage, then scrapped it when he decided the mountain scene was all wrong for Mr. Smith's personality. He also had to scrap the two main villains and held two reshoots after the movie wrapped. "I'm extremely tenacious," Liman says. "The movie becomes the most important thing in the world, and I don't care if it destroys my career and I can never make another movie."
Then, of course, there are the alleged off-camera improvisations of Pitt and Jolie, which nobody associated with the production wants to comment on, despite pages of photos in Us Weekly of the two frolicking on a beach together. "We don't know--nor do you, nor does anyone, that they have actually hooked up anywhere," says Sanford Panitch, president of New Regency, which is releasing the film, with Clintonian aplomb. Whatever happened, they made a movie in which they look smooth trying to kill or kiss each other. Apart from Jennifer Aniston, who doesn't want to see that? --With reporting by Desa Philadelphia/Los Angeles