On the set of "Agent Cody Banks 2"...
If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Unless, that is, you were expecting to find four helicopters, a dozen quad bikes, and an army of children in guerrilla facepaint and combat gear.
That's what BBCi Films found when we went to Black Park Country Park near Pinewood Studios to visit the set of "Agent Cody Banks 2", the London-based sequel to the US teen spy smash.
Director Kevin Allen ("Twin Town", "The Big Tease") has transformed this tranquil corner of Buckinghamshire into CIA training facility 'Kamp Woody', where America's smartest kids are turned into secret agents under the noses of their blissfully ignorant parents.
On the surface it's your standard summer camp - tee-pees, wooden huts, a few canoes and a totem pole. But as star Frankie Muniz explains, all is not what it seems. "The helicopters were flying around yesterday with guys hanging out with these guns and everything - it was crazy," he says. There are limits to the craziness, though. "I want to ride one of the quad bikes but I don't think I'm gonna get to - I may hurt myself."
That's the problem when you're the 17-year-old headliner of a $26m sequel - the insurance guys start getting a little antsy. But that hasn't stopped Muniz doing some of his own stunts, which include an impressive drop-kick during a chase through the woods that puts two assailants out for the count.
"I trained for two months before this movie and I can do pretty much all the kicks," says the Malcolm in the Middle star. "It's so much better for the crew, because they can do a shot like they just did where they can have a close-up on me."
Back at Kamp Woody, though, Allen has problems: one of Muniz's younger British co-stars is having trouble with his American accent and the voice coach has gone walkabout. Whoever said that working with children and animals was hard was at least half right. "Filmmaking is actually quite boring a lot of the time," the Swansea-born helmer admits wearily. "There's a lot of downtime, so keeping kids on the ball is difficult. It can drive
A long night shoot approaches, with bad guy Diaz (Allen's actor brother Keith) using a commando drill as a cover to sneak out of the camp with some hi-tech mind control devices in his pocket. So what happens next? "I don't know, because it's being written right now!" shrugs Muniz. "Because it was rushed into production we're writing this movie as we go - literally," adds Allen.
Apparently this entire sequence is a relatively new addition to the constantly-changing script. "We're here because we need a new opening to the movie," explains Allen. "We need a sort of jungle, "Apocalypse Now"-type war simulation thing to open the movie. So here we are, next to Slough!"
But Muniz isn't complaining - though whether that's because his Kirsten Dunst-alike girlfriend is with him on set is open to question. "If there's one character I had to be a lot it would be Agent Cody Banks," he grins through his SAS makeup. "Because it's everybody's dream to be a secret agent - to get the girl, have the cool gadgets and drive the cool cars." And with that it's back to the woods for one more high kick.
"Agent Cody Banks 2" will open in the UK in 2004.