Sunday, April 24, 2011


Rod Rondeaux, a Crow Indian, master horseman and stuntman, plays the enigmatic character known only as ‘The Indian’ in the current Western, MEEK’S CUTOFF ( see my review HERE). The fates of seven pioneers who’ve strayed from the Oregon trail are in his hands, and much of the film’s suspense turns on whether he means them well or ill. It’s a lot of responsibility for an actor with no formal training, playing his first major role. When I couldn’t locate Rod, one of his students, actor Cody Jones (read his interview HERE), tracked him down to his ranch in Texas. He took a break from caring for his horses to chat about horses, stuntwork, and tell me how he got his role in MEEK’S CUTOFF, which is a true story. Despite the seriousness of his character in the film, many of his answers were punctuated with laughter.

ROD RONDEAUX: When I got the call to audition for it I was in Montana, not last summer, but the summer before. So I auditioned – sent a tape into them and they said, we like what you sent us, but it was a little too strong. They had somebody else hired, so like three days before the shoot – before they actually started rolling film – they called me up and said, ‘The guy we got came up here, and then declined the part. Are you available?’ And I laughed and said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ I ended up going there on like three day’s notice. Tried to learn my dialogue – I had some dialogue to do. Without the translation of any sort – I thought that was kind of cool. And I haven’t done a whole lot of acting before, I’m mainly a stuntman.
HENRY: I remember you had a nice part as Roman Nose in INTO THE WEST.
ROD: That was a cool part. I got that on accident, too! (laughs) I don’t know what happened to the guy that had that role. It’s really weird.
HENRY: So you got that one because somebody dropped out? Is your role in MEEK’S CUTOFF your biggest role so far?
ROD: So far, yeah it is. I had a little bit of action and stuff in THE MISSING, had some dialogue in THE MISSING. But not compared to what MEEK’S CUTOFF had to offer. I’ve never really acted, so it’s kind of my first one, and I haven’t even seen the movie yet. Supposed to go to (a preview) in New York, and then I was going to go to Los Angeles when they showed it there, but then I was in New Mexico filming COWBOYS & ALIENS. But I’m interested in seeing it now, to see if it lives up to my expectations or not. I’m probably my own worst critic.
HENRY: I think you’re going to be very pleased. It’s a small film, but very well done, and I think you’ll be very pleased with your own work.
ROD: Thank you. It was pretty easy to get into character, because of the professionalism of the actors and the crew. They were so good at making you feel relaxed, and still be able to carry on.
HENRY: You played the character just called The Indian, who gets captured by lost pioneers. You speak no English, and the pioneers can’t speak your language. What’s it like to play a character that no one else understands?
ROD: Like I said, I haven’t done a whole lot of acting, so I really couldn’t compare it to anything on that scale. It was a little hard at first, but I think with the simple gestures and the eye contact, paying attention to the surroundings, really helped me translate, or at least leave the audience with something to (follow). Kind of let them have their own point of view, but still leave the door open to interpretation – it was pretty challenging.
HENRY: Your character interacts mostly with Michelle Williams, as the kindest of the pioneers. What did you think of her?
ROD: This is funny as all get-out, man, because when I finally got up to Oregon, and was signing contracts and filling out paperwork, she was there, we started talking. I had no idea who Michelle Williams was, because I don’t pay a while lot of attention to actors. But when I was sitting at ‘Pioneer Town’, as we called (the airplane hangar) where they were learning to shoot guns, she comes up and stands beside me. We start talking, we find out we’re both from Montana. We had a laugh over that, really got along well, we worked together extremely good. One of the van drivers, I asked who she was, what has she done? He goes ‘Oh my God! You don’t know?’ So they started telling me her credits (DAWSON’S CREEK, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Oscar-nominated for BLUE VALENTINE). She’s so just down-to-earth; she’s not one of those in-you-face intense people – although she can be if that is what’s called for. She’s a great actress, and her future is really really really bright.
HENRY: How about Bruce Greenwood as Meek, who was not exactly your best friend. He wanted to kill you from the start.
ROD: Bruce is one of those guys that’s just got so much talent, and so fun to be around. He would give you advice without your having to ask; he’s as great guy also. I didn’t have a problem with anybody on the set. It was a great experience, you know?
HENRY: This is a story about people who get off-track on the Oregon Trail, and it really was shot on Oregon?
ROD: Exactly. The director, Kelly Reichardt, chose to go to the actual site, the location (where it happened), and I can see where Meek could have been deadly wrong, hauling people across that route during a really rough time of year, when they’d had a five-six-seven year drought since he was there the first time.
HENRY: Most of the movies you’ve worked on have been big action pictures, and this is much smaller. Did you find it very different?
ROD: Yeah, just in the amount of people you use on a major project. I think there were seven cast members and crew was probably, at the height, twenty people, and that was including your office. So it was pretty small.
HENRY: What’s Kelly like as a director?
ROD: You know, I’ve worked with a few of them before, but not in any role that got me as close to her as we got. On a professional level it was really cool how she could take you off to the side and ask you different questions: What are you thinking? What would she think? How to get her meaning across to the audience. Or how to at least leave them thinking they know. To me it’s definitely a movie something that will make an audience go: Whoa! And the way Kelly was able to help me was really an asset, because I’ve never done anything of this magnitude. It was more challenging than the last five movies worth of stunts! (laughs) And the budget was minimal. I hope we do well on it.
HENRY: In addition to acting, did you do any stunting?
ROD: No, there was nothing to be done. I got slapped or kicked. Just a horse-buck and ride off. Nothing major.
HENRY: Will Patton was also in INTO THE WEST. Did you work together on that one?
ROD: Yeah, we did. I think we were at one point in a council meeting together. But I didn’t really get to know Will until we got out there on the MEEK’S set. But he was another really deep, deep character. When he got into his character he was there all the way. Seeing that kind of devotion and that dedication, I was like, Wow. Everything I learned on that movie, I’ve not forgotten. I’ve kind of been a sponge, so to speak, and there were a couple of pieces (I did) there where the cast was like, wow, that was pretty cool, Rod.
HENRY: You never tell the characters or the audience anything directly. So when you’re playing your part, in your head, why were you following them in the first place? Did you have evil designs on them? Did you think about that when you’re playing it?
ROD (LAUGHS): That was a thought that would have occurred if he’d captured them. But I took the stance that these people were in a bad predicament, and I’m sure my character, if he had decided to do harm or get away, escape – it could happen very easily.
HENRY: You did stuntwork on three of my favorite recent westerns, 3:10 to YUMA, APPALOOSA, and STARRING PANCHO VILLA AS HIMSELF.
ROD: (LAUGHS) That was a lot of fun, working with Antonio Banderas in Mexico. We had a great time down there. We were in the beautiful, beautiful town of San Miguel de Allende – it’s like the Santa Fe of Mexico, it’s got all the artisans. We had a lot of fight scenes, battles, really cool stuff. We had horse-falls, horses falling on top of us, explosions, some fire, some high-fall stuff, getting blow’ed off of walls, that sort of stuff. A lot of hand-to-hand, close contact, just a lot of action. In 3:10 I do a fight scene with Russell Crowe where he ends up killing me, I haven’t seen that all the way through, either. Hand-to-hand stuff, horse-to-wagon – that kind of thing. APPALOOSA it’s just some hard riding and a couple of little skirmish scenes. Mostly riding. I figure if you can’t see me in any of them – can’t recognize me – I’m doing me job.
ROD: HENRY: You’re in a terrific documentary called REEL INJUN, we see you teaching young Indians to do stunt work. In fact it was Cody Jones, one of your students, who suggested I talk to you. Are you still doing that kind of work?
ROD: You know, I do a lot of things when I’m not on location, shooting something, and that’s one of them. Bringing in some of the younger generation, trying to influence them, to show them there’s something out there besides what’s just at home. In the movie business, because there’s some awesome talent out there, but there’s really not enough exposure for them. So they come down and we teach stuff at the house, play around, do a lot of horse stuff, do a lot of hand-to-hand. There’s a lot of they can learn, not just stunts but camera angles, depth of field, that kind of thing. Hopefully there’s more in it for them, as there is for me, down the road, to move onto the next step, as a stunt coordinator. And perhaps from there a second unit director.
HENRY: Are there any particular stuntmen of the past that you look up to?
ROD: There are some really great people out there. My biggest inspirations are Jackson Sundown and Yakima Canutt, two of the greatest horse people and stuntmen that were in the business.
HENRY: I’m not familiar with Jackson Sundown.
ROD: He was a bronc rider way back in the early days of rodeo, and did three or four films that were really pretty cool. After that there’s guys like Walter Scott, Terry Leonard, a number of guys who are coordinators now, who were some of the pioneers.
HENRY: Do you plan to continue on stunt work and acting?
ROD: Well, I’ve been a stunt man ever since I’ve been in this business; it’s a hard thing to get out of your system, because I enjoy that adrenaline charge, the excitement of it all. I love that all. But I’m going more toward the actor, as I’m getting older. I’m 52 years old now, so I've got to start looking ahead. But I’m still doing everything without an agent. The parts I’m getting kind of accidentally or by word-of-mouth. And I felt like I wasn’t ready to submit a resume’ to anybody that had any clout, as far as representation is concerned. But after MEEK’S CUTOOFF I finally feel like I’ve got enough in my suitcase to take before somebody who’d represent me that’s decent. Someone that’s willing to throw me out there in things that are non-traditional, modern, anything.
HENRY: You’ve been specializing in Western films. Are Westerns something that you love, or is it because you like to work with horses?
ROD: I do like them because of the horse-thing first. I’ve worked with horses my whole life. If I knew I could make the kind of money I make doing stunts with horses, I guarantee you I would have started doing it a lot earlier. To me, it’s not a job, being on a set, whether its stunts or acting. Working with horses, it’s enjoyable for me, it’s something I like to do. And I must be pretty good at it because I’m doing it. Apparently I’m not too bad at it.
HENRY: In REEL INJUN they talk a lot about Indian actors, real or fake. Are there any you particularly like or dislike?
ROD: Some of the early stuff, where people like Rock Hudson or somebody was playing our parts, that’s kind of out there, but we’re moving ahead now, we’re doing more of our own stuff, as opposed to having someone come in and do it for us. In both the stunts and the acting part. Because fifteen years ago they were still painting down stunt guys to be Indians. I’m an advocate of us Indians doing our own things if we have the talent.
HENRY: What other movies have we got to look forward to?
ROD: What’s coming out in July, COWBOYS & ALIENS, and I’m hoping to get a coordinating job for a film called THE LOST WARRIOR. I’m hopeful we can get that off the ground because it’s a pretty good story. It goes from 1860 to the present day. Cody’s mom is doing that. It’s a trilogy, and I’m capable of handling everything involved. And I’ll surround myself with people that know -- who you know and what you know really, really helps.
HENRY: What should I know about you that I don’t?
ROD: About some of the work we’re doing with wild mustangs, with inner-city Indian kids. We’ve got a program called The Red Horse Nation, out of L.A. You should go to my site (HERE for Rod's site, HERE for Red Horse Nation) I’m an advocate of trying to save our wild Mustangs, and anytime we can do that we can be saving our children, and ourselves.


Just a couple of days ago I started a Facebook page, to make it easier to update my readers when interesting things happen. It's the perfect way to know what Western stuff is happening on a regular basis. Please check out the page HERE, and please LIKE the page (I know, I'm sounding like Sally Field). Not only can you find out what's happening, you can ecpress yur opinions, and post things that we ought to know. Thanks!


This event has been going on for decades, but I attended it for the first time just last year, and I had a wonderful time! There are events at the William S. Hart Mansion and the Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall, but most of the action is Saturday and Sunday at Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch, actually owned now by the Veluzat family, an active movie ranch since 1915. It’s a joy to stroll the western streets, visit the Melody Ranch museum, choose from a wide variety of foods, and listen to music at three different main-street venues.

And then there’s the shopping – western clothes and art for every budget, and for you literate types, there’s The Book Corral, run by the fine folks at the OutWest store in Newhall. A long list of fiction and fact authors will be signing western adventures, histories, and biographies of Tom Mix, Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty), Rex Allen and Warren Oates, and focusing on shows like GUNSMOKE and movies like TOMBSTONE and TRUE GRIT. And I urge anyone who is interested in writing westerns themselves to attend one of C. Courtney Joyner’s talks on ‘breaking in’ -- he’s doing one each day. There’s so much to see and do, and it’s just $20 a day. For more information, go HERE:


The Turner Classic Movies Festival is in Los Angeles this week, and will be marking the 100th Anniversary of Roy Rogers’ birth with screenings of several of his films, all in 35mm, all attended by his daughter, Cheryl Rogers Burnett. There are several non-Roy films of interest to Western fans as well. On Thursday April 28th 7:45 pm at the Chinese Multi #4 see UNDER WESTERN STARS. It’s followed at 10:00 pm by CASANOVA IN BURLESQUE, Dale Evans’ last film before starting to work with Roy.

Friday April 29th at the Chinese Multi #1 at 9:30 am see 7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS, with Jane Powell discussing. At 1:00 pm at the Chinese Multi #4 see COWBOY AND THE SENORITA, with about 20 minutes of songs that had been cut for TV put back in, plus the cartoon DRIP-ALONG DAFFY, and a discussion with Ms. Rogers Burnett.

Saturday April 30th at the Multi #4 at 9:45 am see MY PAL TRIGGER. At Grauman’s Chinese at 12:15 pm see Clint Eastwood in THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES.

Sunday May 1st at the Egyptian Theatre at noon, see THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, followed by a discussion with Debbie Reynolds. Passes for the entire, gigantic event cost hundreds of dollars. Each individual movie is $20 a piece if seating is available – I’ve never attended the Festival before, so I can’t honestly tell you your chances of getting in. To find out more, click HERE.


Screenwriter Kevin Jarre, whose work included the iconic TOMBSTONE (1993) and two other terrific westerns, GLORY (1989) and THE TRACKER (1988)for HBO, has died of heart failure at the age of 56. Among his non-western films were RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985), THE DEVIL’S OWN (1997) and THE MUMMY (1999). Actor Leon Rippy, whose first Western role was as Chub Dumont in THE TRACKER, told me, “He wrote a great western. I didn’t get to hang out with him, but I sure liked that script, and anybody that’ll write a western like that will be missed.” Peter Sherayko, actor and western history authority, who played Texas Jack Vermillion in TOMBSTONE recalled, “He had a great knowledge and respect for American history, and he wanted to do it right. That’s why he wrote those wonderful shows, GLORY and TOMBSTONE, and he spent a year researching the TOMBSTONE script, because he wanted to do it right. He always wanted to do the definitive story on Wild Bill Hickok, and I think he would have done a masterful job. The world is going to miss a great Hickok story.” GLORY will air on TCM on Monday, April 25th from 5-7:15pm, Pacific time.


Unable to get to the Palm Springs event myself, I emailed friends who attended to find out how it went. Producer/writer Rob Word thought the event was under-attended, but says those who went had a great time. Author and Western history expert Peter Sherayko took part in panels and book-signings, and says he met some interesting folks. Then I heard from author Julie Ream. “Wish that I had good news on this event. I should have listened to that little ‘inner voice’ on this one…. I, along with many others, are still waiting to be paid for my work on this event. According to the show’s producer, Christopher Burkhardt, he owes more than $100,000.00 in unpaid debt, and claims he can’t pay his outstanding bills. And wants sympathy! I’m speechless, horrified, and seeking legal action…. He has more plans in the works, another rodeo in June…and I hate to see anyone else hurt by this guy.”
(l to r, actor Michael Dante, writer/producers Rob Word, Jim Byrnes)


For months the internet has buzzed with claims that Quentin Tarantino would next be directing Christoph Waltz – his Oscar-winning Basterd – in a Spaghetti Western: see my rumor rundown in the Feb. 27 Round-up. On Wednesday, Waltz, talking to Kelly Rippa and Christian Slater on REGIS AND KELLY said, “It’s an interesting story how this rumor came about. The great Franco Nero, the spaghetti western Franco Nero, wanted to make a spaghetti western as an homage to Sergio Leone, and he said it would be great to get a director like Quentin Tarantino for it. And some busy blogger said, ‘Hmm, Tarantino, yeah, well….’” And he pantomimed typing.
To which Kelly Rippa responded, “I bet it’ll make it happen. Sometimes all you’ve got to do is put it out there.”
From your lips to Quentin’s ears…


Okay, there's not any new, hard info on the Jerry Bruckheimer LONE RANGER project beyond the very old news that it'll star Johnny Depp as Tonto. But there is now an official logo. It's something!


On Thursday, April 28th, starting at 7:30 pm, the Aearo Theatre in Santa Monica will be showing BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, followed by THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE. On Saturday April 30th it’s THE WILD BUNCH and CONVOY. On Sunday, May 1st it’s STRAW DOGS and JUNIOR BONNER. For more information, go HERE.



If you can’t get to the TCM Festival to see Roy Rogers, don’t despair. Just turn on RFD-TV on Thursday at 2:30 pm Pacific time to see THE GOLDEN STALLION (1949), directed by William Whitney from Sloan Nibley’s original script, and starring Roy, Dale, Trigger, Pat Brady, Estelita Rodriguez, Foy Willing and the Riders Of The Purple Sage. It’s a story of diamond-smuggling over the Mexican border, and keep your eye out for an old man, played by Chester Conklin, one of the original Keystone Kops.


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.


Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

There’s plenty to choose from this week, so you’re gonna have to pick and choose. Hope you’re having a happy Easter, and here’s something to put you in the mood, a Gene Autry song about a fuzzy little bunny -- click HERE.

Happy Trails!


All Contents Copyright April 2011 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


  1. Good interview with Rod Rondeaux--it's about time that interviews with true Indian's are posted and presented, especially in a good light and that their words are not slighted, altered or changed. Thank-you.