Tuesday, August 6, 2019


By Henry C. Parke

With the Marshal out of town on business, a Deputy (Mitchell Johnson) jails Chinese railroad worker Jing (John Foo) so friend James (Kaiwai Lyman) can assault Jing’s wife (Nellie Tsay). Marshal Walker (Trace Adkins) returns to town to find Jing has slaughtered many of James’ friends, and won’t stop until James is dead. The Marshal sympathizes, but knows he must bring Jing in. He knows James is an unrepentant swine; but James is also his son.

THE OUTSIDER is a dark, grim, but involving revenge Western that avoids the trap of the endless clones of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES by focusing more on the Marshal and company, and their motives and motivations, than on Jing, who we already understand. Relationships change in unexpected ways, and characters who seemed incidental don’t always stay that way.

The direction and performances are consistently strong, and Trace Adkins demonstrates again, as he did in both THE VIRGINIAN and STAGECOACH: THE TEXAS JACK STORY, that he can carry a Western, although here he has ample assistance. This is a physically dark movie: three quarters of it happens at night, half of it in the rain -- it’s the wettest movie I’ve seen since the original DJANGO. But cinematographer Pablo Diez’s gift for color and composition finds beauty throughout, working in perfect visual harmony with production designer Markos Keyto.  This third Western from director Timothy Woodward Jr. is his strongest yet.


Off the top of my head, I can think of only four living directors who have made three Westerns: Kevin Costner, Walter Hill, Simon Wincer (LONESOME DOVE, etc.) and Timothy Woodward Jr. Woodward is 36, or will be soon, and has already directed sixteen features, from Horror to Sci-fi to Crime Drama to Westerns. His first, TRADED, was a very impressive entrance into the genre, and his newest, THE OUTSIDER, is even better. “I love the genre. I grew up watching Westerns; my grandfather would have them on all the time after school. There's something magical about their kind of moral, where all the branches of government are on your hip. It was a simpler time in certain ways and more difficult in other ways. Just the complexity of it, the scenery -- I love all of it.”

In 2016’s TRADED, a father (Michael Pare) must find his daughter, who’s been lured with the opportunity of becoming a Harvey Girl, then sold into prostitution. It also stars Kris Kristofferson, Trace Adkins and Tom Sizemore. In 2018’s HICKOK, Luke Hemsworth plays Wild Bill at a time early in his career, when he becomes a lawman. It also features Kris Kristofferson and Trace Adkins, as well as Bruce Dern.

In 2019’s THE OUTSIDER, Trace Adkins moves from villain to lead. I was in Alabama recently, speaking to Adkins on the set of THE ULTIMATE COWBOY SHOWDOWN, which he hosts, and which premieres on INSP October 14th.  He was very excited about THE OUTSIDER, and told me, “It's a really interesting character to play because, well, I was a bad guy, but now I've kind of seeking redemption. But his seed is bad and there's just nothing to do about it. My son is a lost cause. It's a really interesting role.”

Trace in the rain

THE OUTSIDER arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD on Tuesday, August 6th. It’s already available digitally.

Henry Parke:   You said you watched Westerns with your grandfather. What were you watching?
Tim Woodward:  He used to watch GUNSMOKE all the time. And then, I loved TOMBSTONE, BUTCH CASSIDY.  We used to watch everything. He was a huge John Wayne fan, from STAGECOACH to THE SEARCHERS, but he would watch whatever was on TV, and there was always a lot of stuff on Saturdays.

Henry Parke:   Did the script for THE OUTSIDER come to you or did you develop it?

Tim Woodward:  My distributor was saying, we really would like for you to do another Western; here's a couple of ideas. So the idea was that, at this time period, the Chinese were coming through, building the railroad, and we just started doing some research.

Henry Parke:   This is your fourth film with screenwriter Sean Ryan. You two most to have a really exceptional rapport.

Tim Woodward:  I like Sean a lot; some of my earlier films are with him. I hadn't worked with him in a couple of years and I thought he'd be a great for this because his detail for action and his detail for character, he can create conflict. Sometimes it's not the word spoken, but the word unspoken that means a lot. So we kind of bounce off each other. And there's ideas that come to me, on-set, and Sean has no, no problem with that. Being able to allow me to adjust these things by saying, what if this character resists this way or that? We work really well together.

Henry Parke:   Revenge stories are familiar and popular, especially in Westerns, but the structure of yours is very unusual. Characters that seem to be minor become major; characters that traditionally would be there until the end, die. And revelations about characters change how you feel about them. So your story does not play it safe and predictable. Did the fact that you were not going on a traditional straight line for a Western concern you?

Tim Woodward:  It didn't, because I'd done two before, and my goal is always to challenge myself to do something different. TRADED was a very classical story, a nice throwback to some of the 1940s, 1950s westerns that I loved. Then with HICKOK we wanted a different approach. More of the myth, the way the comic books used to play Hickok, instead of the traditional, exact history of how he looked at things.  With THE OUTSIDER, this is a dark time for the Chinese. Let's take these characters and let's put them in a very bad situation, bad for everyone involved. Where the bad guy's not necessarily the bad guy, or at least he believes what he's doing, and everyone is affected by this. Our central protagonist, he's affected, but all these other characters, they're just as much in the mix and they have just as much conflict. Telling that kind of story was interesting and I think you hit it on the head: there's so many times where you know exactly what's coming. And I really just wanted to try something new where we just mixed it up a little bit and we said, okay, let's keep you engaged, but let's throw you off a little bit, not let you know the next step of what's happening, and let's bring certain character flaws to light later in their traits.

Henry Parke:   I was talking to Trace Adkins a couple of months ago, and he was telling me how much he enjoys working with you. Trace has been in all your westerns, and now he's moved up from villain to protagonist. What does he bring to your films in particular?

Tim Woodward:  Trace Adkins is a star. I mean, he has such a big presence. In person, he's the nicest guy you'll meet. But when he gets on camera, I don't even think Trace realizes how good he is. He really is his toughest critic, but he has just an aura about him. He draws people in. I mean, it's the voice, the height, it's the intensity that he can bring. He's just got it, you know? Whatever character he is playing, he comes in and he just manhandles it. Without going too detailed in the story, he has a lot of inner conflict going on,  he's very conflicted, and I think he did a great job; I was super happy with his performance.

Henry Parke:   In addition to Trace, you work with certain actors a lot: Kris Kristofferson, Danny Trejo, Kaiwi Lyman, John Foo. Are you trying to do the John Ford thing and create your own stock company?

Jon Foo and Sean Patrick Flanery

Tim Woodward: (laughs) A little bit. You know, I like working with people that I trust. It’s such a collaborative effort. If I get along with them and I can see the picture with them, I continue to work with them. Michael Pare is another person that I've worked with a lot, and Johnny Messner. There's certain roles and certain films that I feel like soon as I read them, this would work great for them and I know they can bring performance. Kaiwai Lyman's a guy that's on the rise, he's a star in the making. And John Foo’s got something special about him too.

Henry Parke: Pablo Diaz has shot nine films for you. I'm just struck by the beauty of his work. What’s special about his work, and your working relationship, that you'd have done so many pictures together?

Tim Woodward:  Well, we have a friendship, we have a trust in each other. We have a bond. When I say hey, here's this western, and I want to shoot it where 75% of it's night, and I want 50% of it to be pouring rain. First thing is Pablo is like, “Uh, okay. Here's what we should do. Here's how we can make it look beautiful.”  And Pablo is also just extremely gifted in the fact that he doesn't like to settle. Neither one of us do. So we will sit there and we will try as hard as we can with the resources we have available to make something that we both feel like has a chance of being special to everyone else -- it's already special to us. We really push ourselves hard. I know it's gonna be cold nights and 30 degree weather, but I'm here with you. Pablo has been there for me on that journey and he's helped me grow as a director, and I've watched him grow as a DP. I hope I do 20 more 30 more films with Pablo. Cause I love being on set all the time, and I love working with him.

Henry Parke:   Speaking of how dark and how wet the film is, it's always more expensive shooting at night. And rain effects are tricky, and run up expenses. Why, when you're doing a film that you have to be able to deliver on a budget, were those choices so important to you?

Tim Woodward:  Because for me, it was the movie. This tragic event happens and it's dark. The future is uncertain. The rain blocks what we can see. So besides trying to do something completely different than what I'd done before, it's just not something you think about when we imagine cowboys and horses. The first thing that pops in your head, small town, the brown dirt.  We don't think about mud and a horse riding through the rain.  Visually, I think it's striking, but I also think when you had those components to it, it adds an element of, like “trappedness”.  I wanted you to feel the character's emotions, feel this darkness.

Henry Parke:   Do you storyboard a lot?

Tim Woodward:  I don't storyboard. I like to get on set. I want to breathe it in, I want to look at it, I want to feel around it. I want to communicate with my DP and my actors. And then figure out a way of making it look as good as we can with the environments we have.  I've tried to story board before and found that it traps me on smaller budget film because I get this stuck in my head, maybe it takes two hours to do the shot. I'm trying to build it from the ground up. We have this amazing landscape here already, that works great for the character. Now let's figure out within that world, how do we make this look amazing and work for the story.

Trace Adkins and Kaiwi Lyman

Henry Parke:   Do you have a sense of how many pages a day you do, or how many setups a day on an average?

Tim Woodward:  It really depends on what type of scene it is. I've done scenes where I've only done three pages a day because it's calls for tons of extras. And I've done some where we've been at seven to eight pages a day. It just really depends on what we're doing and how smart we're blocking it off. Usually in these types of budgets, we'll shoot all of our town exteriors over the course of a couple of days, where we've got 50 extras. What we don't have is a ton of time; we're talking three, four-week shoots for these westerns, and when you have live animals and action, all this stuff, it's definitely tough to do. But it's also really rewarding.

Henry Parke:   The majority of your audience will not be seeing it on a big screen, but at home. Does that change the way you shoot and compose your shots?

Tim Woodward:  Not as much, just because you really hope they're going to see it on a big screen. But it does make you a little more conscious of the close-ups just because with streaming especially things can get compressed.  Someone on a big screen, in a medium shot, standing tall, you can see him really well. Then you get to the small screen and it's a little bit harder to see. So sometimes we go a little bit tighter in certain conversations for that, but I just feel like content is content now. People are watching it every which way. So we just try to make it the best we can.

Henry Parke: You shot at Big Sky Ranch, Caravan West, and were you the last film at Paramount Ranch before it burned?

Tim Woodward:  Yes, we were. We’d taken a few days to shoot at Big Sky, and were scheduled to go back to Paramount Ranch the next Friday, and the fire struck.  I had to recreate certain buildings. Jon Foo in the prison cell; we had to recreate that prison set. We were able to use the wide shot from an earlier scene that established the two characters, a little bit of manipulation and split screening and then do the closeup somewhere else.

Henry Parke:   What was the biggest challenge to making THE OUTSIDER?

Tim Woodward:   The wind, the rain effects and the fire going at one time. The mountains were blazing while we were filming at Big Sky. We had the fire department down below, I'd come out from being under these rain machines, the wind was going about 40 to 50 miles an hour -- so it would blow the rain any which way. We had to have a rain-tower set up 30 feet, behind the actors, then one in another direction, one in another direction, just in case, whichever way the wind blew. But you would come out from this rain and then all of a sudden the mountain would be on fire and you're just looking at it in awe. So that was challenging for sure. And I did a lot of “one-takers” in this movie, where we were on one character -- there's a six minute one, a one take scene.

Henry Parke:   Do you know what your next Western's going to be?

Tim Woodward:  I'm looking at a few things. I've got a story of John Wesley Harden that I really like a lot, and we may incorporate some of the guys from HICKOK in that. Someone has brought up, but the idea of a sequel for TRADED, and then I've got a story about Belle Starr as well. I can say with certainty that I'm going to do another western for sure. 

Henry Parke:   Anything else I should know?

Tim Woodward: I just want to say that the cast did a great job. I think it's on screen. Sean Patrick Flannery, this is my first time working with him, but I was so impressed by him. Nellie NeeYa, who played John Foo's wife, she needs a tremendous amount of credit for what she gave to the story. And again, we're not on a soundstage shooting this where it's a nice environment. We have 40 mile-an-hour winds, we've got rain flying everywhere. We've got dirt, dust. We've got a very tough environment. I think everybody did really well in my crew.


Alpha Video never ceases to amaze me! Month after month they come out with the oddest and most intriguing films, and they all list price for under $10! Here are three new releases, all directed by John Ford.

JUST PALS – a 1920 silent starring the formidable but endearing Buck Jones was the first film Ford directed when he switched studios from Universal to Fox. Jones plays Bim, an aimless layabout who wants to reform when he befriends 10 year old Bill (Georgie Stone). Bim sends Bill to school, to become something better than Bim himself has, an honorable act not unnoticed by teacher Mary (Helen Ferguson). It’s well-made and charming, and if the plot sounds similar to that of Chaplin’s THE KID, which made a star of Jackie Coogan, keep in mind that JUST PALS was made a year earlier.

SEX HYGIENE – In the collection SEX EDUCATION FILMS FROM WORLD WAR II is John Ford’s SEX HYGIENE, which is about – you guessed it – what not to do if you’re a soldier or sailor who doesn’t want to catch something awful. Ford directed the non-clinical scenes, mostly of military types shooting pool and discussing whether or not to go out and have a good time. The players include George Reeves, later TV’s Superman, and Robert Lowery, later the Columbia serial’s Batman. The clinical footage is done by Otto Brower, a talented Western director who helmed FIGHTING CARAVANS (1931) starring Gary Cooper, and many others. BUT BE WARNED, THE MEDICAL SECTIONS ARE NOT FOR THE YOUNG AND/OR IMPRESSIONABLE! You will see more diseased penises in ten minutes than a brothel-worker sees in a lifetime.  Also included in the set, directed by Oscar-winner Lewis Milestone is KNOW FOR SURE, featuring John Ford regulars Ward Bond, Tim Holt, and J, Carrol Naish. And TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES stars Jean Hersholt, of DR. CHRISTIAN fame, Robert Mitchum, Noah Beery Jr., and is directed by Arthur Lubin, of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and FRANCIS THE TALKING MULE fame. Ford’s is the only one of the three you need to cover your eyes for.

THIS IS KOREA – John Ford had made a number of fine gung ho documentaries for the War Effort during Word War II (besides SEX HYGIENE), including THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY and DECEMBER 7TH, and in 1951 went to Korea to do it again. At first it seems like his WWII films, only in color, but it is a much more grim film as it progresses. Ford didn’t like anything he saw about how the war was handled. The conditions of the citizenry are awful, and those of our military were not much better. Some of the commentary on the action is jarring – a soldier fires a flame-thrower into a cave while the narrator says, “Fry ‘em out! Burn ‘em out! Cook ‘em! We found ‘em dug in ten feet deep!” Later the camera shows a large cemetery of American soldiers, as a narrator whispers, “Remember us…Remember us…”  The government wouldn’t release it, but finally Republic Pictures did. Not fun, but fascinating.


On Friday, September 20th, the Reel Cowboys will host the 22nd Annual Silver Spur Awards, which will celebrate three TV series marking their 60th anniversaries: BONANZA, LARAMIE, and RAWHIDE. After many years at The Sportsman’s Lodge, the event is moving to Burbank, and the Calamigos Equestrian Center. Honorees will be Bobby Crawford of LARAMIE, Clint Eastwood (hope he comes!), Darby Hinton of DANIEL BOONE, Margaret O’Brien of BAD BASCOMB (and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS), stuntman Jack Gill, and RIDE THE HIGH-COUNTRY star Mariette Hartley. Others planning to attend include Morgan Brittney, Dawn Wells, Johnny Crawford, L.Q. Jones, Pat Boone, Cathy Garver, Rosey Grier, and Robert Carradine. 

There’s always a delicious dinner, a silent auction, lively entertainment.  This year the event will be benefiting The Gary Sinise Foundation. Tickets are $200 for general, $250 for premium. You can learn more, and buy tickets, by calling 818-395-5020, or going to SilverSpurAwards.com.


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