HOLLYWOOD, CAIn an unprecedented act of journalistic subterfuge, Entertainment Tonight has acquired preview footage from the set of the upcoming action film Maximum Heat, giving ET viewers a rare opportunity to see a portion of a film that will not be in theaters until fall.
The New Line Cinema release, starring Steven Seagal as an Army Ranger and reformed arsonist who joins forces with the FBI to track down his former criminal mentor, was not intended to be viewed, whole or in part, by the general public until its theatrical release in October. Despite the strict ban, at approximately 7:11 p.m. EST Monday, ET aired the footage, which shows Seagal punching a stuntman and flipping him over his shoulder, then turning around to strike a third performer. Director Joseph Merhi is then heard yelling, "Cut!"
ET host Mary Hart commented: "Although Maximum Heat doesn't sizzle onto the big screen until October, we've got an exclusive first look especially for ET viewers."
According to ET producer Gavin Burnhardt, the on-set footage was acquired via secret infiltration of the film's publicity department by veteran ET investigative reporter and former Miss America Leanza Cornett. Cornett used an inside connection at New Line, assistant publicist Stacey Klein, to obtain a special all-access pass to the film's Hollywood set. Then, in what Hollywood insiders are calling an "ET exclusive," Cornett brought a cameraman to the film's set and taped an estimated 10 minutes of never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes footage.
Following the taping, Cornett fled on foot, arriving safely at ET's studio several blocks away with the footage intact.
During the frantic escape, Cornett also managed to snatch a videotape of the film's trailer and conduct a four-minute interview with Seagal about the direction his film career has taken and how happy he is in his new marriage. ET intends to use both pieces of footage in upcoming episodes.
Upon hearing of the covert operation, New Line publicist Dean Schwab said: "I am shocked and appalled at what ET has done, all in the name of airing scenes from this film. Maximum Heat is intended for viewing in a movie theater, by paying customers. The only mitigating factor I can think of is that this will help promote the film at no cost to us."
Added Schwab: "On October 19th... the 'Heat' is on!"
The Maximum Heat scoop is considered to be ET's most controversial since last November's exclusive preview of Paramount Pictures' Star Trek: First Contact.
Since ET is also produced by Paramount, the matter was dealt with internally and never went to trial.
ET co-host Bob Goen defended Cornett's journalistic tactics and praised her for "her tenacity and bravery."
Said Goen: "Leanza was absolutely determined to get this story, and, like any good reporter, that's exactly what she did. By the way, I can't wait to see Maximum Heat. It looks fantastic."