Monday, November 16, 2015
WESTWORLD ROBOTS IN SUSPENDED ANIMATION! ‘POWDER BURNS’ SETS AIRWAVES AFIRE! PLUS GRIZZLY ADAMS REBOOT, COWBOY LUNCH & MORE!
‘WESTWORLD’ ROBOTS IN SUSPENDED ANIMATION!
Production on HBO’s WESTWORLD was abruptly halted last week, with only seven of the ordered ten episodes in the can. In production for more than a year, the HBO sci-fi-western series is based on the 1973 movie from writer-director Michael Crichton, produced by Saul David. It’s about a resort where people pay a lot of money to live out their fantasies in various eras including the old west, in a town peopled by human-seeming robots who are programmed to cater to their every wish. The original film stars Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as tourists, and Yul Bryner – looking exactly as he did in MAGNIFICENT 7 – as a robot who develops a mind of his own, and won’t let the humans outdraw him anymore.
Anthony Hopkins, seated
They’ve been very quiet about the new version, so it’s not known how closely they’re sticking to the original plot. Ed Harris has the Yul Bryner role, and looks great in the stills. The cast includes Anthony Hopkins – Oscar winner for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as a new character, Dr. Robert Ford (don’t know if it’s a coincidence that it’s the same name as the man who shot Jesse James), James Marsden, Thandie Newton, and Evan Rachel Wood.
They’ve had Gene Autry’s old Melody Ranch locked down tight as a drum ever since DJANGO UNCHAINED left. While the order was for ten episodes, and seven have been shot, on Monday, November 9th, the crew was told that they’d e wrapping on Thursday, the 12th, to allow for reworking the last three scripts for the season. They’re scheduled to restart production in January. The series is set to premiere on HBO in February. Stand by for updates.
NEW RADIO WESTERN ‘POWDER BURNS’ SETS AIRWAVES AFIRE!
Dramatic radio was a wonderful medium for Westerns. Although they featured breathtaking vistas and violent action, the audience created all the visuals, so they cost no more to make than any other program. A horse was easy to create with a pair of syncopated cocoanut shells. For kids there was THE LONE RANGER, THE CISCO KID, and RED RYDER. For adults, GUNSMOKE starring William Conrad, TALES OF THE TEXAS RANGERS starring Joel McCrea, FORT LARAMIE starring Raymond Burr. Then audiences started drifting to the grey light-box, where you didn’t have to use your imagination – you just had to squint. Most of the shows segued to television, or simply disappeared. HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL reversed the process – starting on TV, starring Richard Boone, and then spawning a radio version starring John Dehner. GUNSMOKE had six concurrent seasons on both mediums, but on June 18, 1961, the last radio episode was broadcast. In October of 1962, the very last radio drama, SUSPENSE, played its final show. The era of dramatic radio was officially over.
For years, the old shows were only available on records, then cassettes. Now they’re on CDs and MP3 downloads. Once every major city in the United States had some OTR – old time radio – program somewhere on the dial; most of those are gone now as well. There have been sporadic new shows from time to time: TWILIGHT ZONE and its imitators. But I can’t think of a Western since GUNSMOKE.
Until now. David Gregory and his associates have created a new Western radio series – he calls it audio rather than radio – called POWDER BURNS. Burns is the name of the lawman it features, a lawman who’s recently gone blind. It’s recorded in New York City, in a cramped sound-booth where DORA THE EXPLORER started out. And they’re attracting some strong talent: Robert Vaughn, the original MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., and the last man standing of THE MAGNIFICENT 7, guest stars in episode 4. You can hear the first 18 minute episode by clicking the link below. And you can read my interview with its creator, David Gregory.
HENRY PARKE: I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Have you not heard that dramatic radio died in 1962? And westerns are supposed to have been dead for years. Why did you decide to revive them both by creating POWDER BURNS?
DAVID GREGORY: I’ve always wanted to do a radio drama, because I grew up with them. I have sort of the same memories as my grandparents have of listening to these shows, because I was given some tapes and cassettes as a kid. I got so into it that it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I felt that in today’s very visually-oriented society, if we’re going to do another audio drama, we’ve got to really market it for today’s audience. And the only way I thought that would be doable would be to do it from the perspective of somebody who is blind, so the modern audience wouldn’t think that they were missing anything. I tried it in a few different genres first – the western was not the first one I went for. It’s my personal favorite genre, but I didn’t think this kind of a story would work as a western. I tried it as a sci-fi piece first, sort of like when Charlton Heston first wakes up in PLANET OF THE APES, and his crew is dead, he’s the only one alive, and he doesn’t know what’s going on. My initial idea was something like that, where all he’s got to talk to is the ship’s computer, and he can’t see, and he’s trying to figure out what’s happened to his crew. I actually wrote two episodes, and my computer crashed and I lost them. Then I tried it again as a private detective, and I got a couple of pages in, and I couldn’t figure out how to keep the longevity of the character going. The western was the third try, and I wrote four episodes in two weeks, and it just worked. Maybe because it was more character-driven – I didn’t over-analyze it, I knew it was working. So that’s where I approached it from, trying to make it where someone like my little brother (would listen to). We have different tastes in movies. He’ll go out and see TRANSFORMERS in the movie theatre. If we’re going to make someone like that listen to this, what’s our angle? It’s that you’re not missing out on anything, because he’s supposed to not see, and neither are you. That’s sort of the pitch.
HENRY: That makes perfect sense. I was wondering why you chose to make him blind, other than the novelty, but that makes perfect sense for an audience who is used to seeing everything. I can see you’re a young guy by the picture on the website. How old are you?
DAVID: I just turned thirty.
HENRY: What sort of radio shows were you given?
DAVID: I’ll never forget. The first one I was given was the first episode of THE LONE RANGER. My grandmother found it at a Cracker Barrel, and she told my mom, “You’ve really got to get this for David – I think he’ll really like it.” Because I grew up watching John Wayne movies. I wanted to be John Wayne.
HENRY: As you were growing up there weren’t very many westerns series on TV. Were there any that you watched?
DAVID: I do remember DR QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN, very vividly. That was a big one. Obviously it was a strong female-character-driven show, which was unique, not only for the time, but still. But there was still something there for the guys. Sully, the lead male character, he had that axe that he threw in the opening credits. I just remember between the John Wayne movies and that, having an affinity for the genre.
POWDER BURNS table read - that's Robert Vaughn
in the red jacket
HENRY: How do you go about creating a dramatic radio show today? There’s not a Red or Blue or Mutual Network to take it to.
DAVID: I knew this guy who had done some engineering work. And I approached him because we both loved the old time radio shows. He’s 31, and I hadn’t met anyone else my age who I could mention someone like Virginia Gregg or John Dehner, and he’d know who they are. There’s nobody my age who knows who those people are. So I approached him with this script, and I said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, but I’d like to try it, I’d like to give it a shot.” This is about October of last year. And we thought, let’s try to raise some money and record a pilot. Which is frankly, a lot cheaper to do as a radio show (than a TV show), because you don’t have to pay for cameras or make-up or costumes. I did the pilot with friends of mine, so I guess I could have asked them to do it for free. But I think actors should be paid for what they do. And I wanted these particular actors to know that I was very serious. So I approached my cast, and everyone said yes, and we recorded it in February. And then used that pilot as a jump-start to do a Kickstarter campaign. And that’s how we raised money to do more (episodes), just to cover studio costs. I ended up approaching Robert Vaughn to do a guest star role. I wanted to make sure we had enough in the bank to offer him. To come to his manager with a legitimate offer, so that he’d know we were serious. Knock on wood, no one’s turned us down yet. It’s been pretty exciting.
HENRY: That’s great. How did you know Robert Vaughn?
DAVID: About four years ago, I was cast in an independent film that this woman, Donna McKenna, a casting director in New York, was putting together, (EXCUSE ME FOR LIVING - 2012). Part of the selling point for me was we’ve got Christopher Lloyd, we’ve got Robert Vaughn, we’ve got Jerry Stiller, we’ve got a lot of great actors in this movie. So I did the film, and a couple of months ago I approached her again. I said, Kat, I know you’re good at getting these kinds of names in small productions. I was wondering if you could help get Robert Vaughn for us. This guy’s old-school Hollywood. He doesn’t do emails, so I had to messenger a physical copy of the script, and wait with bated breath as he read it. I wrote him a little letter – I knew his father, Walter Vaughn, was a radio actor, who did GANGBUSTERS, and played a lot of heavies. I said I know this is some of your family’s legacy, and you’ve done some yourself, and would you honor us by jumping back in the saddle, to do this? And I can’t believe it, but he said yes. And I’m proud to say, when we did bring him in, we rehearsed him, got him in the booth first, and got him out with ten minutes to spare. And he said it’s the fastest and most efficient anyone’s ever let him in and out for a job.
HENRY: That’s terrific, and he’s certainly had all kinds of experience. And as you pointed out, he’s the last of THE MAGNIFICENT 7. How would you describe the premise of POWDER BURNS?
DAVID: POWDER BURNS is an original Western audio drama that takes place solely from the perspective of a blind sheriff, so the audience sees them as he sees them, without sight.
HENRY: And he’s got a very interesting backstory. He was a Confederate General.
DAVID: He fought four years in the war, and returns home pretty much unscathed. But it was a freak accident when he was hunting with his son that ends up blinding him and killing his son. So there’s the guilt of having to deal with the death of his son being his responsibility. And we’ll learn more and more in each episode what really happened. And then in the finale of our first season we’ll find out what actually happened on the day.
HENRY: You’ve already posted four 18-minute episodes. How many episodes will there be this first season?
DAVID: It’s going to be seven. They’re all written; they’re all ready to go. The idea is, it’s his last week as sheriff, and there’s going to be an election at the end of the week. So each episode represents a day as we go through the last week of his term as sheriff.
HENRY: Is your intention to continue with more seasons and more adventures?
DAVID: I’d absolutely love to. The show was born out of a desire to work. I was having trouble finding acting work at the time that I was putting it together. And it was sort of a way to keep myself busy, and it’s been a blessing. But we’re always at the mercy of these other actors. Nobody’s doing this show to make a living; we’re doing it out of the love for it. So as long as people are free and have some time, we’re going to record more episodes. But it’s becoming very difficult to get everyone in the booth (at the same time). John Wesley Shipp plays the sheriff. In the third episode, he and I carry the first half, sitting around a campfire. And because of scheduling, he and I were not in the same room on the same day. We luckily have a wonderful engineer/director, Noah Tobias, who put it together in such a way that you couldn’t tell. So I’m glad it worked out, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.
HENRY: Do you like to do it the traditional way, when everybody’s standing at microphones and doing it at the same time?
DAVID: Oh, I love that, and there’s a chemistry that happens when people are reading live, off of each other. We had an actor in episode two that wasn’t available, so we recorded him at least a month and a half prior, and plugged him in, and it worked, you really can’t tell at all. But I want to make sure that when we can, we get everyone together, because that is part of the joy of it, the experience of doing it together, just as if we were living in the golden age, and having everyone gathered in what is now a very tiny booth.
HENRY: Why did you decide to go for a continuing story instead of contained episodes?
DAVID: Initially I was going to do self-contained episodes, and I think the first two are sort of structured that way. Then I realized that the way things are done today are very very serialized. You look at the big shows like GAME OF THRONES and BREAKING BAD.
HENRY: Really everything that’s mattered since THE SPORANOS has been structured that way.
DAVID: I just felt that we had to make sure we had something that brings in the crowd that knows THE LONE RANGER and GUNSMOKE. And we’ve also got to have something to bring in the crowd that, when they think of a Western, thinks of DJANGO UNCHAINED. I had to find the elements, the best of the Western. The things I like to listen to. So the music is a little more Clint Eastwood than John Ford/John Wayne. And that, for some people, can be alienating. But at the same time I think the story structure, and the ultimate moral is a little more John Ford. It can be sentimental and old school, for a lack of a better term. And those are all things that excite me, and things that I grew up with. I actually had someone on Twitter the other day, recommending it to someone else say, “You’ve got to listen to Powder Burns. It’s the Lone Ranger meets Clint Eastwood meets the BBC.”
HENRY: That’s a great compliment. Age wise, what audience are you aiming for?
DAVID: I had someone send me a message the other day; they said they had two children, ten and
fourteen, who really enjoyed the show. And the ten year old really surprises me, because I thought we’d be over their head, just a bit. My rule of thumb, as my director was saying, is nothing I will write is anything you wouldn’t have in a John Wayne movie. There will be the ‘Hells’ and the ‘damns’, the western style –
HENRY: But it’s not going to be Tarantino dialogue?
DAVID: (laughing) Not in the least! I don’t know that we could get away with that, especially in an audio-only medium.
HENRY: Do you intend to keep POWDER BURNS as a strictly radio show, or have you contemplated other media, like film or TV?
DAVID: I’d love to do film or TV. It’s funny; the last couple of months I’ve been in L.A., and whenever someone asks me about it, they love the idea, and I tell them we’d be open to doing it as a limited series, or something along that line. But everybody thinks it’s a comedy. I had someone say, “A blind central character doing that doesn’t make any sense.” And I say, what about RAY? And SCENT OF A WOMAN? Those are two of the best written characters ever on the screen. I feel like Emmett Burns could be one of those. But what I get from Hollywood types is laughter. Part of the point of the show is he’s just as capable of doing his job without his sight, and maybe more so. Because I’ve worked freelance with the Healthy Eye Alliance back in the tri-state area, and part of the show is to illuminate to the sighted what it might be like to be blind. I’ve had people tell me they listen to the show and say they forgot he was blind. And that’s kind of the point; you should forget. Because he doesn’t go through the show saying, “I’m blind! I’m blind!” He’s owning his disability; the line from the opening episode is, “I’m blind, not a cripple,” and that’s sort of the thesis of the show.
John Wesley Shipp, Robert Vaughn, David Gregory
HENRY: It’s interesting. What you have is sort of a reverse fish-out-of-water story, in the sense that this is his water, this is his world. And yet his circumstance has changed so radically; he’s not someplace new, but the world has changed around him. That’s a really unusual premise, and I buy this in a way I wouldn’t buy it if he was a blind man running for sheriff.
DAVID: And that’s something he says in every episode, “Nobody wants a blind sheriff – me included. I’m not going to run for reelection.” We find out later the only reason his deputy is sticking around is because he says, “You’re not fit for command, sheriff. I’m just here so you can finish your term, and then we’re done.” I wanted to make sure that the crux of this season is, is he or is he not going to run for sheriff. And there’s something else that drives him to maybe run for sheriff.
HENRY: David, in your official bio at the site, it says, “David is known primarily for saying lines on TV in his underwear.” What’s that about?
DAVID: (laughs) I was on a soap opera, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, for three years, and I was rarely costumed. That’s actually how I met John Wesley Shipp, who plays the sheriff; he played my villainous father on the show. I sent to him an email saying I have this script. Would you like to take a look? He said, let’s do it. We hadn’t worked together in a while, and it was such a great excuse to get together and work together again. Florencia Lozano, who guest stars in episode two is another ONE LIFE TO LIVE alumnus, and it was the same thing. I called her up and said I can give you this amount of money, and here’s the script, and she said yes.
HENRY: In addition to creating and writing and producing POWDER BURNS, you also play Deputy Bell. You’re the boss – why didn’t you give yourself the part of Sheriff Burns?
DAVID: Actually, when we were trying to raise money to do the show, my initial plan was to do a six minute clip from the show to help sell it. John was not available at the time, and somebody said David, why don’t you do it? But it wouldn’t work. The quality of my voice, that’s not who he is. I know for a fact that this story works because we have a sixty-year-old man playing this war-torn sheriff. And he brings it – there is something very special to what he’s doing. And I know that I fit the best in the character I’m playing. And I almost didn’t play that part. I thought maybe I should just be on the technical end of things so I don’t spread myself too thin. But I thought no, it’s a part I want to play, it’s a part I know how to do, and I think I can bring something to. Everybody that’s involved in their specific role, I think they fit perfectly. It really makes quite a symphony of talent.
To learn more, and to hear the other episodes, go HERE.
WED. COWBOY LUNCH - SONS & DAUGHTERS OF THE WEST!
Dawn & Clayton Moore
On Wednesday, November 18, at high noon at the Autry’s Crossroads West Café, come for a delicious lunch, then enjoy Rob Word’s ‘A Word On Westerns’ discussion. This month, the topic is ‘Sons and Daughters of the West,’ and Rob has gathered a remarkable group of offspring: Roy Roger’s daughter Cheryl Rogers-Burnett; Clayton Moore’s daughter Dawn Moore; Joel McCrea and Frances Dee’s grandson Wyatt McCrea; John Mitchum’s daughter and Robert Mitchum’s niece, Cindy Mitchum Azbill; and child star Robert Winckler’s son William Winckler.
Find out what it was like to grow up in Hollywood’s golden years, as kids of some of your favorite Western stars! And If you want to be sure and get a seat, better come early – Rob’s events are always packed! The event is free (you’ve got to buy your lunch, of course), and the fun is priceless! JUST ADDED – Special guest star, the lovely Joan Collins!
GRIZZLY ADAMS REBOOT UPDATE!
Dan Haggerty as Grizzly Adams
In the December TRUE WEST MAGAZINE, I write about the Ten Best Mountain Man movies, in preparation for the Christmas release of Leonardo DiCaprio in THE REVENANT. On the list of course is THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS, which starred Dan Haggerty, and became a very popular TV series. The rights to Grizzly Adams were offered for sale in June, which was surprising, since he was a real man, not an invented character. What they’re actually selling is the fictionalized version of the man, as it was developed by GRIZZLY ADAMS producer Charles Sellier. Last week the Abrams Artists Agency came on-board to represent all rights. The man behind the move to revitalize Grizzly Adams is Tod Swindell, who is now teamed with Michael Greenberg, exec producer on MACGYVER and STARGATE SG-1.
Why the sudden interest in the bear-lovin’ mountain man? The beard and the flannel – Dan Haggerty as Grizzly Adams – is the man that the hipster lumbersexuals are trying to be. The GRIZZLY ADAMS franchise brought in over $140 million in the 1970s – that would certainly be twice as much in today’s dollars.
By the way, Dan Haggerty was actually the second man to portray Grizzly Adams on film. The first? John Huston, in THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, 1972, which Huston also directed, from a John Milius script.
‘JOHNNY GUITAR’ AT NEW YORK’S FILM FORUM THRU THURS.
If you’re in New York City, a beautiful new restoration of JOHNNY GUITAR is showing at the Film Forum through Thursday, the 19th. If you haven’t seen this western, it’s a real love it or hate it film. It stars Joan Crawford and Mercedes MacCambridge as dueling land baronesses. The male leads are Scott Brady as The Dancin’ Kid and Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar. The traditional sex-roles are reversed, with the men playing it ‘straight’ and the women chewing the scenery. It’s great nutty fun, with a great supporting cast -- Ward Bond, John Carradine, Ernest Borgnine. It’s directed by the great Nicholas Ray, who gave us REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, IN A LONELY PLACE, THE LUSTY MEN, and many others. When I was in college, at NYU Film School, I actually got to work with Nick Ray for one weekend. All I did was repair torn sprockets, but it was a thrill to just be around him and listen to his stories.
‘GUNSMOKE’ RADIO REENACTMENT AT THE VAN NUYS ELKS SAT. NOV 21ST !
Unexpectedly, I get to end with another Western radio item. This Saturday night at the Elks Lodge 2790 will kick off their annual Holiday Food Basket Drive to benefit families in the Van Nuys area with a night of Old Time Radio reenactments! I’ve been asked to take part! We’ll be performing episodes of GUNSMOKE, MY FAVORITE HUSBAND – on TV it became I LOVE LUCY, and a great Sherlock Holmes story, A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA. It’s open to the public, and admission is canned goods, food or cash donations. Dinner is at six, the play begins at 6:30. The Van Nuys - Reseda Elks Lodge 2790 is located at 14440 Friar St. Van Nuys, 91401. It should be a lot of fun – hope to see you there!
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Had a great time this Saturday at the Autry, introducing the screening of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, and even getting input from its costar, Sondra Locke! Thanks to the more than a hundred folks who came. I’ll have a feature on the making of JOSEY WALES in the Round-up very soon! And good news -- the folks at getTV have come aboard at The Autry as sponsors of their monthly ‘What is a Western?’ film series.
All Original Contents Copyright November 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Monday, November 2, 2015
ON THE SET OF ‘TRADED’ AT BIG SKY RANCH
Two Wednesdays ago I drove to Simi Valley and for the first time visited the glorious Big Sky Movie Ranch. Originally 12,500 acres of land that were purchased in 1903 to be the Patterson Ranch Company, they raised livestock and grew grain. Some critters still roam there today, each waiting for their close-up. Its verdant flat valleys and strikingly barren hills have been seen on big screen and small for many years. Much of the RAWHIDE cattle-drive footage was shot here. It stood in as large parts of The Ponderosa on BONANZA, and turned up in GUNSMOKE episodes as well. Michael ‘Little Joe’ Landon returned and built his little town for LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and blew it up in the final episode. WILD BILL (1995) and THE GAMBLER TV-movies were shot there. More recently it was seen in the Walt Disney/Mary Poppins story SAVING MR. BANKS (2013) and DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012).
Currently it’s the location for several key sequences in TRADED, a new Western from Status Media, the third film in their current five-picture pact with distributor Cinedigm. I knew nothing about the plot, and Producer Michael Long tantalized me, telling me one of the great strengths of the project is the screenplay by Mark Esslinger. “It’s a great script. We’ve had a lot of people interested in it. Agents have come and made offers to us based on the script.” We both agreed that it’s prime time for sagebrush sagas. “Everyone gets excited about Westerns. There are like twelve Westerns being made over the next year.”
Costumer Nikki Pelley was taking the leading lady away for a wardrobe change when I arrived. I poked my head in the barn, saw a wooden coffin sitting on a pair of saw-horses. It was too small for an adult. Producer, prop-man, period advisor and actor Peter Sherayko caught up with me. “Want to talk to Michael Pare’?” I surely did. The star of the film, Pare’ first made a splash in the title role of EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS (1983), and soon followed with STREETS OF FIRE (1984) for Walter Hill. Among the other top directorial talent he’s worked with is John Carpenter, in the remake of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995), along with many crime and action films that make use of Pare’s strong presence and powerful physique. His face was battered and bloody (stage-bloody), as he sat on a rocking chair, on the porch of a stagecoach stop you’ve seen a hundred times, and talked about TRADED.
Michael Pare and Dir. Timothy Woodward (n shades)
HENRY: I just saw you on the big screen about a week ago in BONE TOMAHAWK.
MICHAEL: That’s great! You know, Kurt (Russell) and I met back in 1979; we had the same manager. He was one of the first Hollywood people I met. A fine actor and a great guy.
HENRY: I’ve been following your career for years, but I never thought of you as a Western guy until recently. But in two years isn’t this your third western?
MICHAEL: Well, they say that STREETS OF FIRE (1984) was a Western. Walter Hill is famous for his western – he has trains in every one of his movies. We had the Iron Horse motorcycle. But three other times I’ve ridden horses in movies. I was in a vampire movie (BLOODRAYNE 2: DELIVERANCE - 2007). I play Pat Garrett; I kill Billy the Kid, who was a vampire in the story. I did another one called TRIPPLECROSS (1995) with Billy Dee Williams and Patrick Bergin. Three times I’ve ridden horses, but this is the first real Western I’ve done. (Note: in BONE TOMAHAWK Michael doesn’t ride a horse).
HENRY: And how are you enjoying it?
MICHAEL: It’s great. You know, everyone who comes to Hollywood wants to make a western, a gangster movie, a sports story – these are the classic Hollywood genres. And love stories.
HENRY: Did you grow up with Westerns?
MICHAEL: Yeah, you know, I’m a baby-boomer, so we spent a lot of time in front of the television watching all those great westerns – TRUE GRIT with John Wayne, STAGECOACH, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY – all the great Clint Eastwoods. UNFORGIVEN is one of my favorites.
HENRY: What attracted you to this role?
MICHAEL: Well, I’ve worked with Tim Woodward; he’s directed me in a few movies now (4GOT10, CHECKMATE, SWAT: UNIT 877 – all 2015). He kept talking about a western, and I was just hoping to be in his western. When he handed me this script, and he said, “This is my next movie,” it’s just a flawless script. There are just no mistakes, no moments where you say, “Why would they do that?” Or “How did this happen?” Just a flawless, classic Western. Then about a week ago he told me, “Mike, I want you for the lead.” I almost dropped the phone. It was like a dream come true. I like working with Tim a lot. I have complete trust and faith and confidence. It just seems to go well
HENRY: What is TRADED about?
MICHAEL: I don’t want to give away the whole story. My wife, my daughter, my son and I are all living this peaceful existence. Then things start to go wrong, and all Hell breaks loose. The old demons rise up, and you know, you can use them to your purpose, if you have a strong enough will. And we have a happy ending.
HENRY: Tell me more about your character. What does he do for a living?
MICHAEL: I’m a dirt-farmer. I plant, we have a subsistence farm. Maybe we get lucky, and we can sell something that’s left over, or a sheep or something, but we’re just subsistence farmer’s living in God’s country.
HENRY: When you look at Westerns, are there any actor’s roles you look at and say, I wish I had his part?
MICHAEL: Most of the hit movies, there’s a part in there for me. (laughs)
HENRY: Would you like to do another Western?
MICHAEL: Absolutely. I’d like to go away for a few months and shoot a movie. Take three or four months, and just live on the ranch, in the bunkhouse, with the director, the d.p., all of the principal cast and crew, and really do something special.
HENRY: We talked about Western movies. Were there any Western TV shows you watched?
MICHAEL: Like I said, I was a baby-boomer, so BONANZA, RAWHIDE, Marshal Dillon on GUNSMOKE. These were all classics. BONANZA was every Sunday night up until like 7th grade.
HENRY: Which son did you identify with?
MICHAEL: I guess Adam, because Hoss was kinda dopey, Little Joe was cute, and I wanted to be the one who won all the fights. The smart one.
Michael Long, Ardeshir Radpour
Michael Pare & Timothy Woodward
I was lucky to finish with Michael, because he was needed on set. A climactic scene was being shot, with Michael riding up, against the sun sinking behind the hills, and a setting sun doesn’t permit too many retakes. I watched director Timothy Woodward Jr., get his scene, and then we went back to that porch, and he gave me a run-down of the story.
TIMOTHY: TRADED is a period-piece western, takes place in the 1800s. Our lead character and his family start off very peaceful, a very happy family. They lose a child, and then their daughter leaves to become a Harvey Girl. The father goes out looking for her. We find out that the father was an outlaw; he’s retired from it. Now he’s on this mission to save her from a prostitution ring she’s been taken into. He comes in to save the day, and has to battle some of his own demons. I like to say it’s like TAKEN in the Wild West. I did a movie before, my last one , 4GOT10, starring Dolph Lundgren and Danny Trejo, and it was shot a lot like a modern western – spaghetti style. While we were doing it I really started falling in love with doing a Western. I always loved Westerns growing up as a kid. I started doing a lot of research to see if we can pull off doing a Western. What will it take? We were finding locations, and a script came in that was just written very, very well. Our (studio) readers loved it, I loved it, And it fit. It took a lot of convincing of a lot of people, a lot of begging, but there’s a lot of people in this town who are very supportive of doing a western, very excited about it, so we’ve got a good team.
HENRY: There does seem to be a resurgence of interest in Westerns.
TIMOTHY: You know, when you’re making a movie, you’re trying to tell a story, you’re trying to create a world that’s real. A world where people can believe what they see is actually happening. When you do a Western, you take away the technology, you bring people back to the simple life, you kind of transport them into this world. And it’s a lot easier to get their attention, because it’s not something they’re seeing every day, like in modern films. It’s almost like putting someone on another planet. Because it is something that no one living has ever experienced, other than reading about it, or seeing great movies.
HENRY: Why do you think there is such a resurgence of interest on Westerns at this time?
TIMOTHY: Again, people are looking for an escape. And there’s always this fascination about gunslingers, outlaws, the country when it wasn’t yet developed, and the Wild West. There came a time period when (film) was about CGI and things like that, and I think now we’re getting back to a place where it’s about story-telling and connecting with characters. And in a world where everybody sends a text-message or an email, let’s get introduced to some simple people who believed in love and compassion and communication.
HENRY: Is this your first period picture?
TIMOTHY: This is my first true period picture. I did a futuristic movie last, but as far as one that takes place in the past, this is my first.
HENRY: What are the biggest challenges going from doing a present day story to a period picture?
TIMOTHY: Everything has to be created from the ground up. Anywhere you look now, there’s going to be high-rise buildings. Every single thing about the characters and what they do has to be period. Clothing. Horses. There’s no cars, no cell phones. There’s no outlets in the walls. When you’re location scouting, you’re trying to find a house where there’s nothing in the walls. Where can I find furniture that’s hand-crafted? Everything to keep it authentic. Lucky for us, we were able to connect with Pete (Peter Sherayko), who had a large supply of things. And we were able to land really good locations like BIG SKY, PARAMOUNT RANCH and WHITE HORSE MOVIE RANCH, and we’re huge about shooting in Southern California. We’re excited, being a smaller movie, to be shooting here. We’ve got a big train sequence – one of our guys is going to jump from a horse to a train, they’re going to fight on top of a train. We’re pushing the boundaries, and having a good time doing it.
HENRY: You said you were a fan of westerns. Did you grow up with them?
TIMOTHY: Of course. TOMBSTONE is one of my favorite movies of all time, hands down. I like WYATT EARP a lot, too. 3:10 TO YUMA is one of my recent favorites. I like TRUE GRIT, the remake. I have seen the John Wayne classic, and I like it, but I do like the remake a bit better. I love all of Clint Eastwood’s movies. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY; great film. I used to watch THE LONE RANGER as a kid, from five to ten, every Saturday morning. What kid doesn’t grow up playing cowboys and Indians?
HENRY: How many pictures have you directed before this?
TIMOTHY: Seven before this, so this is number eight for me. Things have been moving very fast for me. But we use a lot of the same actors; we use a lot of the same crew. We’ve got a unit, we’ve got a team, and it works. So we keep creating. I love being on-set. I love being able to create, to make things happen. I love seeing the crew and everybody — it’s like a big family, and I love doing this.
HENRY: How long a shooting schedule do you have?
TIMOTHY: Eighteen regular days, plus five second-unit days, for horse-riding stuff, so twenty-three total.
HENRY: Who else is in your cast?
TIMOTHY: Trace Adkins and Kris Kristofferson are signed on, and we may have someone else, but I can’t say right now for sure.
HENRY: Do you know what your next project is?
TIMOTHY: I’ve got one scheduled that’s a modern movie, about a death row inmate, and the last interview he’s going to give. But I would love to do another Western. Aand I’m even looking at the possibility of doing a TV series.
HENRY: I’m not going to ask how this one ends, but is there the possibility of doing a sequel?
TIMOTHY: There’s always a possibility. We have a distributor that stands behind us, and they do a really good job of marketing our product and getting it out. So if TRADED does really well, and people want it, it could happen.
HENRY: Speaking internationally, where is the audience for Westerns?
TIMOTHY: I honestly think everywhere. I think everybody is fascinated by it. It’s funny, because a lot of the international sales guys go, “Oh, Westerns are a tough sell sometimes.” But our guys are really excited about the project and excited about the prospects. I think any time you can transport someone’s mind and make them believe in this other world, it’s interesting. This story has love, it has drama, it has action, it has suspense, so there’s a lot of stuff going on. Michael Pare is the man – he’s an all-star. Peter Sherayko helped make this all possible, we wouldn’t even have attempted to do all this if we didn’t have one guy able to really to show us the way. If I say, “Hey, would this happen?” he’s right there to tell me. In addition to just supplying the stuff, his knowledge is huge. And having his team is huge. And we have a young crew of good guys. Don’t ever say you can’t: you can.
Peter Sherayko, Producer Michael Long, propman Christian Ramirez,
Wrangler Adeshir Radpour, Cheryl Rusa - wardrobe, photog David Coardoza
There were a lot of familiar faces on the crew, members of Peter Sherayko’s Caravan West outfit who’ve worked together on dozens of films, TV shows, commercials and documentaries. In addition to Nikki Pelley, Christian Ramirez was working props, horseman and cowboy poet Troy Andrew Smith was wrangling, as was Ardeshir Radpour, sporting a scruffy beard for his on-camera role in the upcoming WESTWORLD. I asked Peter how he got involved with TRADED.
PETER: (Producer) Mike Long called me about a month ago, and said we have a western to do, and he’d gotten a recommendation on me. They came out to the ranch, they looked at the location, the costumes, the props, the guns, the horses. We started talking, and Timothy, the director said, “And you were Texas Jack in TOMBSTONE! We’ve got to have you!” So I’m going to be acting in the movie as well. And because of the amount of stuff I’m bringing in, they made me the consulting producer on the movie. So I get another producer credit, which I’m very proud of. It’s something that has happened over the last two years that has really surprised me.
HENRY: Who do you play?
PETER: Almost Texas Jack. They want me to dress the same way, and Timothy’s writing the part in as we speak. It’s not until the last week of shooting, because next week I’m in Louisiana doing ROOTS. I’m a Confederate officer, leading a charge against Fort Pillow.
HENRY: Weren’t you just on the other side, playing General Grant?
PETER: I was so thrilled with that. I took the director and writer and producer on a tour of the Caravan West Ranch. They were just doing a promo shoot to see if they could raise the money to shoot a movie called ELLEN BOND, who General Grant hired to be a spy in the Confederate White House. As I’m giving them a tour, and naturally I have a cigar, the director kept looking at me, and finally he says, “Would you like to be General Grant?” I said, “Well yeah, I’d love to.” Then they put me through make-up – which I never do – and when they were finished, I did look like General Grant. And I have scenes with the slave, the slave owner Grant is trying to make a deal with, and with President Lincoln.
Peter, Nikki Pelley
HENRY: You never stop working.
PETER: Yup. I’m gone for the week while TRADED is at Paramount Ranch. I’ll be finishing up in Louisiana, and driving straight to the set at White Horse Ranch in Yucca Valley.
HENRY: I haven’t been to White Horse Ranch. Isn’t that near Pioneertown?
PETER: Yes. White Horse Ranch only has a saloon, a jail, and maybe one other building, but a lot of false fronts and small buildings. But this movie takes place in several towns, and they couldn’t shoot in Melody Ranch because of WESTWORLD. So we’re doing White Horse as Wichita, whereas Paramount is going to be Dodge City.
One great thing about visiting the sets of small movies is important stuff is shot every day – there’s no dead time. The first thing I’d seen shot was the very end of the picture. I’d missed the kid brother’s death earlier in the day – I hear it was heartbreaking – but I watched the scene of the boy’s body being laid out. By then the sun was gone, and I had to be on my way. I still have a tape-player in my car. I pushed in a cassette of THE LONE RANGER radio show, and listened to The William Tell Overture as I passed hills and trees, cattle and sheep, but not a power-line or car headlight until I was almost out of the Big Sky property. It was perfect.
SHOOTING SCRIPTS – FROM PULP WESTERN TO FILM by Bob Herzberg
A Book Review
The knowledgeable, entertaining and prolific Mr. Herzberg (REVOLUTIONARY MEXICO ON FILM, THE F.B.I. AND THE MOVIES, THE LEFT SIDE OF THE SCREEN – COMMUNIST AND LEFT-WING IDEOLOGY IN HOLLYWOOD, etc.) takes Western writing seriously. He treats it not as an escapist trifle, but as literature of real merit, and SHOOTING SCRIPTS is an often amusing and always enlightening study of seven writers whose novels, and sometimes screenplays helped define how we look at the West.
Starting with the basic premise that God created Owen Wister (THE VIRGINIAN), and Wister begat Zane Grey, Max Brand, and Hopalong Cassidy-creator Clarence Mulford, Herzberg examines the highly productive seven – not all of them magnificent – whose work so frequently graced the screen from the Great Depression through the 1970s: Ernest Haycox, Luke Short, Frank Gruber, Norman A. Fox, Louis L’Amour, Marvin H. Albert, and Clair Huffaker.
His analysis is in-depth. Each author receives a detailed biography, and each of his filmed novels receives a step-by-step comparison of where plots were followed, and where they strayed, where it helped and where it hurt. Mr. Herzberg is not shy in offering his often withering criticisms of much-loved writers. He considers Frank Gruber a talentless hack, and Louis L’Amour endlessly repetitive, and with something of a master-race obsession. He has laudable respect for the Ernest ‘STAGECOACH’ Haycox, and Luke ‘Everything with Randolph Scott’ Short. He also gives Huffaker, the screenwriter of many of the best big and small-screen Westerns of the 1960s, attention that is long overdue.
Every period film, consciously or not reflects two periods: when the story is set, and when the film is made. An unexpected element of the book is Herzberg’s political analysis of the films, often revealing an undercurrent of McCarthyism or Communism that went over the audience’s heads. His discussion of L’Amour’s SHALAKO alone is worth the price of admission.
The one thing this volume lacks is a simple list of credits for each author. It’s all there, but you have to search through the text to find it. Published by McFarland, SHOOTING SCRIPTS is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers for $35.
ENJOY ‘RAMONA MOVIE NIGHT’ AND ‘RANCHO CAMULOS DAY’ THIS WEEKEND!
Rancho Camulos, the ranch home a mile from Piru that inspired Helen Hunt Jackson to write the international best-seller RAMONA, will celebrate its history this weekend with a pair of Ramona-centric events! On Saturday night, November 7th, you can have an elegant candlelight dinner at the 1852 adobe, and then watch two – count ‘em two – silent film versions of RAMONA, both filmed at the Rancho. The 1910 version, directed by D. W. Griffith, and starring Mary Pickford, will be followed by clips from the recently discovered, long ‘lost’ 1916 version, starring Ada Gleason, which in its original full version was said to run over three hours! The price per ticket is $50. On Sunday, Rancho Camulos Day, from noon ‘til 4, enjoy a variety of historical entertainments, reenactments, food and fun, and a 3:30 pm screening of the 1928 Dolores Del Rio version of RAMONA. Tickets are $5. For more information, and to buy tickets, visit their official site HERE.
JOIN ME AT THE AUTRY SATURDAY, NOV. 14, FOR ‘OUTLAW JOSEY WALES’
I’m tremendously flattered that I’ve been asked to introduce THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) at the Autry, as a part of their long-running ‘What is a Western?’ film series. This emotional and highly personal post-Civil War drama, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, is as good as anything else he’s directed before or since. It features a powerful cast, including Oscar nominees Sondra Locke (for THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER) and Chief Dan George (for LITTLE BIG MAN), John Vernon, Sam Bottoms, and many others. I can’t wait to share some of the remarkable behind-the-scenes stories about Clint, screenwriter Philip Kaufman, and novelist Forrest Carter. The program takes place at 1:30 pm, at the Wells Fargo Theatre, and is free with your paid museum admission. I hope to see you there!
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Me, Bobbi Jean Bell & Jim Christina
Something new has been added! Jim Christina and Bobbi Jean Bell, the good folks who do the Writer’s Block Show on radio every Thursday night at eight, have made me a regular part of their program. Every other show, I’ll drop by to give a sneak preview of the next Round-up!
And coming soon to the Round-up will be my interview with Western actor Bruce Boxleitner; director Steve Carver, who has been working for years on a stunning Western photography project; and David Gregory, who has created a new Western radio drama.
All Original Material Copyright November 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved