Monday, June 25, 2012


For years, BBC America has brought a mix of British programming stateside, but starting on Sunday, August 19th, they will begin presenting their very first, very own dramatic series, COPPER. 

Kevin Ryan and Tom Weston-Jones

It’s an Eastern rather than a Western, set in New York City in the 1860s, and focuses on Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) a tough Irish-American cop working the city’s notorious Five Points district. Corcoran must balance his work, his ethics and his quest to learn the truth about the disappearance of his wife and the death of his daughter. A Civil War vet, two compatriots from the battlefield -- Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), the wayward son of a wealthy industrialist, and Dr. Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), a black physician -- expose him to both New York society, and the black community of Harlem.  They further share a battlefield secret that inextricably links their lives. Corcoran's closest friend is his partner at the 6th Precinct, Detective Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan).

Among the female characters in the tale are in Eva Heissen (Franka Potente), the madame of Eva’s Paradise and Molly Stuart(Tanya Fischer), the ambitious courtesan at Eva’s brothel.  The uptown girl is beautiful and sophisticated Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith).   Sara Freeman (Tessa Thompson) is the wife of Dr. Matthew Freeman.

Franka Potente and Weston-Jones

In the back-story, Dr. Freeman went to war not to fight, but to serve as Robert Morehouse’s valet.  Morehouse has returned from the war minus a leg, and too restless to settle down as his father’s business partner.  And while Dr. Freeman uses his scientific skills to assist Corcoran in his investigations, his contributions are kept secret: Corcoran’s superiors, already dubious about science, would never seriously consider evidence provided by a black man.

Many in the cast come from across the pond, and are not particularly familiar faces here, but there are exceptions.  Franka Potente made a splash as the title character in RUN, LOLA, RUN, and co-starred opposite Matt Damon in two BOURNE movies.  Anastasia Griffith first gained attention in DAMAGES and can currently be seen in ONCE UPON A TIME. Kyle Schmid was so liked as a vampire in the series BLOOD TIES that he’s playing another vampire on the current Syfy series BEING HUMAN.  (I guess if the audience doesn’t quickly warm to COPPER, they can take a cue from how the DARK SHADOWS soap was saved, and have him bite Kevin Corcoran.)   

Ato Essandoh, Kyle Schmid, Weston-Jones

The series, shot in Canada, and with a ten-episode first season, was created and co-written by Tom Fontana of BORGIA, OZ, HOMICIDE and ST, ELSEWHERE fame.  Working with him is Oscar-nominated (for MONTERS BALL) Will Rokos and Oscar winner (for directing RAIN MAN) Barry Levinson.  Cineflix Studios’ President, Christina Wayne, was in charge at AMC when they produced BROKEN TRAIL and MAD MEN. 


Author Peter Sherayko

“I’m going into a meeting with a producer, and he slaps this book down on the table in front of me, and says, ‘This book tells you how to make a Western.  Have you read it?’

“Have I read it?” Peter repeated, incredulously.  “I wrote it.”

Buck Taylor,Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Peter Sherayko

I’ve long suspected that all the things I don’t know about making a historically accurate Western could fill a book.  Peter Sherayko has filled two books with that knowledge.  The first, TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND THE GEAR, an updated edition of his 2004 original, tells and illustrates what went into the making of the most beloved and influential Western of the last two decades.  The second book, THE FRINGE OF HOLLYWOOD, tells how to make a historically accurate Western, even on a low budget.  With the ever-growing knowledge of detail and history on the part of the Western fan, as a direct result of TOMBSTONE, I would say reading both books before you make your Western film is more than just a good idea:  making a Western today, without the benefit of first reading TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND GEAR and THE FRINGE OF HOLLYWOOD, would be foolhardy.

Old Man Clanton's .45s

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of being on a number of Western movie and TV sets with Peter Sherayko, and been exposed first-hand to his encyclopedic knowledge of the American West in 19th and early 20th centuries, and his enthusiasm in sharing that knowledge.  It’s no surprise that he and Kevin Jarre, who wrote, and was the original director of TOMBSTONE, were fast friends.  It was their mission to do as meticulously detailed and historically accurate a telling of the O.K. Corral gunfight as could be imagined, and they succeeded so well that it forever changed audiences’ expectations of accuracy in weaponry, art direction and costuming in the Western movie.  Also as part of the process, Peter organized The Buckaroos, a group of historically knowledgeable re-enactors who have all the period Western skills, in and out of the saddle, to add to every scene a patina of authenticity.

Virgil Earp's (Sam Elliot's) rig

Poring over historical documents and photographs, they not only got the events right, they found out what kind of weapons each man was known to possess at that time in their lives.  And instead of the drab brown wardrobe movies have traditionally assigned to Western characters, their research revealed the gaudy and colorful clothes these dapper Victorian men wore.  In the extravagantly photo-illustrated TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND THE GEAR, you’ll not only see every rifle, shotgun, sidearm and knife that each major character in the film had, you’ll see the same for the minor characters, the riding extras, characters whose scenes were cut out, and characters whose scenes were never even shot!  The same is true of rigs (holsters to us non-pros), saddles, hats, shirts, boots, and every sort of hand prop.  And the choice for each, based on personality, known wardrobe preference or logical deduction, is explained in detail. 

Doc's knife with retractable blade

Also in the book, entitled ‘A Brief Tombstone Timeline,’ is the most succinct telling of events from 1872 to 1903 that I have ever read.  And Peter states what so few have the courage to even utter: that Doc Holliday was believed to be involved in a series of stagecoach hold-ups.  The book opens with an introduction by gun expert George J. Layman, the original forward by writer-director John Milius, and a new forward by John Fasano, the writer who script-doctored  TOMBSTONE when Kevin Jarre was fired, and who provides fascinating details on how the movie was made.  If you love TOMBSTONE, owning TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND GEAR is an absolute must. 

Sherman McMasters 1878 Double Action Colt

Following the popularity of TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND THE GEAR, THE FRINGE OF HOLLYWOOD was written to teach how to make accurate Westerns, even on a tiny budget.  What could be a dry recitation of rules – don’t use this gun before this year, don’t use that kind of saddle – is instead entertaining, engaging and informative because, again, Peter Sherayko knows his subject so well.  For instance, he could just have said that the most oft-seen gun-rig of movies and TV since the 1940s, the low-on-the-hip holster known as the buscadero gun belt, is wrong.  Instead, he tells us why.  It was developed in Texas at the turn of the century for a lawman who found the traditional, higher-worn rig uncomfortable when driving his Model-T Ford!  And the leather that used to cover the side of the gun up to the grips was cut away, exposing the trigger guard not for lawmen, but for 20th Century quick-draw competitors – the same reason the round-the-thigh strap was added, and the leather loop over the hammer! 

Similarly, the clothes of the cowboy in movies, from the jeans to the hats with the bent-up side brims are not from the Old West but the fashion of modern rodeo-riders.  And the saddles – don’t get Peter started on the saddles!  But again, rather than just saying that almost all the saddles seen in Westerns are much too modern, he explains the economic realities of the wrangler’s job that makes them tend to flat-out lie to producers about what is correct-to-period, and what is not.  His heaviest criticisms are for wranglers and weapon suppliers.  “The majority of Western films have depicted two firearms which, to the uneducated, appear to be the only guns in existence: the 1873 Colt Single Action and the 1892 Winchester carbine.  The icon John Wayne used these guns in virtually all his Westerns from 1939’s STAGECOACH to 1976’s THE SHOOTIST.  He used them in THE COMANCHEROS taking place in the 1840s, THE SEARCHERS 1868 and TRUE GRIT mid-1870s, all historical times when those guns simply did not exist.” 

As he points out, those movies were made at a time when good reproductions of the correct firearms were not available, and originals were costly and hard to come by.  Happily, things have improved, and the wide array of proper repros makes it possible to have a wide range of weaponry, and still keeps things accurate. 

Sheriff Behan's gear

Actors also come in for serious drubbing, when they dishonestly claim to be good on horseback.  Still, wranglers don’t trust them with horses, and armorers don’t trust them with guns, so they need to be proactive if they’re going to get the experience they need. 

With sections devoted to proper saddles, ropes, whips, hobbles, scabbards, canteens, bedrolls, bridles, bits, spurs, and saddlebags, you’ll find not only a wealth of information, but perusing the material can frequently provide inspiration as well.  Both books are available from Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.  



The Andres Pico Adobe at10940 Sepulveda Blvd., at the corner of Brand, in Mission Hills, is the headquarters of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society.  On Thursday, June 28th at 7 p.m., they’ll present a program where several Historical Society members will be presenting their collections, including Civil War uniforms and weapons, and John Brooks’ collection of percussion revolvers, followed by a screening of SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (1944), starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. 

I’d not been aware of the Andres Pico Adobe before this, but it sounds fascinating.  It’s the second oldest home in Los Angeles, its oldest portion being built by former San Fernando Mission Indians in 1834.  It was the headquarters of Don Andres Pico in 1945 when he leased the entire San Fernando Valley to run cattle – he was already running his cattle in the entire Antelope Valley, but the steers were complaining about feeling cramped!  Andres brother, incidentally, was Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California. 


I just came back from a magnificent performance by Glen Campbell at the Hollywood Bowl.  Part of his GOODBYE TOUR, so-named because his Alzheimer's probably won't allow him to perform much longer, he was in wonderful voice as he performed many of his hits, including, of course, RHINESTONE COWBOY and TRUE GRIT.  A virtuoso guitarist who was a hugely successful session player before he began making his own records, he demonstrated skill with a guitar that I can only compare to THE WHO's Pete Townshend.  His band includes a son on drums and another on guitar, and Glen and his daughter Ashley brought down the house with a tremendous rendition of DUELING BANJOS.

For a show whose second half was excellent, the first half, the 'tribute' section, was astonishingly poor.  After a decent, brief set by the band DAWES, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, late of the DANDY WARHOLS, took the stage and sang a pair of MONKEES songs that Campbell had played guitar on -- and sang them in bass, and was so horribly flat that I assumed for a while that it was a joke, and he would be revealed to be Ray Romano or someone.  No such luck.  He was followed by Lucinda Williams, who was also flat, listless, and slurred her words.  The iconic Kris Kristofferson followed, and tried, but was not in good form.  You could feel the growing anxiety throughout the Bowl when Jenny Lewis took the stage, and actually sang!  Identifiable words and notes!  We didn't want to let her go, but happily she was followed by Jackson Browne, who was in fine form, and led all the others back on stage for a fine rendition of VIVA LAS VEGAS before intermission.

Have a great week, folks!


All Original Contents Copyright June 2012  by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 18, 2012


Outlaw-turned-lawyer John Wesley Hardin is one of the most fabled characters of the Old West, and has been portrayed, on big-screen and small, by actors as talented and varied as Randy Quaid, Jack Elam, Charles Bronson, John Dehner, Neville Brand, James Griffith, Scott Marlowe, Richard Boone, Richard Webb, Rock Hudson, and Lash LaRue.  But he’s never been the lead character – it’s never been Hardin’s own story.  But that is about to change.  Partners Miguel Corona, Justin Ament, and Larry Zeug have announced HARDIN, their biographical film of the notorious badman.

The real John Wesley Hardin

Miguel, whose company is Southwest Pistolero Productions, tells me, “Larry wrote the script, I pulled the team together, and Justin is the one who is getting us our financing.  We’re working together.  Larry’s in Washington, I’m in California, and Justin’s in Oregon.  We’re buddies; we’ve all worked on films together in the past.  Last time, Justin had a movie called SHADOWHEART (2009).  Larry and I were actors in that film.  Now we’ve come up with our own film between the three of us.” 

“Where we plan to shoot is Texas, hopefully in or near Brackettville.  Larry has already been in touch with the Texas Film Commission, researching possible locations.  Because John Wesley Hardin was a son of Texas.  We’re going to do a historically accurate film.  The script is accurate, the guns are accurate, the wardrobe will be accurate. 

“He killed more men in the Old West than Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok and Doc Holliday put together.  He killed forty or more men.  Nobody else has a record like that, and yet no one has told his story.  We’re telling his whole life story, from when he was small, up until the end.

Producer Miguel Corona

“Larry did two or three years of research, and (based) a lot of it on Hardin’s own autobiography.  We’re really excited.  We hope to shoot sometime next year.  There’s not much more to tell you right now: it’s early in the production.”  I’ll be keeping in touch with Miguel, and keeping the Round-up informed.  


Sharpshooter Frank Butler's Shotgun

Once again, Brian Lebel’s Old West Show and Auction astonishes, with their amazing collection of art, artifacts and weaponry of the old west.  For Western movie fans, there are posters from Col. Tim McCoy’s movies and Wild West shows; hats of Tom Mix, John Wayne and Hoot Gibson; and Nudie-made Republic costumes of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  For lovers of real-west paper ephemera there’s an arrest warrant signed by Pat Garrett; an autograph of bank-robber Emmett Dalton; and on a single slip of paper, signatures of lawman Bat Masterson and bandit Al Jennings. 

Wyatt Earp

There’s a ‘wanted’ dodger for Jesse and Frank James that I particularly covet, because it looks nothing like the fake wanted posters we used to see in the movies and on TV.  There is one of Zane Grey’s own photo albums; a collection of Pawnee Bill ephemera; and pages of Buffalo Bill Cody items.  There are weapons remarkable for who owned them; others remarkable for their rarity and beauty; and oddly enough, ‘relic’ guns valued for their degree of corrosion.  There’s a striking portrait of Wyatt Earp by Frederic Mizen, probably commissioned for Stuart Lake’s celebrated bio.  There’s even a drawing, by White Bull, of the killing of Custer, notable because, not only was White Bull there, he is thought by many to be the man who did the deed.  With over 400 lots, I can only whet your appetite.  To see the entire catalog online, and to bid, go HERE:  While the auction is Saturday, the show is Friday through Sunday.

Black Bart

White Bull's Custer sketch


Just in case you watched Fred Olen Ray’s BAD BLOOD: HATFIELDS & MCCOYS, then watched Kevin Costner in the History Channel’s HATFIELDS & MCCOYS mini-series, and said to yourself, “What I need is more Hatfields and McCoys,” you’re in luck!  NBC has announced that they’ve acquired an H&M project from ABC, which will be produced by actress Charlize Theron, with EAGLE EYE writer John Glenn set to script.

This disappointing news is that (a) it will be not a period story, but a contemporary one, and (b) Charlize Theron, who has previously produced several movies, including her Oscar-winner MONSTER, is not, for now, set to appear in it.  Isn’t it time Charlize Theron did a Western?


Robert Blake, who first gained attention as Mickey Gubitosi in the MGM Our Gang comedies, then fame as Little Beaver in Republic’s Red Ryder film series, and as an adult starred in IN COLD BLOOD and the BARETTA series, will be attending the Hollywood Show at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel & Convention Center on August 3rd-5th.   Blake, who has kept a generally low profile since his acquittal for the murder of his wife, did show up unannounced at the Republic Pictures 75th Anniversary celebration.  In February of 2011, he attended the Hollywood Show, and signed autographs for free.  This caused delight to the fans, and consternation among some stars who were there to sell their autographs, and Blake was eventually forced out by security!

This time he will be signing his new book, TALES OF A RASCAL, WHAT I DID FOR LOVE.  Priced at $25, it’s self-published, and while I haven’t seen any professional reviews yet, all six reader-reviews posted on Amazon are overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  Other stars attending the show who will be of interest to Western fans include Walt Disney’s Elfago Baca (and star of my film, SPEEDTRAP) Robert Loggia, DALLAS and TRIGGER FAST star Christopher Atkins, CAT BALLOU star Michael Callan, and MY NAME IS NOBODY and DALLAS star Steve Kanaly.

Blake with fan Mike Stern at Republic 75th


Robert Horton played Flint McCullough in 187 episodes of WAGON TRAIN, starred in the Western mystery series A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH, and has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows.  As a kid I always was happy when WAGON TRAIN focused on Flint, and I feel the same way today when I catch the show on Encore Westerns.  He’s an excellent actor, from Westerns to sci-fi to romance. 

Oren Truitt put a notice up on the Wild West History Association Facebook page, which I wanted to share.  “Robert Horton’s name has been listed for consideration for the next Cowboy Hall of Fame award.  All the proper papers have been file.  We now need to send letters encouraging the committee to finally make this award, long deserved, and long delayed.

“Please write to: The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63rd Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73111.  Letters are more effective than emails in this case.

“Bob deserves this award for his iconic role as Flint McCullough in WAGON TRAIN, A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH and his other roles in Westerns.  He has been an avid supporter of the Western genre and has received several awards for his contribution to Western films, and the ideals of a true Westerner.

“Let’s do this for Bob.  He is now 87.  Let’s not wait until it is too late for him to know how much we appreciate his contributions.”

I think this is a great idea, and I urge you to write a letter, and to pass this on to your friends who might do the same.


The brunette with the huge, innocent eyes, who gained fame as Scarlett O’Hara’s youngest sister in GONE WITH THE WIND, has died.  Loved as Mickey Rooney’s love interest, Polly Benedict, in the ANDY HARDY films, and as Red Skelton’s girlfriend in the WHISTLING comedy series (which are delightful, by the way), she is also well-remembered as a favorite leading lady to Gene Autry, in THE SINGING VAGABOND, MELODY TRAIL, COMIN’ ROUND THE MOUNTAIN and PUBLIC COWBOY #1.  She also costarred with a very young John Wayne three times, in THE LONELY TRAIL, THE OREGON TRAIL, and THE LAWLESS NINETIES.  She took particular pride in being the only actress Gene ever kissed in a movie.  "I was Gene Autry's first leading lady and the only one he ever kissed.  After that, he kissed his horse."

That's about all for the Round-up.  Next week I'll feature details on the upcomng BBC America series COPPER, and reviews of two books by Peter Sherayko.

Happy Trails,


All original contents copyright June 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I won’t be posting this week’s Round-up until sometime on Monday.  My daughter has told me in no uncertain terms that I will not spend Fathers Day writing my blog. 

If you're home for some of the day, check out RFD-TV and INSP -- they're both running Fathers Day-themed episodes of various series. 

Have a great day, all the rest of you dads out there!

Sunday, June 10, 2012



When I first saw Tanner Beard’s LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, which I caught on-line in February (and you did too, if you took advantage of the special ½ price offer to Round-up readers), my immediate thought was, who is this guy Tanner Beard?  He’s managed to write, direct and co-star in his first feature – an elegant, polished and powerful Western – and he’s not even thirty!  Where did he come from?  That was my first question to him.

TANNER BEARD: Have you ever heard of Snyder, Texas?  It was mentioned in the movie. 

HENRY:  I’ve only heard of it in the movie.

TANNER:  It’s like eighty miles south of Lubbock, in West Texas, where Texas University is.  Like Abilene, Midland, Odessa – kind of in the middle of all those towns, in the middle of nowhere. 

H: It’s funny; I’ve found Hell's Gates in New York and Idaho, but I couldn’t find any in Texas.  Is it your invention?

Tanner Beard, Lou Pucci, Eric Balfour

TANNER: Really?  No, absolutely not.  It’s a town. There’s a huge man-made lake there called Possum Kingdom Lake; it’s a tourist destination spot. On the 4th of July people dock their boats and get wasted out there at Hell’s Gate. There are just two historical structures, along a canyon.  There’s a gap in the canyon, and before there was a lake, it was an entryway for people to cut across the canyon a lot quicker.  I grew up going to the lake, and that’s how I learned of the story.  I’ve always been fascinated by it. 

H: Now I notice there are a lot of the same character names in your earlier short film, MOUTH OF CADO.  Was that sort of an audition film for THE LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE? 

TANNER: (laughs) Probably more of an audition film for me to be a director, producer, writer, actor in the movie.  At the time that I made MOUTH OF CADO, I wanted to make a feature, but I wanted to make a short film first.  Obviously we didn’t have any money. And I didn’t know too many people who were going to give a 23-year-old kid a couple of million dollars to make a Western.  We got really lucky with the budget we had.  We were able to stretch it. 

H:  Can I ask you how much you spent on HELL’S GATE?

TANNER: Yeah; it was 2.1 (million dollars).  Everyone we showed it to thought it was closer to eight to ten. 

H: I’ll tell you, every dollar’s on the screen.

Jamie Thomas King as Doc Holliday

TANNER: I didn’t even take any money for the script, or directing.   I had to get paid as an actor, for S.A.G., but I think we spent that money on music.  I just pulled out every favor in the world.  We shot a lot of it on my folk’s land, which is not too far from Possum Kingdom Lake.   So I probably saved millions of dollars on land rental, just from having a crew of a hundred out there for a couple of weeks.  The bills would have started to add up pretty quickly.

H: So that’s what you had, a crew of about a hundred?

TANNER: Yes, on certain days, like the big ‘town’ days.  (Mostly) we had a crew of about forty or fifty; it was a standard sized crew for a union movie.  So it was important that we didn’t shoot too much that we weren’t going to use.  We do have a bunch of deleted scenes that are going to be on the DVD actually. 

Jenna Dewan-Tatum

H: Very cool; it always makes me feel like an insider to see that stuff. 

TANNER: (laughs) Right: see all the Summer Glau scenes that no one’s ever seen.  My sister actually did the music for it.  But it could never have happened without my producer, Suzanne Weinert; she’s just amazing.

H: How did you two meet up?

TANNER: Actually, she used to work for Julia Roberts.  It’s kind of amazing; the people she worked for are Paul Newman, Ron Howard and Julia Roberts.  She and Julia were together for a decade running Julia Roberts’ old company, Shoelace Productions.  Julia was really good friends with a guy from Snyder named Barry Tubb, who is actually in (my) film.  He was in TOP GUN and LONESOME DOVE, and a huge deal in Snyder, where I come from.  Anyway, Barry was making a movie there in Snyder, when I was like sixteen, and I  jumped at the chance to work as an intern for the first couple of weeks, and eventually come on to the payroll.  It was called GRAND CHAMPION; it was kind of a Western kid’s movie, set in the present day.  It had Joey Lauren Adams, and Emma Roberts when she was a little girl – she’s huge now.  Julia Roberts made an appearance in it, Bruce Willis made an appearance in it.  George Strait, Natalie Maines, a lot of country singers.  When you go on to IMDB, and look at the entire cast list, you go, ‘What is this movie?’  All these A-list people, but it was just film-school for me. 

Back Taylor, Corey Knipe, Jim Beaver

Tubb actually went to high school with my dad, so he was like, “You’re Rick Beard’s son?  Come on board.”  And that was how I met Suzanne, being on the set.  And then her and Barry Tubb teamed up again in 2004, and did a little comedy called CLOWN HUNT, and that’s when I met Brendan Wayne.  I told him, “Dude, I have always wanted to make a Western.”  He said, “Are you kidding me?  My granddad’s John Wayne.  All I’ve ever wanted to do was a Western.”  I said, “I had this idea about Hell’s Gate – I’ve always loved the name, loved the place, and it’s an interesting story about these cowboys, and how it got its name.  And I’d love to make an eight-minute short.”  So I got Brendan on, and all these other people attached, a lot just for the genre’.  I was able to raise a little bit of money.   And we made the short; it looked like we had a lot more money than we did.  So with a thirty-minute short, which is an epic-long short -- it was more just to show investors -- I said hey, obviously I’m young and inexperienced, but I’ve got a handle on this project.  And here’s the proof.  And we won some festivals, and a year later we’re geared up for the feature, so I got incredibly fortunate.  Some people it takes ten years to make a movie; it only took me four. 

H: With LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE you surrounded yourself with some familiar names and talents:  Henry Thomas, Buck Taylor, Indian actors like Zahn McClarnon and the Spears brothers.  What do you think attracted them to the project? 

TANNER:  I just thought I was the luckiest person, I thought I found the Golden Ticket.  But Suzanne said, at the end of the day, everybody liked the script, because I tried to make every single character somewhat important, so we could get cameos.  Because you know that, if the movie gets sold, you’ve got to have someone on the DVD cover.  Actually the crazy thing is there are so many people in there from Snyder, like Kevin Alejandro and Steven Taylor.  I called out a few favors.  I’m really good friends with (ONE TREE HILL star) Robert Buckley, and Rob said, ‘I’ve got this buddy of mine, and he just wants to be in a Western.  He says he doesn’t care if he has a line: he just wants to be in it.’  And I said sure, man, we’ll find him something.  And it turned out to be James Lafferty from ONE TREE HILL, which has this huge following.  Every fifteen-year-old girl in the nation knows who they are.  James is such a great guy, and Kevin Alejandro and those guys are in the movie for such a short bit, but it looked like they had been out there for a while.  They were kind of thrown together, but they had camaraderie between them, I thought. Have you seen Eddie Spears on HELL ON WHEELS?

Henry Thomas

H:  I sure have; he’s terrific.

TANNER:  He’s awesome – so good in that.  He cut his hair for it; it was a really big deal.  They had a ceremony for it. 

H: I was at the première of YELLOW ROCK.  Eddie was looking at the movie, and saying after that he was sentimental about it, not only because it was a good part in a good film, but because it’s the last time he’ll see himself with all that hair.  How did you get Henry Thomas?

Summer Glau

TANNER:  We had a great casting director, Sid De Miguel out of New York.  He helped us get Henry Thomas, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Eric Balfour, Lou Pucci.  Suzanne got Glenn Morshower on board, she knew Buck Taylor from some films they had done together. A lot of people, when they saw that it was a western, wanted to jump on board. 

H: I as very impressed with your cinematographer, Nathanial Vorce.  Am I right, that this his first feature? 

TANNER:  It is, to be in the driver’s seat.  He’s worked on Terrence Malick’s TREE OF LIFE.  He was 2nd or 3rd unit director of photography, because they had they had quite a few on that film, but Terrence Malick’s B or C-team guy can be my A-team guy any day.  We had a great time.  He had such a great vision.  We shot on digital, but we brought together digital with sort of an old-style image.  We went to Panavision, got a bunch of amazing Panavision lenses from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, that a lot of old Westerns were shot on.  And they’re like hundred-thousand dollar lenses, but nobody’s used them in so many years, because they’re obsolete.  But the technology, we thought it would be such a cool look to bring the digital world mixed in with that classic wide-screen look.  And I loved it.  He had such a vision for it.

H: And it absolutely looks like film. 

TANNER:  We had a great colorist, too.  Again, a lot of people pulled out favors, and everybody gave 110.  We were shooting on Red cameras.  Nobody shoots 35 any more.  I would love to do a 35 mm movie some day, just because there’s nothing like it.  But times are changin’. 

H: What length was your shooting schedule? 

TANNER:  Again, this attributed to Suzanne Weinert; we somehow shot it all in four weeks.  And Nathaniel and I went off for a fifth week, on our own, on my parents land, and shot just a ton of ‘B’ roll (cut-away and atmosphere footage).  Because again, we’re shooting on digital, so it’s not like you’re  burning up film.  We shot all around the ranch; we boated out on Possum Kingdom Lake.  Got the shot that you see at the end of the movie; that’s the real Hell’s Gate.  We CGI’d out the water only, so everything else was real, and I think the folks around that area, the Western history buffs, will appreciate that. 

Robert Buckley, James Lafferty

H: In addition to your parents’ land, you were shooting in a Western town. 

TANNER:  This great place -- I’ve got to plug it -- called Enchanted Springs Ranch, outside of Boerne, Texas, where Summer Glau is from.  It’s just outside of San Antonio.  And Henry Thomas is from San Antonio.  So all their parents came down when we were shooting in that town; we roped most of them into being extras with us.  That was cool – Henry got to act in front of his parents.  He enjoyed that.  We filmed in Boerne, Texas.  Then we went north around Granberry, Texas, to shoot for Dallas.  We shot a ton around the Granberry area, and also the Possum Kingdom area.  The final sequence, with all the cliffs, that was on the same mountain chain as Hell’s Gate, but several miles away, on the other side of the river.  We pretty much shot this where it historically took place. 

H: I’ve got to say, your art direction, production design, costume work is just gorgeous, just real.  You forget you’re watching a movie. 

TANNER:  I’ll definitely send that message toward Kari Perkins and Chris Stull because they really were the entire backbone of the film, and we couldn’t have stood up without them.  Kari Perkins was amazing.  She bent over backwards; she knew the budget wasn’t huge, and she somehow pulled together a lot of amazing costumes, and they really distressed them, and Chris Stull was just a miracle worker.

H: Jamie Thomas King is very entertaining as Doc Holliday.  Isn’t he a Brit?

TANNER:  He is.  He was on THE TUDORS.  We got Jamie really late in the game, because funny enough, nobody really wanted to touch the Doc Holliday character, probably because nobody wanted to go up against Val Kilmer.  He’s so loved in that role, it’s a touchy one.  So we had to dive into the acting pool; we really needed an actor to play this guy.  He’s a precursor really to the Doc Holliday character that we all know, like at the O.K. Corral.  This was actually his first recorded gunfight, with Champagne Charlie Austin.  I thought Jamie did a helluvah job – it’s a tough character to take on.  . 

H:  I liked the stuff with just the two of you in the dentist’s office; I loved that tooth flying up in the air.  I suspect that was CGI.

TANNER:  It was, but the tooth was real.  (laughs)  It was my cousin’s – he had just had his wisdom teeth taken out; just gnarly looking teeth.  I said, dude, that thing looks like it hurt when it came out.  I’ve got to use it.  I don’t know if that’s going to be on the director’s commentary or not, but it definitely makes us laugh. 

H:  You have two very beautiful leading ladies, Jenna Dewan-Tatum and Summer Glau.  What were they like to work with?

TANNER:  Amazing; and again, they’re both from Texas, which was a fun part of the movie.  Most of the cast hired out of L.A. were native Texans.  Jenna was an absolute sweetheart, and really dived right in.  Nobody got to really see each other.  I don’t know if she ever met Lou or Summer or Eric on-set, because of the way the scenes were shot, but she was an absolute delight to work with.  She really got into it; she loved the costumes – she never wanted to leave the costume trailer.  Summer Glau is just so incredibly professional.  She actually flew from Hawaii, from a movie set, went home for an hour, then drove back to L.A.X., got on a plane to San Antonio, had to drive all the way to set, straight into hair and make-up.  She came out and caught us for the tail end of the day, when the Moon family is outside of their house, and we had just enough light that it looked Terrence Malik-y out there.  I said, we’re going to go ahead and roll this one.  She just dove right in, and really had no idea what the scene was.

H:  Well you wrote it, you directed it, you acted in it.  What do you think of yourself as, primarily? 

TYANNER: I’m a pretty good…I don’t know.  I’m a pretty good procrastinator.  People ask me what I do, and I don’t know what to say, except that I’m in the motion picture business.  Everybody moves out here to be an actor, so I try to consider myself that, but for the last couple of years I’ve been so into the business side.  Really, I’ve always wanted to do anything, as long as it involves movies.  I’ve got to say that my love is being in front of the camera.  It’s just too much fun to get out there and play pretend.  Sometimes you don’t get as many opportunities as you like, so you try and create them yourself.  I’ve created a thousand, and maybe one of them hits.  I would hope to always consider myself a film maker.  But I definitely love to act. 

H: Speaking of which, I understand your next project is about Cherokee bank-robber Henry Starr. 

TANNER:  We’re definitely excited about that.  I just tied up the books rights.  It’s not based on a book, but he’s done a lot of history on it, and I had to get the rights to progress forward. 

H:  I know you’re part Cherokee.

TANNER: Right – Cherokee and Choctaw.  So would you be playing Henry Starr?

TANNER:   No, absolutely not.  I’ll definitely have a supporting character, I just have to: the movie sounds like too much fun to not be a part of.  But we’re raising the bar pretty high with this one.  We’re looking to shoot in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

H:  All the Indian Territory.

TANNER: Pretty much.  It’s more of a biopic than an action movie the way HELL’S GATE was.  You know, Starr robbed over thirty-something banks, and his story has never been told on film, which completely blows my mind. It’s such a fascinating story; he even wrote, directed and starred in his own movie.  We’re trying to make this one more studio-friendly, and maybe have a studio attachment on board before shooting. Suzanne Weiner’s also got another period piece set in Texas, about the Irish that sided up with the Mexicans, in the Mexican-American War.  John Riley, he’s kind of a Mexican hero.  So we’re pitching those movies as kind of a package, and I’m attached to direct that one.  Suzanne is producing it.  So we’re waiting to see which bites first. 

H:  Would be writing both of them?

TANNER:  ST. PATRICK’S BATALLION I did not write.  I’m just attached to direct. 

Henry Starr I’d be writing and directing, and I’d be acting in it, too.  I need to fill it up with people that will make it sell first, and then I’ll take a role. 

H: Have you always been fond of westerns?

TANNER:  Oh yeah.  My dad, to this day, goes to sleep every night watching the Western Channel.  I grew up in Snyder, West Texas: tumbleweeds and dust and wind.  It was what you played outside; cowboys and Indians.  My dad and my grandpa, they’re just huge western fans, which is what they grew up with.  I’ve learned so much about the western genre with the TV shows.  There’s always GUNSMOKE, but I love BONANZA, RAWHIDE, CHEYENNE.  Some of the writing is so good in these shows.  Obviously they’re older Hollywood; they don’t have all the fancy things we do now, but the writing, the stories; they hook you and you can’t stop watching.  And before you know it you’re an hour into something from 1956.  

H: Do you have a favorite western?

TANNER:  My family’s favorite is TOMBSTONE, great movie, but my favorite is ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.  I love the Clint Eastwoods, I just think they’re fun, but I love the John Waynes too.  I’ve really grown to appreciate the two different sides of the western.  They were able to kind of put a fork in the road with the standard Gene Autry type of stuff; once he got older, he got cooler, more realistic.  

NOTE: I conducted this interview with Tanner a couple of months ago.  When I contacted him yesterday, to see if he had any news, he e-mailed me, “I couldn't be happier that Lionsgate came on board to distribute the DVD.  We have four projects in the works but St. Patrick’s Battalion and Henry Starr are next up.  I'd say St. Pats is next up for us but we'd like to start Henry Starr directly after.  Unless plans change, both would shoot in TX between now and 2013! We have sold LOHG in several foreign territories already and even more recently at Cannes, so I’m very excited about that.  And LOHG is on its way to the Almeria Western Film Festival in Spain in September! On a personal note I have a film coming out this year called "The Letter" with James Franco and Winona Ryder. Just acting in this one but I'm very excited about its release as well.”


Treading ground reminiscent of B. Traven’s TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE is Tanner Beard’s THE LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE. It is an extremely impressive feature directorial and screenwriting debut, and a visual feast.

Filmed in Texas, a Texas not of desert, but of green and water, it’s the story of a group of people whose initial connection seems slight at best, except that they are desperate and struggling, and largely dishonest: a young outlaw (Eric Balfour), of a wolf-pack hired to kill one Champagne Charlie Austin.  A young Irish railroad worker (Tanner Beard), with doubtful morals and an agonizing toothache.  A young and desperate thief and cut-purse (Lou Taylor Pucci) who manages to be at the wrong places at the right times, with an ear to every half-opened door.  It’s a triumph of writing, direction and performance that we care what happens to each man. 

What draws the three together is not accident or conspiracy, but fate, at its most sinister and relentless.  Along the way there are white buffalo; deadly bowling matches; beautiful women -- with morals and without them; shootouts between men too drunk to care about the danger to bystanders; and Indians that have always been friendly up until now.

It’s an ensemble piece, with roles for the supporting players so rich, and well acted, that it intentionally takes a long time for the viewer to figure who the lead characters are.  Among the notable performers are Buck Taylor as a businessman with political aspirations, Henry Thomas as a bartender with a secret, lovely and too sympathetic Jenna Dewan, and FIREFLY star Summer Glau.   One of the best scenes feature TUDORS star Jamie Thomas King as Doc Holliday, blissfully drunk at the card table, and amused at a poor loser.  Another standout performance is by YELLOW ROCK star Michael Spears as an increasingly menacing Indian the boys want to trade with. 

The photography by Nathaniel Vorce, making his feature debut as a cinematographer, is not merely beautiful.  It creates an idealized realism that makes everything that happens in the story all the more credible.   Likewise Kari Perkins’ handsome and accurate costumes and production design and art direction by Christopher Stull and Yvonne Boudreaux combine to draw the audience into the movie’s beautiful but grim world.

If I can give one warning to the audience, and I don’t think this is a spoiler, the opening scene is confusing because it is a flash-forward.  If you think of the movie as starting a couple of minutes in, when you first see buffalo, it will be chronological, and much more understandable.    

Update, August 12, 2012 -- If you'd like to run out and rent LEGEND OF HELL'S GATE, and you should, RedBox has a link, so you can check to see if it's available in your local kiosk:  


First look at COPPER, BBC America's first original drama, coming in August. It's set in 1860s New York City, in the infamous Five Points gang area Scorcese revealed in GANGS OF NEW YORK. Sure, it's an 'Eastern,' but let's be open-minded: after all, Billy The Kid came from Brooklyn!  I’ll have much more about this series in next week’s Round-up!


The good news is that season 2 of the hit AMC Western series will begin on Sunday, August 12th. The bad news, for DISH satellite customers, is that DISH is dropping AMC. If you want to keep AMC on DISH, AMC asks you to let your voice be heard by calling 855-KEEP-AMC, or going to KEEPAMC.COM.


After a rash of often clever but fake trailers, the official first teaser trailer is here.  I’m delighted that the first face you see is James Russo, and the last is the original Django, Franco Nero, talking to Jamie Foxx.


Sunday, June 10th, in Dallas, Texas, property of Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody and Bat Masterson will be auctioned, for a preview, check out the video.

Well folks, that's what I've got for this week.  Next week I'll have more about COPPER, and some other items I'm still working on.

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright June 2012 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved