If Tom Cruise ever found himself in mortal combat against the castof Kill Bill, at least one expert would put his money on thesmirking Scientologist: veteran stunt coordinator Nick Powell, whoguided the star through seven months of fight training for TheLast Samurai. In preparation for his role as a disillusionedCivil War hero employed by the emperor of Japan, Cruise had toendure strenuous regimens in sword fighting, kendo, jujitsu, andkarate, and, according to his instructor, he passed with flyingcolors. "He's a natural athlete, and I don't saythat lightly," says Powell, 39, whose previous pupils haveincluded Mel Gibson (for Braveheart) and Russell Crowe (forGladiator). "[Cruise] was taking swords with himeverywhere -- anywhere while he was doing publicity for MinorityReport, even on weekends when he was going home to L.A."When not working one-on-one with Cruise, Powell made sure his hugecast of extras avoided injury while battling across thefilm's New Zealand locations. "The challenge is gettingeverything to look right in a safe way," says Powell."When you've got 600 people fighting in a field, youdon't want a guy tripping and landing on somebody's dagger orsomething."
Tripping The Blight Fantastic
After Mekhi Phifer won us over as a streetwise denizen of Detroit in ?8 Mile, we were shocked to learn that his new movie, Honey, a similarly rough-and-tumble tale of urban inspiration, was filmed in...Toronto. But the ERstar tells us not to be concerned about the film's credibility. "Idon't want to reveal everything," says Phifer, 29, "but you get todelve into the housing projects a little bit, hustling drugs -- that'sall in the movie. It's not going to be cheesy." In the first featurefrom video director Bille Woodruff (R. Kelly's "World's Greatest"),Phifer plays the boyfriend of Honey Daniels (Dark Angel'sJessica Alba), a hip-hop choreographer whose career is derailed whenshe refuses to sleep with her mentor. "It's like a modern-day Fame,"says Phifer, but don't look for his character to bust any moves on thedance floor. "He owns a barbershop," the actor says. "He's the type ofguy who might do a couple of two-steps at the club."