Charles Haid stars in -- and believes in -- ABC's Monday night movie, "Weekend War," which he says makes a political statement about American foreign policy in Central America that supporters of the Reagan administration won't want to hear.
"We shot it for 20 days in a jungle in the rain, under the sun, with bugs ... It was great. This time we got to say something. That's why I'm happy I did it: I am actually involved in a project that I believe in 100 percent."
The movie, filmed in Puerto Rico in mid-December, tells the story of American civilians who go to Honduras for their annual California National Guard two-week duty, expecting to rebuild an isolated airstrip. Instead, they become trapped by guerrilla warfare and must fight for their lives.
"'Weekend War' is probably the most courageous attempt by a network to take a stand," said Haid. "The thing that's fascinating about this entire event is that they made a very specific film with a very specific message about our involvement in Central America. The film has to speak for itself. It talks about Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Contras, the Sandinistas, drug traffic ... it's a completely, absolutely realistic film about a realistic situation."
Haid plays Kupjack, a Vietnam vet whom Haid pictures as a blue-collar worker in civilian life. The only experienced soldier in the group, he is surrounded by John Deason (Stephen Collins), an architect who loves to sightsee; David Garfield (Daniel Stern), a physician who volunteers to help the villagers; and Dulcy (Evand Mirand), who flirts with the wrong girls at a local night spot and becomes involved in a drunken brawl. James B. Tolkan plays Maj. Alex Thompson, the officer in charge.
"The interesting thing about this piece is that these people are real. Those are the people who go there. There's sort of an innocence ... I think it's Stephen Collins' best performance that he's ever done. In a certain sense, he's the perfect prototype."
Haid, who makes no bones about his own political views, warmed to his topic: "ABC has actually made a major political statement. The film they came up with asks the question: What are we doing in Central America? The answer to that question is in that film somewhere, about exactly what goes on and has been going on since the early 1900s, about the slaughter of thousands of innocent people, tribes of Indians killed off ..."
Collins and "Weekend War" producer Paul Pompian take a more benign view, treating the movie as one that raises questions without imposing answers.
"It's not making a statement about our policy in Central America," said Collins at a recent press conference. The show does point out that National Guard forces can be mobilized more readily than regular forces. "It does not take congressional approval to send National Guard units," said Collins. "It does to send the regular Army. A National Guard unit can be manipulated more easily than regular forces."
If there is a statement, said Pompian, it is that "we have a murky situation in Central America. Do we want to thrust the National Guard into a situation where they might get killed?"
In "Weekend War," the guard unit's mission shifts from patching up an airstrip to rebuilding a key bridge. The span, austensibly important to Honduran goatherds driving their stock to market, has greater significance: It is also important to the Contras, Sandinistas and drug dealers.
The turmoil in Central America is not Haid's first encounter with war-as-theater. As Officer Andy Renko, he tried to contain street gangs on "Hill Street Blues." In 1984, Haid starred in and co-produced a television movie, "Children in the Crossfire," about children from Northern Ireland who came to the United States for the summer.
On the wide screen, Haid turns up this month in an Atlantic film, "Cop," with James Woods. Haid plays "a very bad man, a very corrupt man, completely weird. Very unlike me." He's also doing a movie for Disney's Touchstone Pictures, which he described as "a real kids' adventure movie about the U.S. Navy SEAL team."
Last year he joined Jane Alexander to produce "Square Dance," starring Alexander, Jason Robards, Wynona Ryder and Rob Lowe. His next production project is a film for Columbia Pictures that he expects to open in the fall, "Flying Blind," which he described as "about a kid in Philadelphia in the '60s."
Haid, who has lost more than 20 of Officer Renko's extra pounds, recently endured surgery to fuse two cervical discs -- "double interbody fusion," he called it, "like using a double-bladed axe." Forced to remain in bed while his spine healed, he had decided to do telephone interviews to promote "Weekend War."
"I believe in this particular film. I am happy to see that a television network has had the foresight and integrity and courage to actually attack something head on. It is about an issue -- they do talk about the issue -- and it's on human terms, and what this crap really comes down to is human terms."