Simon Templar, gentleman and master thief, is equally at home negotiating with power brokers, seducing beautiful woman, or dangling from the roof of a tall building. A man of a thousand disguises, Templar has eluded international syndicates, corrupt tycoons, and Interpol with equal ease. But he is more than a sophisticated thief. He is "The Saint," battling for justice where the law cannot or will not reach. THE SAINT, which stars Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue, is directed by Phillip Noyce from a screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick and a story by Jonathan Hensleigh. Also starring in the action-adventure is Rade Serbedzija and Valery Nikolaev. Presented by Paramount Pictures and Rysher Entertainment, "The Saint" is produced by David Brown, Robert Evans, William J. Macdonald and Mace Neufeld. The executive producers are Paul Hitchock and Robert S. Baker. Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc. Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) is rich, sophisticated and almost supernaturally skilled at stealing even the most closely guarded of treasures. He is also cold and cynical, until his path crosses that of Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), a young scientist whose life is in terrible danger. Emma has discovered the key to Russian billionaire Ivan Tretiak's (Rade Serbedzija) overwhelming ambition -- to crown himself the first Czar of the new Russian Empire -- and he will do anything to neutralize the danger that she represents. Stirred by long-dormant feelings, Templar desperately fights to protect Emma while struggling to master the one identity he cannot assume with ease -- himself. Director Phillip Noyce first discovered "The Saint" at the age of eight. A fan of the original novels written by Leslie Charteris, Noyce went on to see the Roger Moore television series then showing in his native Australia. Years later, when producer Robert Evans brought THE SAINT to Paramount, Noyce was given the opportunity to bring a '90s Simon Templar to the big screen. "I wanted to portray how a sinner becomes a saint," says Noyce, "and how someone is redeemed." For inspiration, Noyce went back to the Leslie Charteris novels. "I realized what we had to do in order to reinvent the Simon Templar character was to tell the story that had never been told -- how Simon Templar becomes a saint," Noyce explains. "In his hundreds of stories, the creator of "The Saint," Leslie Charteris, had never told us about the genesis of the character." Noyce enlisted screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh ("Die Hard With a Vengeance") to create a darker Simon Templar. According to Noyce, "we decided Templar's story should begin in an orphanage in Hong Kong where, as a child, he learns all the tricks that he is going to use when he is an adult and how he uses these to survive. He's a man who, like a child, retreats from the brutal reality around him by using disguises which are really an escape, a mask hiding the real man." For the role of Simon Templar, director Noyce chose Val Kilmer. "We didn't need just another action hero; we needed a real actor," says Noyce. "Val Kilmer was the only one who had the true acting ability to play all the diverse parts that Simon Templar has to play. Val has never been used in this way -- and I think people are going to be quite surprised with what he comes up with in this movie." To Val Kilmer, "the excitement of this project is creating a series and an introduction to this character. Templar has a morality and a code and, like many professional thieves, has no interest in harming people or killing them. He is not a bad man; he just grew up in the illegal world and that's what he does for a living." In THE SAINT, Kilmer actually plays over a dozen characters donning Templar's many disguises. Describing how Templar's disguises evolved, Kilmer says: "We started off just goofing around with ideas, seeing how far we could go. It was a lot of fun." At least once a week I'd come on set as someone else." According to producer Mace Neufeld, "Val has been meticulous in developing his disguises. He developed them through body language, attitude, and dialect. His desire for authenticity and accuracy to perfect these disguises made him work very hard in the preparation." To play opposite Kilmer in the role of scientist Emma Russell, Noyce needed an actress who would be believable as a nuclear scientist. "She has to radiate intelligence," says Noyce. "I have always admired Elisabeth Shue's work and as soon as I saw her in 'Leaving Las Vegas,' I knew I had found my Emma." For Academy AwardŽ nominee Shue, participating in THE SAINT was "a big adventure. I was definitely attracted to the 'big' nature of this movie," she says: "I don't think I have ever done a film this big. Also, the main reason for doing this movie was to work with Val." Shue's character, Emma Russell, represented a change from characters she has recently portrayed. "It was very freeing to play someone who was free of deep pain and torture," Shue explains. "I was attracted to Emma most of all by her innocence, her spirit, her wonderment. Emma is somebody who has lived in an isolated world." In Shue's view, Simon Templar "represented all that Emma didn't know, and all that she needed to experience in her life." Much of THE SAINT takes place in contemporary Russia, and director Noyce looked for Russian and Eastern European actors who would bring authenticity to their roles. "We wanted actors that would startle the audience so that they could really believe in the characters," says Noyce. "In Russia, we came up with some fantastic actors." Valery Nikolaev plays the key role of Ilya, the violent and erratic son of industrialist Tretiak. To Nikolaev, Ilya is -- like Simon Templar, in a way -- a man driven by his search for his own identity. "Ilya is the son of Ivan Tretiak, a very powerful man," says Nikolaev. "Ilya wants to be more powerful and bigger than his father. He knows that so long as his father is at the top he will always be second." In addition, Russian actress Irina Apeximova plays Frankie, a young Russian woman who befriends Templar. Rade Serbedzija, a Croatian actor, was cast as Ivan Tretiak, Ilya's father and the would-be dictator of Russia. Serbedzija recalls how the role of Tretiak evolved. Phillip Noyce, he says, had this wonderful idea to make him like a Rasputin character. Tretiak was formerly an ordinary Russian government politician, but when times change in Russia he himself changes. He takes on this new image like Rasputin and becomes obsessed by the need for power and domination." In an interesting casting twist, Rade Serbedzija's daughter, Lucija, also appears in THE SAINT. She plays the part of Sofiya, a teenaged Russian girl who hides Templar and Emma from Tretiak's agents. ABOUT THE PRODUCTION THE SAINT was filmed on location in Moscow and England, and at Pinewood Studios near London. Principal photography began in Moscow in late March, 1996, and was completed in England in August, 1996. Filming in Moscow and especially in historic Red Square offered exceptional opportunities and challenges to all involved in the production. Months of delicate negotiations were required to obtain permission to film in Red Square, in front of the Kremlin. "Shooting in Red Square is the equivalent of filming on the lawn of the White House," explains producer Mace Neufeld. The shooting schedule for THE SAINT required four twelve-hour night shoots involving two thousand extras in addition to the cast and crew. "We were very lucky to be working with Nikita Mikhalkov and his Tri Te Studios," says director Noyce. Mikhalkov, who won an OscarŽ for "Burnt by the Sun," arranged for the authorities to close Red Square for five nights and one day. "The Kremlin surrounded it with troops to keep people out, and we were able to get on with our filming," says Noyce. "Moscow was fabulous -- the best location filming I have ever experienced." Shooting in Moscow gives THE SAINT an authenticity unattainable any other way. According to production designer Joseph Nemec, "Russian architecture is quite unique. Classical, but with what I ended up calling the Russian Twist in that everything is pulled or pushed a bit, made a little bit taller. From a learning standpoint that was very exciting." The challenges of filming in Russia included working in a young democracy - - a country still in the midst of rapid change, and unaccustomed to Hollywood filmmaking. Russian production crews lack modern equipment, and organizational structure was often lacking. "There were lots of people willing to work," says Nemec, "but no decision makers, so that made it very difficult." The differences in atmosphere between Russia and England contributed to the look of the film. "In broad-brush terms," Nemec explains, "Russia was the darker country and England, the lighter. There is a harshness that exists in Russian life and climate that we tried to personify as opposed to the more genteel approach of the scenes in England." A key scene in THE SAINT features a mass demonstration that takes place in Red Square in front of the Kremlin. Getting the right look for the demonstration proved to be challenge in production design. "One thing interesting that I learned," said Nemec, "was trying to give it the look of an authentic Russian demonstration. Something didn't seem right. In studying it, we realized what it was -- in all Russian demonstrations there is one color, red. The new Russian flag is three-colored, and Tretiak is trying to be sympathetic to both ends of the political world there." A small change made a big difference in the feel of the scene, explains Nemec: "Even though our size of flags and our scope and scale were right, having three colors rather than one made that difference." Rade Serbedzija, who plays industrialist Ivan Tretiak, describes the experience of filming in Red Square. "In a way Red Square seemed untouchable. Yet there we were, this big group of filmmakers shooting our movie, filming two hundred meters from Boris Yeltsin's office. It was an extraordinary experience and seemed dominated by director Phillip Noyce. He seemed like a magician with his amazing energy which cut through the terrible cold, energizing everybody and making it happen." For director of photography Phil Meheux, the challenge was how to light Red Square which is the size of four city blocks. Red Square is a national monument; it belongs to the people, says Meheux. "The challenge was being only able to light from one direction, because there was only one building where the roof was conducive to rigging. All the others were ancient buildings. I had to work out how that lighting would work from one side and still give us all the variations you need with all the different cameras and all the effect shots." In a key sequence of the film, Emma Russell escapes from Tretiak's agents by taking refuge in the American Embassy. However, the actual American Embassy in Moscow is on a cramped side street amid nondescript buildings. According to Noyce, "it was not at all what we had in mind for one of the movie's most exciting sequences. To capture the scale of Emma's desperate flight, we needed a big setting." Production designer Nemec set out to find one. "We looked for an area that seemed to symbolize Russian architecture and have a lot of statues around," says Nemec. His decision was to use the Peking Hotel. "We covered up the Communist insignia and took away all the Chinese lettering, put up a gate and the flag, and we had our embassy." For some of the Russian scenes, however, the ideal locations were found in England. For the interior of the Kremlin, Nemec used the Pearl building in London, which proved to have a strikingly Russian feel to it. "What was unique about the Pearl was that it was a 1920's building. It had different kinds of spaces and it was easy to take it into a Russian look," says Nemec. "It had a lot of white marble and birch wood, two very common Russian materials. The old banking lobby which we used as a Russian hotel lobby had the right kind of pink marble paper. There were many opportunities to take an environment into a certain direction and make it correct without having to build the whole thing on a stage." Most location shooting in England took place in and around Oxford, home of England's 800-year-old Oxford University. Among the Oxford locations used in the film were the Radcliffe Camera -- a large domed building built between 1737 and 1749 and now used as a reading room for Oxford undergraduates. In the film, it plays the part of the University's famed Sheldonian Theatre. Oxford's Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory was used as Emma Russell's lab and offices; and a meeting between Emma and Templar was filmed at the Shelley Memorial, built in honor of poet Percy Shelley and located in Oxford's University College. Other English locations included the Harrow, famed boys' school which was used for the interiors of the Sheldonian Theatre. The Caverns at Fort Amhurst doubled as the Kremlin tunnels, and Borocourt Hospital served as the orphanage where sequences from Templar's childhood were filmed. One key studio set was built in Russia. This was the exterior of the Tretiak mansion -- a project that prompted much curiosity among Russians. Letters to Russian newspapers demanded to know why a large palatial building was going up on a site surrounded by guards. Then the news got out: Hollywood was coming to Russia. Most studio shooting took place at Pinewood Studios near London, where interiors were built for many of the Russian sequences. Among the sets at Pinewood were Professor Botvin's laboratory, Ilya's bedroom, Templar's hotel room, and, outstandingly, the interior of the Tretiak mansion. Built in one of Pinewood's largest sound stages, the Tretiak mansion interior was a palatial structure of marble and gold, two and a half stories high, incorporating a domed roof and immense chandelier. "It's a real set construction design," says production designer Nemec. Stunt coordinator Gregg Powell had previously worked with Val Kilmer on the film "Willow." He was also familiar with Russia, where he worked on "Sharpe," a popular British television series. For THE SAINT, key stunt work included an exploding Range Rover, and Simon Templar free-falling from a ten-story building. Powell, whose recent credits include "First Knight" and "Michael Collins," began working as a stunt performer fifteen years ago. "With that experience and learning those skills," he says, "I then became an advisor to others. I would never ask a stunt performer to do anything I haven't done myself." "We worked with a nucleus of twenty Russian stuntmen," Powell explains. "When I knew we were doing stunts in Moscow, I contacted many that I had worked with on the television series. With stuntmen around the world you don't have to speak the same language -- they instinctively know what you are asking of them and what you are trying to achieve. The stunt equipment they use may not be on a par with what we use in Britain and the US, but their stunt work cannot be faulted. They get the same effect. They're a great bunch of guys." At the heart of THE SAINT are the many faces of Simon Templar. In creating his disguises, Val Kilmer worked closely with costume designer Marlene Stewart and chief make-up artist Paul Engelen. According to Stewart, "a lot of the disguises evolved in the process of evaluation -- Val working with his dialogue coach and finding an accent which was the key to each transformation." In the course of the film, Templar adopts disguises ranging from a Russian bodyguard to an Oxford artist and more. In one sequence, Templar is clad in a special thermal suit that enables him to slip unnoticed past laser detectors. Costume designer Stewart began with research into the actual thermal suits worn by astronauts. "They were not exactly figure enhancing, but we took that idea and streamlined it. Val also had special head gear and laser goggles which he had to be able to take off easily." In another sequence, says Stewart, Templar "plays a South American business man with a distinct accent. He has long hair and is quite elegant -- I guess you would call this his seduction disguise. He looks very fashionable and handsome." All of Templar's disguises had to be "interesting, entertaining, and believable, yet still a bit of a fantasy," Stewart explains. But in Simon Templar's deadly business there is no place for whimsy. "The disguises have to be totally functional and rooted in reality." According to chief makeup artist Engelen, designing Templar's disguises "was an ambitious thing to do, but it was also fascinating finding out what could be achieved." Engelen describes the process of working out the disguises: "We started by taking a series of photographs and everything evolved from there. Val has a strong face, defined lips, and strong brow. But once you tone the lips and narrow the shape of the face and head, you can get away with a lot. Then, as Val becomes the character, he develops a different posture, throws his expression a little, and the whole thing takes shape. What was quite daunting from the outset turned out to be great fun." "Creating the look of Simon Templar was very challenging" says costume designer Stewart. "At all times he looks the handsome hero, his own clothes are streamlined but efficient; they don't tell you who he is. Templar is an empty palette who adopts these layers that become his disguises." Stewart also designed the style of Emma Russell. "Her character evokes an echo of Templar's past," Stewart explains, "so we have her originally dressed in a kind of schoolgirl way, although her lab coat reminds us of her work area. As the story progresses and she meets Simon Templar, a romantic element enters. She becomes less restricted and a bit freer; her clothes are less severe and she has a softer look." Turning to the villains of the piece, Stewart saw no place in today's Russia for the boxy cardboard-like suits of the Soviet era. Billionaire Ivan Tretiak wears the contemporary Russian power suit, while his son Ilya and his henchmen have a fashionable '60s gangster look. "They are Russian street boys and have very sharp suits," explains Stewart. "They are sophisticated and sleek in a very dark way." As a contemporary master thief, Simon Templar is as much at home hacking the Internet as cracking a safe. According to Andrew Eio, computer and video effects supervisor, "We knew Simon Templar was quite a technical sort of person and that he would have a sophisticated system." Eio faced the challenge of creating computer graphics and effects that would be dynamic and exciting, while carrying forward the plot of the film. "We wanted to create an environment that was realistic with an interface that would look and feel correct," Eio explains, "rather than have lots of large text that tells the story but doesn't really blend with what is being played upon." A special challenge faced by Eio and his team was coping with the breathtaking rate of progress in the computer industry. The most advanced software on the market when THE SAINT was in production might already be outdated before the film's release date. "Computer ware goes out of date very quickly," explains Eio. "We made agreements with Apple Computer to have access to software and hardware not yet available, to help us have a look and feel that would be correct for when the film is released." THE HISTORY OF THE SAINT Readers and viewers have thrilled to the adventures of The Saint for nearly seventy years. British author Leslie Charteris first created the character of Simon Templar, The Saint, in the story "Meet the Tiger," published in 1928. By 1936, Simon Templar had become so popular that Charteris organized a Saint Club for his fans. Dues from the club were used to fund a hospital ward and later a youth center in London. The Saint came to the movies in 1938, in a series produced by RKO studios. Templar was portrayed by several actors, most notably George Sanders, who starred in "The Saint Strikes Back," "The Saint in London," "The Saint's Double Trouble," "The Saint Takes Over," and "The Saint in Palm Springs." A new generation of fans was introduced to The Saint in the '60s, when Roger Moore took the wheel of his Volvo in a highly successful British television series that has been seen around the world. Through all these years, author Charteris continued The Saint's adventures in print. Over the decades, he wrote more than fifty novels about The Saint, as well as scores of short stories. In 1992, the Crime Writers' Association honored Charteris with the Diamond Dagger Award for a career of outstanding merit. He died in 1993. Leslie Charteris never wrote of Simon Templar's origins or how he became The Saint. For the film, THE SAINT, director Noyce and screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh and Wesley Strick worked out a background based on clues provided by Simon Templar's evocative name. His first name was derived from Simon Magus, the Biblical magician who attempted to buy the powers of the Holy Spirit. His last name, Templar, comes from an order of crusading warrior monks in the Middle Ages. The Templars were suppressed as heretics in a cynical move orchestrated by rival churchmen and the king of France, who wanted to seize the order's accumulated treasures. The Masonic youth group, DeMolay, is named for the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, who was burned at the stake in the year 1314. Suave and sophisticated; magician, thief, battler for justice -- all are elements in the makeup of Simon Templar, the classic action hero of the 20th century, brought to the big screen in THE SAINT.