Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TARANTINO NEWS, NEW WESTERN MINI, A SERIES RENEWAL, AND THE BEST WESTERN CALENDAR EVER!





TARANTINO ANNOUNCES NEXT FILM ‘ANOTHER WESTERN!’

Photo by Paul Drinkwater - NBC


Last night, writer-director Quentin Tarantino guested on the TONIGHT SHOW to reminisce with Jay, who, twenty years ago, had him as a guest on the show, when RESERVOIR DOGS was completed but no yet released, because he loved the idea of a kid who works at a video store directing a movie.  It was his first talk-show appearance – an auspicious start! 

When Jay asked him what his next movie would be, he said, “A western.  It’s not a sequel to DJANGO, but it’s a western.  I had so much fun doing DJANGO, and I love westerns so much. After I taught myself how to make one, it’s like ‘Woo, okay, now let me make another one. Now I know what I’m doing!”  He was also on the show to announce the publication of the graphic novel version of DJANGO.

FX ANNOUNCES DALTON BROTHERS MINI-SERIES

According to Deadline Hollywood, FX will produce a six-hour miniseries about the infamous Dalton gang, best remembered for their disastrous 1892 attempt to hold up two Coffeyville, Kansas banks simultaneously.  Emmett was the only brother to survive, and lived until 1937 in Los Angeles.  His family history, WHEN THE DALTONS RODE is highly entertaining, if understandably self-serving.  He also wrote a novel, BEYOND THE LAW, starred in the film version in 1918, and starred in MAN OF THE DESERT, which you can see below (although you ought to put on some music – 25 minutes of silent movie without music is hard to take).

 

The miniseries will be based on the 1979 novel DESPERADOES, written by Ron Hansen, and tells the story of the Dalton Gang from the point of view of Emmett, at age 65.  Robert Knott adapted the novel; he has teamed with Ed Harris on several projects, and is currently working with him on TULSA, a cable TV project about the oil business, will exec produce, with Josh Maurer and Alixandre Witlin.


A&E RENEWS LONGMIRE



LONGMIRE season three has been green-lit for ten episodes!  While the pick-up by A&E and Warner Horizon was leaked in August, the final deal was not made until now.  No surprise it’s coming back – in addition to being the highest-rated original series A&E has produced, it’s also extremely compelling, well-written and directed.  While each episode features a single crime being investigated, they tend to be about real ‘res’-related issues that are rarely covered in traditional cop shows.  The backstory of Sheriff Longmire (Robert Taylor), as relates to his friendship with bartender Lou Diamond Phillips, the death of his wife, and relationships Katee Sackhoff as one of his deputies, Cassidy Freeman as his daughter, and Bailey Chase as the deputy who wants his job, become more compelling with each episode.


‘COMANCHE STALLION’ HELMER VIC ARMSTRONG BACK FROM MONUMENT VALLEY

I’ve had a huge and enthusiastic reaction to last week’s lead story, about the making of COMANCHE STALLION, John Ford’s last intended project (if you missed that story, go HERE l )
Producer Clyde Lucas tells me, “Vic and I just returned from scouting locations in Monument Valley. We had a wonderful Navajo guide, Larry Holiday. Every time we asked about a location in the script, he took us to the perfect spot.”  Incidentally, in addition to being a movie producer, Lucas is also a talented musician.  At the 2011 John Wayne Tribute at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, Lucas played guitar accompaniment to harmonica virtuoso Tommy Morgan, whose music has been heard in HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE WAR WAGON, RIO BRAVO and many others.   Here’s a peek at their location search:


THE BEST WESTERN CALENDAR I’VE EVER SEEN!



When I glanced at my local bookstore calendar rack, and saw a masked cowboy firing his Colt from the saddle of a bucking black horse, I was thrilled – I don’t ever recall seeing a calendar designed just for us Westerners.  Turned out the image was the cover of the December 1947 pulp, MASKED RIDER WESTERN, and all of the pictures are western pulp covers, mostly from the 1940s.  From TEXAS RANGERS, THRILLING WESTERN, WESTERN TRAILS, RANCH ROMANCES, the paintings are florid and beautiful in color and over-heated in action, in the grand pulp style, and will look great on your wall.  Better still, the pictures are big – 11 x 15, and as it says on the back, “…a collection of 12 archival-quality prints, disguised as a calendar.”




Another nice touch, there’s a quote from the lead pulp story on the bottom of each monthly page, and among the days are small black & white illustrations from inside the magazines.   When I contacted the good folks at Asgard Press, they made me on offer I couldn’t refuse: they’re giving a 10% discount on any calendar Round-up readers care to order!  You really should check out their site, as in addition to the Western-themed calendar, they have sci-fi, comic book, sheet music, and many college football-themed calendars.  Here’s the link:  http://www.asgardpress.com/?promocode=HWR13
And here’s the promo code: HWR13




‘WHEN CALLS THE HEART’ SERIES HAS START DATE



The Hallmark Channel announced Sunday, January 12th as the premiere date for their hourly series, WHEN CALLS THE HEART, based on the Janette Oke book series of the same title.  A two-hour movie, introducing some of the characters, and with the same title, premiered on October  19th (read my review HERE)


THAT’S A WRAP!

Thanks for your patience with this week’s Round-up!  When I posted here and on Facebook that I was too sick to do the Round-up on Sunday, I was deeply touched by how many of you took the time to send me ‘get well soon’ wishes.  And my wife, who is not a blogger or a Facebook person, was truly impressed (always good when you can surprise you wife somehow after 28 years)!

I’m not 100% done with this upper respiratory infection, but my odds of getting to eat Thanksgiving dinner are looking better.  My odds of getting a drumstick, I cannot say.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL!

Happy Trails,

Henry


All Original Contents Copyright November 2013 by Henry C. Parke.  All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 24, 2013

SORRY, NO ROUND-UP TONIGHT


 

 

To make a long story short, I’ve got a lot of good stuff to tell you, but I’m too sick to write it!  When I’m feeling better, I’ll post.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

JOHN FORD’S LAST PROJECT, ‘COMANCHE STALLION’ FINALLY TO ROLL!






This weekend, director Vic Armstrong and producer Clyde Lucas headed to Monument Valley to scout locations for one of John Ford’s pet projects which never reached the screen.  COMANCHE STALLION.  Based on the novel by Tom Milstead, it’s the story of the Comanche’s search for a mystical horse, while suffering the wrath of General Lathrop.  Ford wanted Burl Ives for the role of the general, but Ives’ health was not up to the task, and Ford’s own health also failed. 

Now famed stuntman and stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, who just directed Nicholas Cage in LEFT BEHIND, is preparing to finish Ford’s last planned project.   To outline even a fraction of Armstrong’s credits would take hours, so I’ll just mention that he doubled for Richard Harris in RETURN OF A MAN CALLED HORSE, doubled for Harrison Ford in the INDIANA JONES movies, and was just supervising stunt coordinator on THOR.  Clyde Lucas has produced several documentaries, some involving the late Harry Carey Jr.  Sadly, Carey was set to star in what had been the Burl Ives role, but passed away this year.  I’ve not heard many details of casting, but at the moment Tyrone Power Jr. and Robert Carradine are said to be involved.  I hope to have much more to tell you following the location scouting.

Shortly before his death, James Arness, who appeared in HONDO and WAGON MASTER for Ford, recorded the narration for the film.  Below is a sample.



(Note: this clip was playing just fine last night, but isn't running now, here or on Youtube.  Maybe it will come back up.)

SHADOW ON THE MESA – a Movie Review



Back in March of this year, when SHADOW ON THE MESA originally aired on the Hallmark Movie Channel, I interviewed star Kevin Sorbo (HERE is the link if you missed it  ), and I intended to review the movie as well.  But they were still editing it up to the last minute, so I didn’t get to see it prior to the airing.
 
I don’t know if I would have pursued the film afterwards, but when I heard that the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum had presented it with their 2013 Wrangler Award for best Television Movie, I figured I’d better make an effort to track it down, and I’m very glad I did; it’s a fine piece of work.  And the good news is that it will be released on DVD one month from today, on December 17th – right on-time for Christmas.

One of the immediate appeals of SHADOW ON THE MESA is that, rather than trying to endlessly draw parallels between the Old West and the modern world (to make it more ‘relevant’ to an unsophisticated audience), its story grows out of a situation you would not have today.  Wes Rawlins (Wes Brown), a sometime bounty hunter who’d been raised by his recently murdered widowed mother, learns that she was not widowed at all.  Just prior to his birth, his parents were in a group of settlers who were attacked by Indians, and his father (Kevin Sorbo) was taken prisoner, though he later escaped.  Without the easy communication of the 21st century, each spouse wrongly concluded that the other was dead, and started new lives.  Now, more than twenty years later, Wes finds that his mother had only recently learned that his father was still living, and had written him a letter.  Had that letter led to her death?

Meredith Baxter, Barry Corbin


Leaving the older couple who took care of him and his mother (Barry Corbin and Meredith Baxter), he heads off to find his long-missing father; and kill him if necessary.  And when he arrives, he finds himself in the middle of a range war between his father and family, and the Dowdy family, led by patriarch Peter Dowdy (Greg Evigan). 

While the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel have long shown a greater commitment to the Western form than any other networks, there has also long been the complaint among oater enthusiasts that Hallmark Westerns were ‘soft’, and lacked action.  Happily, as demonstrated by the recent HANNAH’S LAW, GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE – QUEEN OF HEARTS, and now with SHADOW ON THE MESA, Hallmark has upped their game considerably. 

Shannon Lucio, Wes Brown



With forty features under his belt, director David Cass Sr., has a long career in Westerns that goes back to stunting on MCCLINTOCK! and HERE COME THE BRIDES.  He knows his business, and deftly handles the drama, the humor, and the action.  And there is a good deal of action, starting with Wes Rawlins’ work as a bounty hunter, and after a half-hour break, continuing with growing ferocity as  the range war grows uglier.   As a stuntman, Cass worked on eight features and episodes with the quintessential director of fun Westerns of the 1960s, Burt Kennedy, and some of that may have rubbed off, giving the occasional lighter moments a professional glow so often missing in today’s Western fare.  In particular, an exciting and amusing jail-break sequence harkens back to that style of filmmaking. 

Based on a soon-to-be published book by Western novelist Lee Martin, who also scripted, SHADOW is well-plotted, and populated with characters whose depth and range of emotions have attracted a strong and hardy cast of quality actors, both famous and new on the scene.  As Rawlins’ adoptive grandmother, Meredith Baxter brings a mature beauty, and a pioneer’s grace and strength to the role.  As adoptive grandfather, Barry Corbin tells Wes the story of his parents, and what would be dry exposition in other actors’ hands is deeply felt and deeply moving, without getting sappy.  It seems to me that over the last few years Corbin, in Westerns big (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) and small (REDEMPTION – FOR ROBBING THE DEAD) has earned himself the sort of sagebrush elder statesman position long held by Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr.  He’ll soon be seen in the Western THE HOMESMAN, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, and costarring Hillary Swank and Meryl Streep.

Kevin Sorbo is strong and effective, and I rather regret the story-choice of having him on crutches for most of the movie, as it limits his involvement in the action. However, Sorbo brings that seemingly-effortless James Arness-like gravitas that grounds the film just by his presence.     

Blonde, beautiful and twice Emmy nominated Gail O’Grady plays Sorbo’s second wife, who has an agenda all her own.  Shannon Lucio is their lovely and striving-to-be-independent daughter, who fancies Wes (don’t be cross; she doesn’t know they might be related).  As her brother, Micah Alberti plays a lad who lacks confidence until Wes teaches him the way of the shooting-iron.

One of the true pleasures of MESA is Greg Evigan, who plays the suave, sinister and oddly likeable cattle-baron rival to Sorbo; it’s the sort of role Brian Donlevy and Zachary Scott excelled at, and it reveals the style and sophistication that Evigan has developed.  He was also effective in a very different role in 2010’s 6 GUNS.  Dave Florek, whose Western credits go back to GUNSMOKE: THE LAST APACHE, is solid in a small but memorable role as a ranch-hand named Baldy.

Greg Evigan


Of course, such a movie rises and falls on its cowboy lead, and Wes Brown, as Wes Rawlins carries the picture well on his broad shoulders.  He’s handsome without being a pretty-boy, and has the saddest visage of any cowboy actor since William S. Hart.  He plays his part credibly, as a young man with serious problems. 

I had a chance to do an email Q&A with author Lee Martin, who told me, “I thought the cast was wonderful and just right.  Since I named the hero for my brother Wesley, who died when he was ten, I was delighted that the actor was Wes Brown.  Everyone did a great job, as did David Cass, the director.”
It’s her first screenplay sale, and she had a great time visiting the set.  “We were treated like royalty.  It was great fun.  And a real education.  (Producer) Larry Levinson’s outfit is a well-oiled machine with not a moment’s hesitation.” 

Gail O'Grady


I asked her if there were many changes from book to movie, and if we’d likely see more of Wes Rawlins.  “From novel to script to screen brought a lot of changes, some influence by Hallmark.  I had no hand in changes, but am still happy with the end result.  The novel, reflected in my first screenplay, had Wes as a half breed, but that was also changed along the way.  I can see a sequel, and I have ideas for it.”

SHADOW ON THE MESA can be pre-ordered from Amazon  for under $14 .  

CASTING DIRECTOR MARVIN PAIGE DIES

Marvin Paige with Anne Jeffreys


One of Hollywood’s premiere casting directors has died at the age of 86 after a car crash on Laurel Canyon.  Known for casting STAR TREK and many other TV series and movies, of chief interest to Western fans, he cast the series BRANDED, and movies like RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE, THE REVENGERS, THE HONKERS, MAN IN THE WILDERNESS, and many others.  He was particularly beloved by actors who gained their fame in the 1930s and 1940s.  The late Marcia Mae Jones told me that she and many of her friends had Marvin to thank for their later roles on TV and in film.  In recent years he was best known for squiring the great ladies of cinema’s golden age to events at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, UCLA screenings, and autograph shows.  Word that he was at an event was quickly followed by the question, “Who is he with?”  The answer was likely to be Jane Russell, Anne Jeffreys, June Lockhart, or another star of that ilk.

THAT’S A WRAP!

Next week I’ll have, among other things, a review of TREASURES 5 – THE WEST, a wonderful collection of films from the National Film Preservation Archives!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright November 2013 by Parke – All Rights Reserved




Sunday, November 10, 2013

‘EL PURO’ TO BE RESURRECTED!




The gang at Chip Baker Films is at it again!  Major movers and shakers in the Euro-Western world, last year’s Almeria Western Film Festival led directly to their making of SIX BULLETS TO HELL (read my coverage HERE  ) immediately before this year’s festival, in the famous Tabernas  and Almeria locations and sets.  Immediately after this year’s Festival, maybe a month ago, Chip Baker Films announced they’d soon be filming REVEREND COLT, a Neo-Spaghetti Western, also shot at the classic Spanish locations, and starring villainous western icon James Russo (if you missed that article, go HERE ) . 

Now Chip Baker and Unity International Films have put another western into pre-production, EL PURO RESURRECTED, headlining the original El Puro, Euro-Western star Robert Woods (if you missed my interview with Robert, go HERE ).  Made in 1969, EL PURO, directed by Edoardo Mulargia, is known in Italy as LA TAGLIA E TUA…L’UOMO L’AMMAZZO IO.  It was one of Wood’s most popular films in Europe, though perhaps not as well known stateside.  I had seen a short trailer for EL PURO RESURRECTED posted during the festival, and added it to the Round-up Facebook page, but assumed that it was just Woods and company having fun on the great locations.  You can see the trailer below.


It turns out that I was right, initially, but then things took off.  A Chip Baker exec told me, “We did that trailer originally just for fun,” but then people started getting interested, and it seemed like a good idea after all. 


So the pretend trailer is growing into a real movie, and star Robert Woods couldn’t be happier.  When I spoke with him on Friday, he’d just come back from stirring up interest in the project at L.A.’s American Film Market.  He told me, “They asked me to do this trailer, and then they sent me a script.  It looks like it’s going to turn out really well.  And it’s an exact sequel to EL PURO.  It looks like I get killed in the end of that, but you don’t really know.  So we’re starting out with a revisit to that last scene.  It’s all in dusk and twilight, so you don’t see who it is, which man is El Puro.  One man buries the other in a grave, fashions a cross of stones, puts his holster and his guns there, and his holster is embossed ‘E.P.’  And as he rides off to Allesandroni’s music – I love him, love that we have his music – he turns back and says, ‘Now El Puro is dead.’  Thirty years later, he shows up in a bar.  But he’s removed from that life.  Then he beats a kid in a gunfight,” and that triggers EL PURO RESURRECTED’s story.  “All Hell breaks loose, and it’s like HIGH NOON from then on.  It’s great fun – it really is.  And it’s not gratuitous; it’s got some thought behind it. 


Robert Woods in the original EL PURO


“The original script lends itself so well to doing a sequel.  It just fits.  And Leone’s village, it’s gorgeous.  You can do interiors, exteriors; it’s such a cool place to shoot.  You get cameras, armaments, stagecoaches, wagons, horses – whatever you want, it’s all there. ” 

Joining Woods will be several actors familiar to Spaghetti Western fans: Antonio Mayans, of A TOWN 
CALLED HELL and MORE DOLLARS FOR THE MACGREGORS; Nicoletta Machiavelli, of NAVAJO JOE and THE HILLS RUN RED, and Simone Blondell, who co-starred with Robert Woods in PRAY TO GOD AND DIG YOUR GRAVE (1968), also directed by Mulagria, and HIS NAME WAS SAM WALBASH, BUT THEY CALL HIM AMEN (aka SAVAGE GUNS).



The link to the official Facebook page in HERE .  I’m sure I’ll have more information as they get closer to rolling camera, but to get you up to speed in the meantime, below is the entire original EL PURO.  Enjoy!




AUTRY  HOSTS AMERICAN INDIAN ARTS 2013



On Saturday and Sunday, November 9th and 10th, the Autry welcomed more than 180 American Indian artists to what has become the largest Annual American Indian Marketplace in Southern California.   Over forty tribes from across the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico, were represented. 


Mother-of-pearl inlay from boat, above


This event has gotten larger and better attended with each passing year, and on Saturday the 26,000 square foot tent was comfortably full, with thousands of visitors.  In addition to the art displayed and offered for sale, there were dance and music performances in the indoor Autry courtyard, artist demonstrations including jewelry-making, weaving, basket-weaving, soapstone carving, mask-making, gourd art, and glass blowing.  The longest line by far was for Auntie’s Frybread Kitchen.


Basket-weaving by Jessica Lomatewama - Hopi


Monte Yellowbird Sr., Black Pinto Horse Fine Arts


JT Willie Designs - Navajo


I had the chance to speak stunt man and actor Michael Horse – Tonto in 1984’s LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER.  In addition to his acting career, he’s a talented and respected artist whose works have been exhibited at the Smithsonian.  Look for an interview with Michael in the Round-up, in the near future. 


Michael Horse with his art - Yaqui

On my way to the frybread line I ran into Zahn McClarnon, who stars on LONGMIRE as the untrusting Tribal Policeman Officer Mathias.  One of the stars of INTO THE WEST and YELLOW ROCK, next year he will be seen in the new Sundance Channel series THE RED ROAD.  Zahn was with Patrick Shining Elk, who has stunted in LAST SAMURAI, HIDALGO and THE ALAMO, and recently acted in LA MISSION.


Patrick Shining Elk and Zahn McClarnon



‘HATFIELDS & MCCOYS’ ACTOR SUES OVER HORSE-FALL INJURY

Tom McKay, who played Jim McCoy in the award-winning History Channel miniseries, is suing over permanent injuries he claims he received during the making of the Romania-lensed film.  According to Deadline: Hollywood, McKay alleges, “…defendants… intentionally misrepresented to Plaintiff that their horses were safe, well behaved, and were suitable for riding by Plaintiff.”  McKay claims he was injured when, “…the subject horse became uncontrollable again during filming of a scene, bolted, and subsequently threw Plaintiff into a tree, resulting in serious and permanent injuries and harm to Plaintiff.”  McKay is currently starring the BBC / STARZ series THE WHITE QUEEN.


PRODUCERS  SUE ONE-TIME ‘JANE GOT A GUN’ DIRECTOR LYNNE RAMSAY; RAMSAY CALLS CHARGES “SIMPLY FALSE”

‘JANE’ producers are suing the celebrated WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN director who famously walked off JANE in March, the weekend it was supposed to roll camera.  According to Deadline: Hollywood, the producers are seeking the return of $90,000 she was paid to direct the film, $50,000 she was paid to rewrite the script – neither job being completed, according to suit, and $750,000 The William Morris Agency is holding in escrow.  They further want $500,000 in damages.  In a 44 page filing, the producers claim Ramsay was “…repeatedly under the influence of alcohol, was abusive to members of the cast and crew and was generally disruptive.”

After a brief production shutdown, ‘JANE’ was directed by WARRIOR helmer Gavin O’Connor.  Natalie Portman, the star and a producer of the film, is not a party to the suit.  Ramsay representatives responded that although Ms. Ramsay has not yet seen the suit, the claims in the news stories, “…are simply false.”

‘THE ACTIVIST’ SCREENS WED. AT VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL

Written and directed by Cyril Morin, the drama is set against the 1973 Wounded Knee uprising, and stars Chadwick Brown, Michael Spears, Circus-Szalewski, Alen Von Stroheim and Henry LeBlanc.  It shows at 8 p.m. at the Laemmle Noho 7, as part of the San Fernando Valley Film Festival.


THAT'S A WRAP!

That’s it for this week.  Most of us have Monday off because it is Veteran’s Day.  It’s not just a three-day weekend; it’s an opportunity to thank the men and women who have kept us free and safe at great personal risk and cost. 

Time flies.  When I was a kid, everyone’s granddad had been in World War One, and everyone’s dad had been in World War Two.  Now, there is not even one veteran of The Great War left alive.  The ranks of World War II vets shrink greatly with each passing day.  Those who fought in Korea and Vietnam are showing their age.  Make the time, make a point, to thank them now.  I know how glad I am that I thanked my dad while there was time.  Because of  them, we have all the blessings in the world; but we don’t have all the time in the world.

HAPPY VETERANS DAY!

Sincerely,

Henry C. Parke

All Original Contents Copyright November 2013 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ON THE SET OF ‘WESTERN RELIGION’, PLUS HELP MAKE ‘DJANGO LIVES’ HAPPEN!



ON THE SET OF ‘WESTERN RELIGION’



Writer-director James O’Brien had already directed three contemporary features when he decided to make a Western.  He thought of the title, WESTERN RELIGION, and the story came to him from there.  It’s set in frontier Arizona, in 1879, and centers around a poker tournament.  It’s being filmed – they’re pretty close to being wrapped as I write this – at Peter Sherayko’s Caravan West Ranch in Agua Dulce.  It’s less than an hour’s drive from L.A., but you couldn’t feel any more removed from the city, or the present day, than when you turn all around, and see blue sky and mountains and brush, and nothing that suggests the 21st century.

A week ago, I was welcomed onto the set for the sixth day of shooting, and even invited to be an extra in the film (you can read about that particular part of the adventure HERE ).  I had the chance to observe the day’s filming, which involved several shootings in several saloons, and to chat with the director, art director, actors, prop-men and others.

I asked the writer-director how the project came about.

JAMES O’BRIEN:  Well, I’ve wanted to do a Western for a while now.  This is my fourth film, and I think I had to really work on my game before I felt like I was ready to dive into recreating a world like this.  I’ve been doing independent films, real running-guns productions without a lot of people in them; and the costuming and the gear for westerns is very elaborate.  So this is definitely a bigger production for me.  My films are usually in the fifty-thousand, hundred-thousand range, so this is two-hundred fifty thousand, which I think is not a lot of money for a western.  But it’s an indie western --

HENRY: It’s a substantial amount of money any way you look at it.

JAMES O’BRIEN:  (laughs) For me it is, that’s for sure.  So the idea dawned on me; the title came to me.  Soon as the title came, the rest of the story came.  It’s a mining town that’s running out of gold.  They’re trying to build a town really; it’s a tent city.  The founders of the town throw a poker tournament to raise money to build their town.  And a gold cross is the prize, and it draws gunslingers and card-sharps from all over the world.  A very colorful cast – sometimes we call it an Altman western, because there are so many characters in it.  And the different gunfighters and card players have their own philosophies.  So it’s a battle of philosophies as well.  The town is called Religion, Arizona, and that ties it into WESTERN RELIGION.   

Director James O'Brien filming me in Super-8


HENRY:  I know this is your first western.  What other genres have you worked in?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  My first picture was a crime caper film.  Then I did a road drama, and a science fiction movie.  WISH YOU WERE HERE was the road drama.  Two estranged brothers take a road trip across the country, from Venice to Coney Island; one’s a concert promoter, the other’s just out of rehab.  They’re sort of at each other’s throat at the start of the film.  Then they meet this girl on the run.  They end up becoming sort of a surrogate family. 

HENRY:  Have westerns been a big deal to you for a long time?  Do you have favorites?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  TOMBSTONE is one of my favorites.  SILVERADO, SEARCHERS – I love the genre, big fan of it.  Sergio Leone obviously.

HENRY:  So this is day six?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  Yes, day six; we’ll make our first week. 

Just then a wardrobe person appears with a pair of jackets. “ Looking at some potential different jackets for our outlaw leader.”  One is too clean, another too ragged.  They settle on the third one.   “He’ll look really good in this.”

HENRY:  What’s the biggest challenge to making a western?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  I think orchestrating the action sequences is one of them.  And another one is filling in the background of scenes, so it seems like it’s real, like it’s come to life.  A lot of horses crossing, a lot of background talent crossing to fill out the frame and make you feel like you’re in a real world. 

HENRY:  Did you have to do a lot of research for this one?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  The research was just done by my own interest in the subject.  I did do some research on the language used, the Western lingo when I was writing the screenplay, so that I could work that in a realistic way.  Amazing how many words they had for whiskey: one of the characters comes in and says, “Gimme some neck-oil!” 

HENRY:  So, based on this, would you want to do another western afterwards?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  If this one goes well, it is written to be followed up upon; most of the main characters live.  If it has an audience, we may revisit it.  Certainly I like working in the genre, so I could see myself coming back to it.  Thanks to Pete Sherayko, another Jersey boy who made it out west. 

James asked me about my background, my favorite westerns.  Then he said, “I always think that anyone who’s got a real interest in western history, you’ve probably had a significant lifetime in that era that makes you want to revisit it.” 

HENRY:  Interesting; you mean like reincarnation?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  Yeah, like there was something that happened so strongly then that it drew you back to that world.  Because you get some people who are so interested in it. 

HENRY:  The feeling people have about westerns is not like any other genre.  People will have a whole life-goal to do a western, which they don’t for a musical or any other genre.

JAMES O’BRIEN:  It’s an interesting juxtaposition, in that the east coast of the United States was so much more built up, such a modern world, but then out here, at the same time, it was completely wild and wooly; a completely different world.  That those two things were happening simultaneously I find fascinating. 

The movie is being shot with a Red video camera, which has been the camera of choice on every set I’ve visited in the last three years.  Additionally, director O’Brien is shooting some footage with a hand-held Super-8 camera.  I’m not talking about a video system; this is the old-fashioned home-movie Super-8 film, and the stock is Tri-X, a black & white stock which is known for a good range of contrast, and a graininess that might suggest newsreel footage. 

D.P. Morgan Schmidt framing a shot


HENRY:  How do you like shooting the Red camera?

JAMES O’BRIEN:  It’s the best camera I’ve used.  And Morgan Schmidt’s a great DP; it’s a pleasure to work with him.  We’ve got great lenses, great vintage Leica lenses.  So I think the Red is going to look fantastic, and we’re going to tie that in with the Super-8 black and white, and juxtapose those two elements.  See if we can create a feeling of time-travel. 

When I tracked down armorer, prop-man and actor Peter Sherayko, the man who invited me on the set in the first place, he was laying out guns and holsters for each character.  His company, Caravan West, formed during the filming of TOMBSTONE, provides props and costumes and saddles and horses,   He had a very unorthodox take on the recent federal government shutdown.

PETER SHERAYKO: Well, we were going to film at Paramount Ranch, and then our wonderful government, in its infinite wisdom, closed the Ranch down.  And I said, ‘Okay, we have the 2,400 acre ranch: we’ll build a tent city.’  And the whole story is they have a poker tournament to raise money.  I said, ‘Good.  You’re raising money to build a city.’  So we created a tent city over here.  This is what I told James, the director; this is something no one has seen in a western.  It’s not been done before.  And it does bring you back to Sergio Leone, if you think of some of the things that he did in the Spaghetti Westerns, where they had these rough-looking places.  So this is a rough-looking place.  It’s not Chicago; it’s in the wilderness. 

Peter Sherayko


We brought all the horses in, the costumes and props.  I’m playing Southern Bill, who runs the saloon.  We wrap this on the 11th.  But on the 9th, I’m leaving.  We start HOT BATH ‘N’ A STIFF DRINK 2 in Arizona; we’re doing all the guns on that.  I play the gun-shop owner, who gets killed.  I keep saying, ‘No, you’ve got to wound me,’ because there’s going to be a HOT BATH 3.  Then we’re doing a Wild West Show December 15th in Long Beach.  And QUICKDRAW, that show we did for the Hulu network, just got picked up for a second season.  So I’ll probably play the happy guy with the hookers again.  Then we have another film from Texas that we’re doing at Melody Ranch, with Michael Biehn starring in it.

Art Director Christian Ramirez and his crew were hard at work, building pieces of the town, having to turn off the power tools whenever an assistant director shouted, “Stop work!” to film a scene.

CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ:  I want to build some more facades.  The problem is we’re really short on lumber.  I want to build a fa├žade of a building – just a storefront – here, and this one over here that we started on, if we could get some lumber to cover that, then at least we’d have two more buildings. 

HENRY:  The ‘under construction’ look is very nice for a boom-town kind of a thing.

CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ:   It is, but the problem is this production company originally wanted to shoot this at Paramount Ranch, so they have visions of Paramount Ranch, but they’re getting a boom-town out on the frontier.  This is probably more authentic than the towns your normally see in movies.  If you look at Tombstone, Freemont Street had I think it was a hundred brothels and saloons, and of those more than 50% had canvas roofs.  So this style of a canvas-roof building would actually be more common than a wooden building, depending on where you are.  It’s a problem of resources; every show is a problem of resources.   

Zack Smith setting saloon props


Before the night was over, two complete new facades would be in place, along with an outhouse. Prop-man Zack Smith was everywhere, arranging bottles in the saloon sets, moving furniture to make sure the most authentic pieces were nearest the camera.  Wranglers Kevin McNiven, in from Wyoming for the shoot, and Ardeshir Radpour, also a professional polo player, rode by.   Although only interior scenes would be shot that day, the two frequently were called upon to ‘cross’ back and forth in front of the saloon, to give the background of the shots life. 



Wrangler Kevin McNiven


I talked to a number of actors with large and small roles.  A number of them were producers as well.  Their motivations for being in the movie were varied.  I was struck by the number who were more experienced in the music industry than filmmakers, but they all looked the part.  This was a result of both a sharp eye for physical casting, and Nikki Pelley’s wardrobe. 

Wrangler Ardeshir Radpour


One actor, Sean Joyce, had a highly personal motivation for his involvement. 

SEAN JOYCE:  I play two characters.  I play Bobby Shay, traveling carpenter, and his identical twin brother Tommy Shay.


Sean Joyce


HENRY:  And you’re not only an actor in the film, you’re one of the producers.

SEAN: I am one of the producers.  I helped raise some funds through an Indiegogo fundraising campaign.  Very humbling and inspiring to have a lot of my friends and family contribute to this film.  Once James told me he was going to write my brother into the movie, it became a very personal thing for me.  My twin brother Tom died in college, in my arms, and James rewrote the backstory into this, so it’s heavy stuff.  It’s deeply personal, but it’s beautiful, and James brought my brother back to life, really, in this film.  So when I revisit his death in the movie, I still get to bring him on to the movie; it’s kind of a double-edged sword, very cathartic.   I’ve loved westerns; growing up as a kid watching the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns.  It’s just not a genre that’s made that often.  Couple of the biggies – UNFORGIVEN, 3:10 TO YUMA, DJANGO UNCHAINED, but to make a western indie film is true renegade style, and that’s James O’Brien, he is a true renegade. To work with a visionary author like James was an offer I couldn’t refuse. 

Billy Jinx has a perfect look for a prospector, and if he’s not a trained actor, he knows something of the real western lifestyle.


Billy Jinx


BILLY JINX:  I grew up western, in Iowa; eastern Iowa.  Grew up in the horse business.  I play drums; hand drums, tom-toms.  I met James O’Brien back in April when I came out to play the drums for the man who provided music for his last movie, WISH YOU WERE HERE.  We hit it off; I came out here a couple of days ago; kickin’ butt.  Been helping to set up props, to build the saloons, whatever comes up.  James said just look around, and whatever you think you ought to be doing to help, just jump on it.

Brian Chatton, who plays the piano-player in a saloon, is also a musician, which helps make things more realistic – even though the piano doesn’t work, Brian tickles the silent ivories, and you can almost hear ‘Camptown Races.’  Being in a Western is a culmination of a wish he expressed years ago, in a hit song.


Brian Chatton at the ivories


BRIAN CHATTON:  It was called, ‘I Want To Be A Cowboy.’  And it was a hit in the ‘80s.  The band was Boys Don’t Cry.  I wrote all the music, and the three other guys wrote the lyric.  We had a couple of mediocre hits.  But ‘Cowboy’ was a biggie.  I can still buy my chocolate from the royalties, and that was nearly thirty years ago.  And my ibuprofen drugs.  Here I am, about thirty years later, fulfilling my dream, I suppose.  Can’t get away from it now.  Other than that, I’ve played with B.B. King, Phil Collins, Meat Loaf, The Hollies, Eric Burden.

HENRY:  Did you really always want to be a cowboy?

BRIAN CHATTON:  Yes, apparently.  When I had my first-ever gig, I was dressed up as a cowboy.  I was eight years old, playing in a holiday camp in the north of England, and I ended up singing ‘Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley’ with my cowboy hat on, and everybody began to laugh.  And I wondered why, but they clapped and laughed, and I thought, hey, they liked me.  And when I finished I turned and walked away, and I felt really uncomfortable.  I looked down; I had been wearing brown khaki shorts, I’d wee’d in my pants, and they’d seen it all.  (Laughs)  My first ever gig, and I’d wee’d in my pants!  But that’s never going to happen again.

HENRY:  Why?

BRIAN CHATTON:  Depends!  Never go onstage without ‘em. 
And of course, no saloon is worth a damn without a saloon-girl or two.  Beautiful Daniela Torchia filled the bill, and loved the experience.

DANIELA TORCHIA:  I am playing a very sleazy little saloon-girl who likes to comfort all the cowboys. 


Bruce Chatton and Daniela Torchia


HENRY:  Is this your first western?

DANIELA TORCHIA:  Yes, it’s my first western, absolutely.  I love it.  I want to move in to the tent city.  I’ve got a sleeping bag, and I see there’s a water-well.  I’ll just brush my teeth in there. 

A Anthony McCarthy was sporting a badge, but he knew he wouldn’t be sporting it for very long.

A  ANTHONY MCCARTHY:  I’m playing the border marshal; we get gunned down in the first scene, me and my deputy.  It serves to show how fast and mean the one character is.  That’s what I’m here for, to provide that contrast. 


A Anthony McCarthy


HENRY: Done a lot of westerns before?

A  ANTHONY MCCARTHY:  I’ve never actually done a western movie before.  I just got done doing a run with Theater Unleashed playing a marshal named Dad Eakins, based on a real guy from Texas history.  The other guy is sort of a Texas Robin Hood, and Dad Eakins is sort of the Sheriff of Nottingham, to be honest.  I just got done with two runs with them, and that was a blast.  This one, it’s not as big a role, but it’s still fun, and to play a marshal is always cool.

I asked Claude Duhamel, if he was looking forward to killing the marshal, the deputy, and anyone else who walked in from of his sights. The tall, imposing actor grinned.

CLAUDE DUHAMEL: Can’t complain.  Four down one day, two the other day – up to six. 

HENRY:  How did you get involved with this project?


Claude Duhamel about to dispatch a pair of varmints!


CLAUDE DUHAMEL:  My friend Peter (Shinkoda), who plays Chinaman Dan, said there was one part up for grabs.  They were looking for a world-travelled crazy man.  I called the director, sent him a tape, he brought me in to read, and I guess they liked it.  I did a Western last year.  It was called THE DAWN RIDER, with Donald Southerland, Christian Slater.  I had a rape scene with Jill Hennessey; I tried to rape her, she shot me in the face.   It’s a John Wayne remake.  I’m from Canada; I’m a recently landed immigrant here.  Just got my acting visa, so I’ll see what happens. 

I’d been on the set since 8:30 a.m., and twelve hours later, I was still waiting for my scene, as a background poker-player in another saloon (though actually shot in the opposite side of the same set)   For commercial and voice-over actor Jeff Hendrick, who would playing  the  dealer at the foreground table, this appearance  was something of a culmination.

JEFF HENDRICK: This is a bucket list thing for me.  I grew up on westerns, I’ve always wanted to be in a western, and now I’m doing it.  If I wasn’t as tired as I was, I’d be giddy. 


Jeff Hendrick


HENRY:  What were your favorite westerns growing up?

JEFF HENDRICK: The first movies I recall seeing were the Spaghetti Western trilogies.  Once you’re raised on anti-heroes, you’re kinda done.  (laughs)  Clark Kent?  Yawn.  It’s funny, I was thinking about that today.  There were very few movies where Clint Eastwood actually had a name.  JOE KIDD.  The DIRTY HARRY series.  But most of the other westerns…

Waiting to go on with us was Louie Sabatasso, whose character, Salt Peter, would be the focus of the poker-game and subsequent killing.  I asked him how he got involved with WESTERN RELIGION. 

LOUIE SABATASSO:  James and I did a previous film together called WISH YOU WERE HERE, an independent road movie.  About eight months ago James and I got together and James said he wanted to make an independent western.  He had a rough kind of idea, he wanted to call it WESTERN RELIGION, about a card game, and different people that come together, and I said I’m in.  I was the lead in WISH YOU WERE HERE.  I said I wanted to do it, and I started to describe the character I wanted to play, which was the most out-of-the-box character you could play in a western.  I said I wanted to play a sexually ambiguous dandy-boy from Vienna.  Who’s a hedonist drug-addict, but also a straight killer.  James said, ‘Done; and his name is Salt Peter.’  So that’s the character I’m playing, and we’re doing it through my production company, 3rd Partner Productions.  There’ a lot of producers on this picture, but the main two producers are  James and myself.  And we’re starting to have a lot of fun.


Louie Sabatasso


HENRY:  Do you find it difficult working on both ends of the camera?

LOUIE SABATASSO:  There’s stress for the producer on any film, but my only respite has been when I put the funky wardrobe on, and go play Salt Peter.  The producing can be stressful and daunting.  Playing Salt Peter, there’s no stress, everything’s cool, it’s fun. 

I went to a thing at the Director’s Guild, like six years ago.  Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were showing clips from their favorite films.  And at first I didn’t know what it was; were they going to show clips from their films?  But they were showing clips from their favorite films.  And their whole thing was that as a filmmaker, you have to look at all the films that have been your favorites from when you were a kid, a teenager, a young adult.  Figure out why they were your favorite films; then go make those films.  That’s the trick; that’s the secret to knowing the kind of films that you want to make.  It’s like I love Kubrick.  And that’s the kind of stuff I go back to, and look at, and try to remember what got you excited in the first place. 
#WesternReligion



IF YOU'D LIKE TO SEE FRANCO NERO PLAY DJANGO ONCE AGAIN, JOIN THE CAMPAIGN!




I've been contacted by Eric Zaldivar, one of the producers of the fascinating Western THE SCARLET WORM.  He’s headed to the American Film Market to pre-sell DJANGO LIVES, which will bring Franco Nero back in the role that made him a star, nay, an icon!  Set in Los Angeles in 1915, an older Django will be working as a technical advisor in the film industry, something several lawmen like Wyatt Earp, and outlaws like Al Jennings, actually did.

The producers need our help getting the word out about this worthy project.  They're asking fans to temporarily switch their profile pictures to the DJANGO LIVES postcard you see above.   It’s a strange thing to ask, but not too much to ask, so I’ve done it.  Care to join us?  LONG LIVE FRANCO NERO! LONG LIVE DJANGO!


DEATH VALLEY ‘49ERS ENCAMPMENT NOV 6-10!

The annual Encampment at the Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley, will feature Western music and art, a wagon train, pioneer costume contest, gold-panning, wood-carving and needlework displays, rides to historic desert sites (bring water!), and cowboy poetry!  To learn more, visit their website HERE 
Or call 831-818-4384.

AMERICAN INDIAN ARTS MARKETPLACE – THIS WEEKEND AT THE AUTRY



More than 180 American Indian artists from over forty tribes will take part this Saturday and Sunday, November 9th and 10th, in the largest Native American Arts fair in Southern California.  Artists work in every conceivable medium, from wood to pottery to silver to stone.  The Marketplace is open from ten ‘til 5 on both days.


‘BEND OF THE RIVER’ AUTHOR BILL GULICK DIES AT 97



Readers and fellow western writers are mourning the loss of one of the grand old men of the Western novel, Bill Gulick.  Gulick, along with the recently deceased Elmore Leonard, were the last links to the generation of Western writers who made their names in the post-war years. 

The author of twenty Western novels and histories, his BEND OF THE SNAKE became the film BEND OF THE RIVER (1952), directed by Anthony Mann, and starring James Stewart, Rock Hudson and Julie Adams.  In 1955, THE ROAD TO DENVER was filmed at Republic by Joe Kane, starring John Payne, Lee J, Cobb and Mona Freeman.  In 1965, THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL was made into a rollicking western comedy, directed by John Sturges, and starring Burt Lancaster and Lee Remick.  One of his short stories was adapted for the short-lived but excellent series HOTEL DE PAREE, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, and starring Earl Holliman and Strother Martin. 

THAT’S A WRAP!

Sorry this Round-up is appearing on Monday rather than Sunday, but I hope you’ll think it was worth the wait!

Happy Trails,

Henry


All Original Contents Copyright November 2013 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved