'Blair Witch' makers 'kill' Bill Gates

Coming soon to a Web site near you: billgatesisdead.com. And, no, Larry Ellison is not behind the latest conspiracy

Who killed Microsoft chairman William Gates III in Los Angeles on 2 December, 1999?

That question is at the heart of the upcoming indie film MacArthur Park, a project of GMD Studios, directed by Brian Flemming, which is due to debut at one or more film festivals in early 2001.

The premise of the movie: Gates was killed in MacArthur Park while making an appearance as part of a charity event. He was shot from the roof of the Park Plaza hotel. The alleged gunman, a radical fanning the flames of class warfare, fled and was killed by the cops.

"Our central question is what would happen if a JFK-level conspiracy happened today, given the climate in the US, [with so much] distrust of law officials, especially in Los Angeles?" said Brian Clark, president of GMD Studios.

The film -- and the related Web site at macarthurpark.com -- explore these issues by following the investigation conducted by the fictional grassroots group, Citizens for Truth.

GMD's partner in this project is Haxan Films, the moviemakers behind last year's sleeper hit, The Blair Witch Project. And just as the Blair Witch crew used the Web to build excitement for the film, GMD is banking on doing the same with MacArthur Park. The main difference, said Clark, is that while Blair Witch used the Web to tell a story that was the prequel to the movie, the MacArthur Park publicists are planning to use the Web to evolve the movie's story line.

In two weeks, GMD plans to launch a Web site at the URL billgatesisdead.com, where the studio will explore "alternatives to the lone gunman theory", in Clark's words. Likely players in some of the fictional conspiracy plots will include Apple, Oracle, Java heads, Linux backers and even the US Department of Justice, Clark hinted.

What do Microsoft and Gates think of all this?

"We, surprisingly, haven't heard from Microsoft yet," said Clark, "although the LA District Attorney's office told us they are not happy about how they are being portrayed."

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on the film prior to publication.

Clark noted that Gates -- who is portrayed by a "Gates look-alike actor" -- only figures in the first five minutes of the film. "Gates is just a sad, innocent victim of this crime," Clark noted. "The film will focus more on the year after the assassination."

Clark said that the upcoming film bears a strong resemblance to the 1969 film Medium Cool, which was directed by Haskell Wexler, the cinematographer of Limbo and Mulholland Falls. Medium Cool interspersed home-movie like cuts into a film about a Chicago reporter whose film footage of the National Democratic Convention protests mysteriously got into the hands of the Chicago police.

Flemming, the director of MacArthur Park, also has directed other indie productions, including the film Hang Your Dog in the Wind and the musical Bat Boy: The Musical, about a child who is half-boy, half-bat.

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