Understandably "furious" about yesterday's Page Six report on Blood Diamond's alleged "Limbs for Photo-Ops" program, in which the production was accused of having not yet made good on its promises of providing prosthetic appendages to amputees used as extras in the movie, director Ed Zwick rang up the LA Weekly's Nikki Finke to go on the record about the story, which he calls "a very cynical and appalling tack to take and in the worst taste," and "the work of someone who clearly bears the film ill will." (The diamond industry? Harvey Weinstein?) A snippet of his explanation of the shoot's charitable endeavors:
"And, all of us together — Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, the whole cast and crew, and producers like Paula Weinstein, and me — just talked about what we ourselves could do. And knowing all the while that would turn out to be a drop in the bucket compared to the needs all around us. But the need was so great, and the people and the villages had welcomed us with such generosity, we wanted to do what we could.
And so, at the suggestion of the Mozambique production manager Nick Laws, everyone contributed to a fund. There was no twisting of arms: everyone agreed. And then we asked the studio to match it, which they agreed." The "Blood Diamond Fund," as it came to be called, totals in the six figures. I've heard varying numbers ranging from $200,000 up to $500,000. "That may seem trivial," Zwick emphasizes, "but the Blood Diamond production was also pumping as much as $40 million straight into the local economy. Cash for building roads, hiring drivers, paying for hotel accommodations. When you make a film in a place where the need is desperate, money is like a shot in the arm of the local economy."
We have no idea whether the Warner Bros. rep cited in the original Page Six story offered more by way of explanation than the terse "We're working on it" that ran, or if the column cut it down to the dismissive, "Yeah, yeah, the kids are getting their damn plastic legs. Got anything else you want to waste my time with?" way in which it was presented. But at least we now know that the kids who eventually get their much-needed prosthetics won't be given them in a gift bag in front of a line of wire photographers at the movie's premiere.