Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Michael Horse & Klinton Spillbury
More than a year ago I was at the Autry’s Annual American Indian Marketplace, where I met artist, actor and musician Michael Horse. He’d starred on David Lynch’s cult TV series TWIN PEAKS, as Dep. Tommy ‘Hawk’ Hill, but first gained fame playing Tonto in the infamous THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER (1981). (That’s the one that caused an uproar before they even rolled camera, when the producers forced former Lone Ranger Clayton Moore to stop wearing his mask. They went on to cast virtual non-actor Klinton Spillsbury as LR, and continued downhill from there.)
While Spillsbury never acted onscreen again, Michael Horse has had a long, successful acting career on big-screen and small, worked extensively as a voice actor, a stuntman, and as both a graphic and jewelry artist. When the more recent infamous LONE RANGER came out, responding to Johnny Depp’s headgear, Horse Facebooked a picture of himself with a chicken on his head. When we met, he was very excited to have just guested on an episode of HELL ON WHEELS, where he actually wore a bird on his head.
Michael Horse at the Autry
Time flies! When we did this interview, there was talk of a possible revival of TWIN PEAKS. Now the show is in pre-production, and Michael Horse is back as Deputy Hawk.
HENRY: Playing Tonto is a pretty big way to start an acting career.
MICHAEL: Yuh, went right into a huge movie.
H: Was that your first acting role?
M: No, I did a couple of MARCUS WELBYs. I was a musician with Universal Records, and once in a while they’d throw me something, but I never wanted to be an actor. I still don’t know if I am. Recently I was working on something, and the guy goes, “Give me this look.” I go, “Look, I’ve got two looks: I’ve got this way and this way. I can give ‘em both to you all day long, but that’s about the extent of what you’re gonna get from me.” Olivier I ain’t.
H: As a musician, what do you play?
M: I was a fiddle and bass player. I did a lot of bluegrass and rock & roll for years, and just got tired of it. It sounds very glamorous, but you’re doing these big tours and staying in Holiday Inn, and we used to travel by bus – and we’re not talking the buses they have now, we’re talking by bus. It was pretty hard traveling. We didn’t have a lot of electricity when I was a kid, so everybody played music; we entertained ourselves. When I was growing up everybody in my family played something. I am an artist; I’m a jeweler, a painter. That’s what I do.
Counting Coup - Ledger Art by Michael Horse
H: I know you grew up near Tucson.
M: Yes, on the Yaqui reservation.
H: What was your childhood like?
M: It was wonderful. It was hot, not a lot of amenities. But I went out and played in the desert. We had goats and horses and mules. It was nice; it was my playground. We moved to Los Angeles when I was about ten. We’d go back and forth. My grandpa had moved there a long time before us to get a job at Lockheed; they had a relocation program. So I would go back and forth from Arizona to Los Angeles as a kid. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, in the Sunland Tujunga area. My stepdad was an outfitter, took people on hunting guides. We had a little ranch there; it was a great place to grow up. There were bears up there, and you could fish. They built the Hanson Dam. Los Angeles has the biggest urban Indian population in the United States, especially in the Burbank area. So there were powwows there. I grew up in kind of an inter-tribal culture. That’s why I know a lot about Plains people. I grew up with a lot of Lakota, Cheyenne and Comanche people. I bought my first house in Topanga Canyon in 1974 for $35,000 bucks cash – it was a shack, but had an ocean view. I couldn’t get a p.o. box down there for that kind of money now.
H: What were you doing when you were asked if you wanted to play Tonto?
M: I was just renting my art studio from an agent. She said they’re casting a big movie; they’re doing THE LONE RANGER and looking for someone to play Tonto. Are you interested? I said no. She said that’s too bad because they’ll pay a lot of money. And she quoted a figure at me, and I went, “Oh, Kemosabe!” I looked up (director William) Fraker, and he had shot some of my favorite films.
H: Not a very experienced director then, but a great cinematographer – ROSEMARY’S BABY, PAINT YOUR WAGON, BULLITT, and later TOMBSTONE.
M: I went down to talk to Mr. Fraker; I didn’t think they’d hire me. I said you send Tonto to town one time, you’ll have more Indians on your lawn than Custer saw. And Bill Fraker, who I really admired, kind of talked me into doing it. The only thing, I said I never wanted to hear the words ‘faithful companion’ ever. But it was a hoot for me. And I had family in New Mexico, and I’d gone to the Union Art Institute, so we were filming in my home town, Santa Fe area and around Monument Valley, so it was a blast. But it was not well-written. And the casting was really wrong.
H: Klinton Spillsbury?
M: Yeah, they knew that (was wrong) right into the picture. They should have let him go, and got somebody else. James Keach had to dub his whole voice in.
H: The budget was $18 million, which was a lot of money in 1981. And Lazlo Kovacs did a beautiful job shooting it.
M: Beautifully shot, just badly cast and badly written. It was so funny making THE LONE RANGER. I said, I don’t care how much money these people have. I don’t care where they’re filming it: we’re going to end up at Vasquez Rocks. And then at the last minute we had to shoot some stuff out there. That’s where I did most of my commercials and most of my stunts, most of my horseback stuff, and I chased so many people around those rocks.
H: Did you have a sense while it was shooting, did you think it was going to be a hit, or were you worried?
M: I was just hoping that I could show my face at a powwow again! (laughs) Please, please get me out of here alive! I mean, I was on the box of Cheerios. I’m thinking, I’m an old American Indian Movement member. Oh God, what have I done here? A lot of my friends said look, you can do some stuff here. I lobbied for the Indian Child Welfare Bill, I went to D.C., I did a lot of stuff for both reservation and inner city kids, so it worked out okay for me. I escaped, and actually had a career from it.
H: And you’re good in it.
M: I did okay! They were worried about me, because I was telling them, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. But (Spillsbury) was so bad he screwed up before I could do anything wrong. It had potential, but I think, especially after the Johnny Depp thing, none of us Indian people ever have to see Tonto again. I think he’s put away for a long time.
H: A young man named Patrick Montoya played the young Tonto, but I’ve never seen him in anything again. Do you know what ever happened to him?
Sketch by master poster-artist Drew Struzman
M: Oh yeah, I see him. He lives in Santa Fe, he comes up once in a while. I think he has a print shop. They still call him Tonto. It was fun to do. Made some good friends, Mr. Fraker and I became good friends. Ted Flicker played Buffalo Bill; we became really good friends. He created improvisational theatre. He wrote BARNEY MILLER. He moved to Santa Fe and became a sculptor. He would tell me stories about making films in the old days. He and Fraker were friends, so he gave him a part. And he told Fraker look, this is not well-written. Why don’t you let me re-write it? But Fraker didn’t want to rock the boat. I was lucky to have it, and lucky to escape from it! (laughs). Not a very good film. I wasn’t even really an actor. I just wanted to do okay. But I thought, one day they’re going to do a really good one, and I’ll be known as the guy who did the crummy one my whole life.
H: Flash-forward to 2013.
M: And the Creator went, “I’m going to make this one worse than the one you did!” I’m a huge Johnny Depp fan. But something went wrong – I don’t know what it was. The jokes weren’t funny; the story wasn’t all that good; the special effects looked all digitized. The Lone Ranger is an icon you don’t really want to mess with. Just because you want to make Tonto a more interesting character, you don’t want to dumb down the Lone Ranger. I think that was a mistake.
H: That’s well put, and that’s exactly what they did. They made him foolish, to make Tonto more important.
M: And even though Jay Silverheels had some of that stilted dialogue, he still was such a dignified man that it shined through. You know, that was one of the few real native people we had seen as kids in the fifties.
H: I was doing an interview with Dawn Moore, Clayton Moore’s daughter. She was talking about how people forget that when they started doing THE LONE RANGER series, it was Jay who was the star, who had been in KEY LARGO and lots of big movies, while Clayton Moore had just been playing heavies and doing Republic serials.
M: I knew Jay. I loved him dearly. He had an acting workshop that was for native people. That’s how I knew about KEY LARGO and all that stuff. I knew Jay and really liked him. He was in the Motion Picture Hospital when they said they were going to remake it. He asked, who’s going to play me? They said Michael Horse, and he laughed! He thought that was very funny. Later I met Mr. Moore – I was at one of the rodeos, and I went up and introduced myself – (this was) after we had done THE LONE RANGER. I said, “I’m really sorry, sir, for what they did. You’ll always be the Lone Ranger to me, and long may you ride.” He said, “How sweet,” and we had a picture taken together. I said, how come they didn’t use you? And he said, “Well, I asked them for some money. I didn’t ask them for an outrageous amount of money, but look, you’re going to kind of retire me. I want a cameo and I want some money.” And they just put them out to pasture. He approached them with this idea. “Look, I’m getting ready to retire as the Lone Ranger, and I find this kid that’s who’s on the fence between right and wrong. And when I think he’s going in the right direction, I’ll turn my back to the audience, and I’ll hand him the mask.” And I went, and they didn’t go for that? They’re idiots: it would have been an iconic, chilling moment!
H: Absolutely; they needed to make that connection. When I re-ran your movie, there was the role of the newspaper editor, and I thought it would be a perfect role to give Clayton Moore as a cameo. And of course it was John Hart, the man who replaced Clayton Moore for a year on the TV series when he wanted a raise.
M: Clayton Moore had been such a role model all those years. Even in the police department, they used to teach the Lone Ranger rules – you never shoot to kill unless you have to. A lot of those old westerns, when you go back and look at them, they had a certain ethic to them. They meant well.
Michael Horse with bird headpiece
H: Let’s talk a little about your appearance on HELL ON WHEELS. About the headpiece, was that a comment to Johnny Depp?
M: No, it wasn’t. The lady who did it, she went through a lot of books on the Comanche. And there were a lot of people who wore birds: we just didn’t wear them that big. And when he wears something like that, that’s a piece of medicine. That’s something to be respected.
H: You seem very happy to be associated with the show.
M: Well, it’s so well written, number one; it’s well-acted, and it’s historically interesting. The railroads were one of the first of the big corporations that started pushing everybody around. Especially indigenous people. If you know anything about herd animals, if you put anything in their way, not just a fence, anything, they’re almost autistic. The railroad actually changed the migrations of the buffalo and elk. And then from the east came this big piece of iron that was smoking and making noise, and people were killing animals just for the sake of killing. To the Plains people it must have been the Devil incarnate. I do this kind of artwork like you saw at the Autry, like the Ledger art. I was painting something from the same week as The Battle of Little Bighorn. And I realized from all these periodicals that I read that when that happened, in the east the Civil War had been over for four years; the Brooklyn Bridge was built; the first baseball game between Kansas City and Missouri had been played; Edison was showing the first light-bulb at a symposium. But that’s how wild it still was in Montana and Wyoming and Colorado. And the Plains people had no idea what was coming their way.
H: Then it came, and it was Hell on wheels.
M: And the Comanche, they were pretty bad boys. There’s a book out on the Comanches, and I have a lot of Comanche friends. And I said, “You guys were pretty bad.” And they said, “Yeah, but basically we just said, ‘Don’t come here.’” That’s why the Mexican government allowed a lot of the migration into Texas: they figured it would be a buffer between them and the Comanche. Some of the finer flight cavalry to ever exist were the Comanche people. There’s one piece that I’ve always wanted to do. They’ve always done Sitting Bull’s story; they’ve done Crazy Horse’s story. But they haven’t done the story of Quanah Parker, which is a really interesting piece. I did a one-man play last year, down in Buffalo Gap, Texas, about Quanah, and he was an amazing man, a person that lived in two worlds like me, a person of mixed blood, and understood both worlds, and how they had to come together. Actually a pretty wise man for the Comanches when they finally decided to come to the reservation. He made some pretty interesting deals with the United States government.
H: Yes he did. It would have helped if the government had been a little better at keeping those deals.
M: Well, all governments do that; not just ours. I liked back in the ‘60s, when all these young people were going, ‘The government lies,’ and all us indigenous people were saying, ‘No kidding?’
H: News flash!
M: What an epiphany that is! The railroads, it made this country, connected this country. Ran goods from point to point – that’s what actually made the whole money-machine of this country work; the railroad. It was a pretty grand scheme. But a lot of times progress rolls over the people that live on the land. Not just the indigenous people, but ranchers and farmers. It’s kind of the same thing that’s happening now, with the energy needs. It’s what makes the engine run, but it’s kind of screwing up a lot of ranchers and farmers and indigenous people.
H: Who’d have guessed they’d all end up on the same side?
M: Yuh, it happens. And that Swedish villain on HELL ON WHEELS, that’s one of the greatest villains I’ve ever seen on TV!
H: Oh man, isn’t he fun!?
M: I met him recently; he’s a very sweet man.
H: He’s like a train with no brakes and no tracks – you just don’t know where he’s going!
M: Well, I imagine there were probably a lot of people like that back then. It was pretty open; you could do pretty much whatever you wanted to do back then.
H: And of course, in the Indian Territories, once you got there, there was nothing much the government could do about it.
M: No. But they gave the railroads a hundred acres of land on both sides of the (tracks) that they could do whatever they wanted to with them; they could sell it, they could develop it. It’s really good to see that – like I said, I’m a big fan of Westerns. I grew up with Westerns; I think they’re going to come back. It’s just how they’re written. But TV’s doing these small, little mini-series, with big stars that don’t really want to commit to a full series. Doing nine-episode things like TRUE DETECTIVES was brilliant, it was really good. FARGO was freakin’ hysterical. Cable’s really allowed for some really fine television. Last year they did a seminar at USC about how TWIN PEAKS changed television. And what it did was, it showed people that anything was possible on television. It opened all kinds of doors, and changed formats. It had pretty-much been a formula kind of thing until that went, and people went, ‘Oh, you can do anything.’
H: I think all of the miniseries, and shows like HELL ON WHEELS, which they don’t call a miniseries, but it’s a continuing story; none of them would have happened, none of them would have been the same without David Lynch being ahead of them.
M: He opened that door, and said there’s huge audiences for different things. It’s really funny; there’s a lot of young kids who are seeing it now on the internet. So it’s more popular than it ever was. We live in the Berkeley area, and I’ll be going to the movies, and my wife goes, “Those kids are following you.” Usually young film students. I’ll go, “Can I help you?” They’ll go, “Are you Deputy Hawk?” “Yuh.” And then they go crazy. My wife thinks it’s hysterical.
H: What was David Lynch like to work with?
As Deputy Hawk
M: David is the sweetest man, such a sweet man. He’s like Jimmy Stewart with Salvador Dali’s intestines. He’ll go, “That was really keen, whatcha did! But this time, could you get naked, and bark like a dog?” David is an artist. Both as an indigenous activist, a native activist, and as an actor you don’t get a chance to do art in television that often; and TWIN PEAKS was art. And that was a wonderful native character. It got rid of stereotypes, and held some mirrors up to the others, you know. I’m still looking. I’ve been turning down a bunch of stuff, but there’s a couple of scripts out there that I’m getting ready to do. And I’ve been doing all these student films. It’s nice in my career that I can afford to do this. These film students will get in touch with my wife. I don’t get on the internet – I’m such a Luddite, I just learned there’s a redial button on my phone. My wife’ll go, “This film student is looking for you.” They won’t go to my agent, because he won’t return their call, because they don’t have any money. I’ve done three or four of these little films for these kids. And it reminds me that filmmaking is art. It’s been very nice.
H: I know you did some stunt work.
M: I used to be around horses. I did a little stint at rodeo riding; wasn’t very good at it. The first time somebody paid me to fall off a horse I said, “I can do that!” Staying on’s the hard part. Then we started the Native American Stunt Association. We didn’t get the work we thought we were gonna get. I dabbled in it, did a lot of fight stuff, and it was fun. Did some stuff in PASSENGER 57 with Wesley Snipes.
H: You acted in a few WALKER, TEXAS RANGERS.
M: And God bless Chuck (Norris), I love him, I knew him for years, and friends ask why do you WALKER? I said it’s so bad, I can’t suck. But there are some wonderful scripts out there. Some guy sent me a script from Washington State about a little native kid in the 1950s who worships Elvis, and wants to win a talent contest. It is so sweet and so well done I told them I’d do it for free. But working on HELL ON WHEELS, that’s a class act. The series I did in Canada, it was on for seven years, I did three years of it, called NORTH OF 60. It was strictly for Canadian television. It was so well done, so well written – some of it written by native people, directed by native people. It had all these great native actors, Gordon Tootoosis, Tantoo Cardinal, and Graham Greene. I was one of only two Indian people from the States ever to be on it. It was a joy to do. It was contemporary, about people who live way above the 60 parallel. I play a therapist and a bush pilot. I’m hoping to squeeze out a couple of things before I retire. I’ve done three or four of these little sci-fi films, but I’m not going to do anymore because it’s the same thing. My wife laughs, the last one, “You’re the holy man, you’re inside by the fire, with these two beautiful girls bringing you food.” I go, “Yeah, I’m not going outside – the monster’s outside!”
H: In 1982 you were the star of THE AVENGING, and I’m sorry it’s not better known, because it’s a very impressive independent film. How did this project come about?
M: They just got in touch with me, I said send me the script. It wasn’t a lot of money, and I’d just finished the LONE RANGER, and I said I’d do it, I like this.
H: And you got to work with Ephrem Zimbalist Jr.
M: Yeah, we became pretty tight too. I love working with these old guys, and make them tell me stories. Wranglers are the best – they’ll tell you everything. My favorite thing to do is I do cartoon voices. It’s all those people who used to make gas-noises and got sent to the principal’s office. It’s all old stand-up comics, and guys who used to have imaginary friends.
H: What is your favorite of the voices you’ve done?
M: It’s probably SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (2002), the horse. I’m fifty voices in that, even the old Indian woman; she didn’t show up. “I’ll do my very best.” I’m such a fan of animation. And usually you record and then they do the animation. But we were watching them as they were making it, so there were drawings that moved, and half-painted things. It’s almost a classic old Disney kind of piece. There was a series I did for a while called COWBOYS OF MOO MESA. I played this buffalo called J.R. He was a Rube Goldberg kind of guy; he used to make all these inventions. I just loved him.
H: In 1990 you starred in BORDER SHOOTOUT for Ted Turner’s TURNER PRODUCTIONS. It’s adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel.
M: That was fun too. Elmore Leonard – I didn’t realize until the last five years that he wrote HOMBRE, one of my favorite movies. Just (Paul) Newman sitting in the bar listening to those two rednecks hassling those two native guys. Him and Richard Boone, just amazing. That was an interesting little film. And working with Glenn Ford.
H: On his last Western, too.
M: It took him a little while to get ready. One of these young kids was complaining. We’re working in the middle of the night, and it’s freezing. Finally they get him outside and the kid said, “You had me waiting outside for him!” And I said, “It’s Glenn Ford. I’ll wait as long as it takes.”
H: What was he like to work with?
M: I was in awe. I liked the character actors, too. I used to go to the Beverly Garland Hotel, have breakfast with Monte Hale, and he would tell me stories about the old days. Same with the old fiddle-players. I’d say, I’ll buy all your drinks, just tell me about the old days – I’m fascinated by it.
H: In BORDER SHOOTOUT, you also worked with Michael Ansara. Although he was from Syria, he spent much of his career playing American Indians. A number of non-Indian actors have specialized in Indian roles – in addition to Ansara, X. Brands and Iron Eyes Cody.
M: A lot of them. Ricardo Montalban, Sal Mineo.
H: Any problems with that?
M: You know, the process of acting is to portray something that you’re not. But if you’re doing a cultural piece, and you don’t bring somebody who comes with that culture, you’re going to cheat yourself. I’ve talked to casting people, and they’ll say, we’ve seen a hundred guys, and they’re not doing what we want them to do. And I said, if you’ve seen a hundred Indian guys, and they’re not doing this, maybe they don’t do that. Will Sampson was more interesting just standing there, not saying anything, than all the non-native actors that ever played anybody. And there were exceptions. Paul Newman nailed it. Charles Bronson used to come pretty close. A really good actor can do it. But the native guys, the full-blood guys don’t get a chance to play anything else. But it’s changing. Digital film has put it back in the hands of filmmakers. There are a lot of native filmmakers that are making films out there. And they don’t need Hollywood, they don’t need big money, they don’t need the big stars. And there are wonderful, wonderful films.
H: What’s your favorite film?
M: LITTLE BIG MAN. That was the first time I saw one of those funny old elders that I grew up with (on the screen). Those little people are just so funny, and Chief Dan George was just magic. “Am I still in this world?” “Yes, grandpa.” “Ahhh!” Dustin Hoffman tells him, “I have a white wife.” “Does she show enthusiasm when you mount her?”
I really know how you make a bad movie, but I’m really trying to figure out how you make a good movie.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Just one topic this week, so I hope you enjoyed it!
All Original Contents Copyright August 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Monday, August 17, 2015
SUTHERLANDS ‘FORSAKEN’ BOWS, ‘LEWIS & CLARK’ HALT, ‘WESTERN RELIGION’ DISTRIBS, PLUS ‘HATEFUL’, 'LONGMIRE' PEEKS!
DOUBLE SUTHERLAND STARRER ‘FORSAKEN’ TO BOW AT TORONTO FEST
The long-troubled Canadian-produced Western FORSAKEN, starring father and son Donald and Keifer Sutherland, Demi Moore, and Brian Cox, will have its world premiere this September at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), according to Chad Beharriell’s Westerns Reboot site. Directed by Emmy-winning ‘24’ helmer Jon Cassar; scripted by Brad Mirmman, the story of a son (Keifer) who tries to live down his shootist reputation, and reconnect with his recently widowed minister father (Donald), the Calgary-shot production looked as if it might never see the light of day.
Lensed two summers ago, on May 1st, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD and others reported that the producers might not receive the promised $1.7 million in tax incentives because the Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled that the production had skipped town without paying some of the crew and suppliers.
Keifer is no stranger to the saddle, having made an early and indelible impression in the seminal YOUNG GUNS (1988) and YOUNG GUNS 2 (1990). In addition to the recent COLD MOUNTIAN (2003), father Donald starred in DAN CANDY’S LAW (1974) as a Mountie hunting Cree Indian Gordon Tootoosis for another Mountie’s murder.
‘LEWIS & CLARK’ PROGRESS HALTED!
The lads who mapped the American West for President Jefferson are on an unexpected hiatus, until director John Curran, and cinematographer Rob Hardy can be replaced. Shooting in Alberta, Canada had already been complicated by weather, but the HBO mini-series was plagued by artistic differences as well.
Produced by Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Ed Norton and others, the six-hour production is based on Stephen Ambrose’s brilliant history, UNDAUNTED COURAGE. L&C stars Casey Affleck – Robert Ford in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESS JAMES – as Meriwether Lewis, and Matthias Schoenaerts as William Clark. Stephen Hill plays York who, despite being Clark’s slave, was a full member of the expedition.
SCREEN MEDIA ARE CONVERTS TO ‘WESTERN RELIGION’!
WESTERN RELIGION, written and directed by James O’Brien, has been acquired Screen Media for a fall theatrical release, followed by a home video release. The somewhat supernatural tale of a legendary Old West poker tournament made its debut at Cannes.
I had the fun of being on-set, and being an extra in a poker-game in this one. To read about my set-visit, go HERE. To read about my adventures as an extra, go HERE. To read my review, and post-production interview with James O’Brien, go HERE
FIRST TRAILER FROM TARANTINO’S ‘HATEFUL 8’!
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” Because that’s when HATEFUL 8 opens at a 70mm Panavision theatre near you!
FIRST LOOK AT ‘LONGMIRE’ SEASON 4 – THE NETFLIX YEARS!
LONGMIRE returns, with a new home at Netflix, on Thursday, September 10th. In my LONGMIRE article in the upcoming October TRUE WEST, I’ll be discussing the whole A&E/Netflix TV saga with LONGMIRE-creator Craig Johnson, and actor Zahn McClarnon, who plays Navajo Officer Mathias.
POSSIBLE ‘DEADWOOD’ FEATURE IN TALKS
A spokeswoman for HBO has confirmed that preliminary talks have begun about turning the ground-breaking Western series into a TV movie. Wasn’t that the original idea when the series went off the air? Timothy Olyphant, who starred as lawman Seth Bullock, just finished his run in the JUSTIFIED series, so the time might be right!
AND THAT'S A WRAP!
Yesterday would have been Robert Culp's birthday! Have a great week!
All Original Contents Copyright August 2015 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved
Monday, August 3, 2015
‘LONGMIRE’ PLAY-DATE, ‘JANE’ REPRIEVE, ‘BONE TOMAHAWK’ REVEAL, PLUS ‘EDGE’ TO CUT A PILOT, AMC ORDERS REDFORD WEST SERIES!
‘LONGMIRE’ RETURNS, NOW TO NETFLIX, THURS., SEPT 10!
The long-awaited 4th season of LONGMIRE is ‘in the can’ and almost here! What was A&E’s most successful drama ever – until they abruptly dropped it – will premiere in a little over a month on Netflix. It will NOT be available on broadcast or cable or satellite – you’ll have to subscribe to Netflix to see it through the internet. The entire ten-episode season will be available on that day, so if you want, you can binge-watch it in a sitting (and have no more LONGMIRE to watch for a year – ulp!). All the regular characters are back, and season 4 will begin right were season 3 ended. And here’s some great news: because Netflix is a pay service, there are no commercials, so the episodes will be not 48 minutes, but at least an hour long! In my LONGMIRE article in the upcoming October TRUE WEST, I’ll be discussing the whole A&E/Netflix TV saga with LONGMIRE-creator Craig Johnson, and actor Zahn McClarnon, who plays Navajo Officer Mathias.
‘JANE’ RESCUED FROM RELATIVITY CHAPTER 11!
Finally some positive news for the long-embattled JANE GOT A GUN. The film’s principal financier, lawyer David Boises, got JANE extricated from Relativity Media the day before the imploding mini-major filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The movie was set to be a co-release by Relativity and The Weinstein Company. It hasn’t been announced yet if Weinstein is still in the mix. To say star Natalie Portman’s first film as a producer has been beleaguered is putting it mildly. It started when acclaimed writer/director Lynne Ramsay quit on what would have been the first day of shooting. Star Jude Law went with her, the producers scrambled to recast, Acclaimed director Gavin O’Connor stepped in, Ewan MacGregor stepped in and, against all predictions, the movie was made. The story concerns a woman who turns for help to her former lover when former associates come after her outlaw husband.
‘BONE TOMAHAWK’ TO PREMIERE AT ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE ‘FANTASIC FEST’!
Kurt Russell, cowboys and cannibals come together in BONE TOMAHAWK, the new dark Western which will have its world launch at the 11th annual Alamo Drafthouse Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The Fest runs from September 24th through October 1st. The film also features Lili Simmons, Sean Young, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Michael Pare, and Oscar-nominee Richard Jenkins. I had the chance to visit the set, and you’ll be reading my interview with writer/director Craig Zahler soon.
ROBERT REDFORD’S ‘THE WEST’ COMES TO AMC SUMMER 2016
When you’re Robert Redford, you don’t need to audition. No pilot was required for AMC to sign up for eight one-hour episodes of THE WEST, a docudrama series from Sundance Films that had once been announced at the Discovery Channel. A new look at familiar bad men and good men of all shades, like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Jesse James and Billy the Kid, the series will feature commentaries by actors known to the genre, including James Caan, Tom Sellick, Ed Harris and Keifer Sutherland. It’s planned to run in the summer of 2016, alongside the final episodes of HELL ON WHEELS.
WAYNE DIEHL ON THE ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ GUEST THURSDAY NIGHT!
On Thursday, August 6th at 8 pm, Wayne Diehl, author of THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF MISSY MONTAIGNE, will be joining hosts Jim Christina and Bobbi Jean Bell for an hour of talk on their weekly show, Writer’s Block, on L.A.Talk Radio. You can listen live (at ‘Listen Live 2’) HERE. You can call in live at 818-602-4929. And if you miss the live broadcast, or want to catch up on earlier shows, you can find podcasts of them HERE
PILOT BASED ON ‘EDGE’ BOOKS ORDERED BY AMAZON
George Gilman’s THE EDGE Western novels and characters will be the basis of a series pilot for Amazon. Written by the prolific English author in the early 1970s, to follow up with his successful novelizations of the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood trilogy, they are cold and violent spaghetti westerns on the page. Shane Black, who wrote and directed IRON MAN 3, will co-write with Fred Dekker, direct and exec produce. Max Martini, the SEAL Commander from CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, will play Josiah Hedges, aka Edge, out to avenge his brother’s death. Ryan Kwanten, of TRUE BLOOD fame, will play Edge’s quarry, the likable son of a senator, secretly a sadistic monster.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
So much new Western news! And people keep asking me, ‘Do they make Westerns anymore?’ Duh! Have a great week, folks!
All Original Contents Copyright August 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Thursday, July 30, 2015
‘MAGNIFICENT 7’ MEMORIES, PLUS WESTERN PORTRAIT PROJECT, ME ON WRITER’S BLOCK, AND DON RICARDO RETURNS TO THE PICO ADOBE!
PRODUCER WALTER MIRISCH ON ‘THE MAGNIFICENT 7’
On Tuesday night, July 14th, at Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre, an invited private audience attended the annual James Coburn Movie Night, part of the weekly KCET Cinema Series. The James Coburn film to be screened was THE MAGNIFICENT 7, and it was that much more special a night, because the movie’s famed producer Walter Mirisch would be attending, and receiving the KCET Lumiere Award, recognizing excellence, artistry and innovation for outstanding contribution to film.
I spoke to Mr. Mirisch on the red carpet, and we talked about his early Western days, when he produced Joel McCrea Westerns at Monogram Studios (if you missed that, HERE is the link).
Also present were Coburn’s son and daughter, James Jr. and Lisa, and Lynda Erkiletian, exec director of the James and Paula Coburn Foundation. Mirisch’s son and frequent collaborator Andrew Mirisch also attended.
The Coburn family
Onstage, KCET head of development Mary Mazur introduced Mr. Mirisch. “I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to present this award to Walter tonight. My first job in television was at NBC, and one of my first executive assignments was as the program executive on a series of TV Movies called DESPERADO, which were produced by Walter and his son Drew.” There were five DESPERADO movies, the original written by Elmore Leonard.
WALTER MIRISCH: Somehow or other, receiving awards never gets old. This is a wonderful evening. It gives me a great opportunity to see one of my really treasured memories, THE MAGNIFICENT 7, which is really a milestone film in my career and in my life. And I am deeply moved, honored and proud to receive this most distinguished award here this evening. I am particularly proud to remember that it comes from KCET, whose studio was my home for ten years in the very beginning of my career, and where all the films of my earlier career were made. (Note: the original home of KCET was Monogram Studios.) I’m also proud that a sponsor of this event is the James and Paula Coburn Foundation, because Jim was a friend of mine. I was crazy about him. We first met when he was in a segment of a television show I was making, that starred Joel McCrea, WICHITA TOWN. He was in the pilot episode, which was called THE NIGHT THE COWBOYS ROARED. Jimmy was just great in it, and I remembered him, and as my career progressed, and as his did, I kept looking for opportunities to find a role. It didn’t happen until THE MAGNIFICENT 7 came along, and then I did find the right role for him, and I think you’ll agree when you see the picture, because he’s just marvelous in it. Later on we continued to work together, and then Jim appeared in THE GREAT ESCAPE, also a signal film in my curriculum. And then finally, the last one he did for me was MIDWAY, in 1975. I’m also proud to be a part of this continuing saga of KCET’s contribution to our community. I’ve enjoyed it all my life, and I continue to. So here we go, and if you ask me some questions, I’ll try to answer them, Pete, and I hope they won’t be too embarrassing.
The Mirisch family
DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD writer Pete Hammond then took the stage, with a recommendation that we all read Walter Mirisch’s autobiography, I THOUGHT WE WERE MAKING MOVIES, NOT HISTORY.
PETE HAMMOND: Look at the cover: all of those Oscars, and the Thalberg Award, and the Golden Globe. This is one helluvah career that you’ve had. I’m curious how MAGNIFICENT 7 came about, because there was this Japanese film, SEVEN SAMURAI.
WALTER MIRISCH: Kurosawa, the great Japanese director, made THE SEVEN SAMURAI. I saw it and thought it was wonderful. It starred the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who I had the privilege of working with; he appeared in my film MIDWAY many years later. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s the story of Japanese soldiers of fortune, in the medieval period of Japan. And I kept thinking about whether it could be translated into an American picture, when a friend of mine who was associated with Yul Brynner called me up. He said, you’d asked me about the rights to SEVEN SAMURI. It’s funny, Yul Brynner brought the same question up to me, because he also had Japanese connections. We both thought that perhaps he could intervene with Toho, the Japanese company that had produced it. I had just succeeded in attracting to our company John Sturges. I was a great fan of John’s movies, and I called him up and said, John, I think I’ve got the first movie for us to make. I want you to come over, and I want to run THE SEVEN SAMURAI with you. The two of us sat alone in a projection room and watched it, and had the best time ever, talking while the movie was running, and translating all of the sequences of Mr. Kurasawa’s movie into the western motif. So in the projection room we made a western of THE SEVEN SAMAURI. Then we hit on a marvelous writer, Walter Newman, who did the basic script of THE MAGNIFICENT 7.
PETE HAMMOND: I notice Walter Newman is not listed on the posters on the lobby. Was he a blacklisted writer at that time?
WALTER MIRISCH: No, he was not a blacklisted writer. Don’t let that get around. However, Walter was very stubborn. While we were shooting the picture, we needed some work done while we were down in Mexico. I asked Walter to come down, and for one reason or another, he couldn’t come. I think the Writer’s Guild then had an arbitration, and decided the writer we had brought down had made a significant contribution, and should receive some kind of a shared credit. Walter resented that; he was angry at his Guild, not at John or I, and he said that if they didn’t give him sole credit, he didn’t want anything. It was a very serious career mistake that Walter, who was a wonderful writer, made. And it was Bill Roberts who did the work down in Mexico, and helped us field the suggestions that came from our always cooperative cast, all of whom wanted to enlarge their roles. That’s how that came about.
PETE HAMMOND: Actually I think James Coburn was one member of the cast who liked not having many lines in the film. Does he have eleven lines?
James Coburn, Horst Bucholtz
WALTER MIRISCH: I never counted them. However, he plays this laconic character. I shall never forget, one day Walter Newman came in to my office and said, I’ve got to ask you about something that I’ve been noodling with, and can’t make up my mind. If two men faced one another, and one man had a gun and the other had a knife, and they both fired at the same time, which would arrive first? I said, no question about it, the bullet would. He said, I was thinking about having the knife-thrower do it. I said that’s a great idea; and that’s how that got into the movie. It was showmanship, and Jim was the perfect one to execute it.
PETE HAMMOND: Talk about the rest of the cast, because Steve McQueen was starring in a television series, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, at the time.
WALTER MIRISCH: The casting of THE MAGNIFICENT 7 was kind of a fun exercise for John Sturges and myself. Because we had these wonderful roles to fill. And I’d try and get all of my favorite actors in, and John would try and get his. That’s how Jim Coburn got in, because I had been looking for a really good Jim Coburn role since WICHITA TOWN. John Sturges had made a movie for MGM with Frank Sinatra called NEVER SO FEW. And he kept telling me he had this kid in it, and the kid is marvelous, and we’ve got to find a part for the kid. And the kid, of course, was Steve McQueen.
PETE HAMMOND: Charles Bronson?
WALTER MIRISCH: Charlie Bronson I had known for a long time, and the O’Reilley part just cried out for Bronson. I think the most exciting piece of casting comes with the story. A couple of years ago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York honored me. At the event they asked Eli Wallach to come and speak about me. I hadn’t seen Eli a lot in recent years; he always lived in New York, and we didn’t run across one another too often. Eli got up and said, I think I owe my whole career to Walter Mirisch. Well, I perked up. I didn’t know why he felt that way, but I was interested, as I hope you all are. And Eli said, before I met Walter Mirisch, I was just another Jewish actor in New York. After I met him, I became a Mexican bandit for life!
PETE HAMMOND: It was Sturges’ idea?
WALTER MIRISCH: It was John’s idea. And it was brilliant. I said, are you crazy? He said no, no, think, and we looked at some film, and then I met him, and it came together. John and I had a wonderful relationship. As a matter of fact I am indebted to him for the title of my book. He had called me once, while I was writing it. He was retired by then. He loved boats, and he was down in Mexico someplace, on his boat. He called me and said, Walter, I’ve been asked to do an article about THE GREAT ESCAPE. And I don’t really remember some things that I wanted to write about. And I was wondering if you still have a copy of the script? I said John; I can’t believe you don’t have a copy of the script: this is one of the best movies of your whole life. He said, what are you talking about? I thought we were just making movies, not history. So that resonated with me, and I used that as the title.
PETE HAMMOND: You really didn’t think you were making history when you were making all these movies?
WALTER MIRISCH: No – I was trying to make a living.
PETE HAMMOND: They say music is the soundtrack of your life; your movies are the soundtrack of my life, from SOME LIKE IT HOT to WEST SIDE STORY. WEST SIDE STORY and THE APARTMENT were back to back Best Picture winners. Billy Wilder, you did nine films with him.
WALTER MIRISCH: Actually he worked for nobody else during the period of seventeen years when we were together. However, the important thing in my career was not just making those movies with Billy Wilder; what was more important was having a thousand lunches with him. He was the most interesting, stimulating, brilliant man.
KCET CEO Michael Riley, Mirisch, KCET COO Mary Mazur
PETE HAMMOND: Can I say how old you are? Because you’re still working every day, going to the office, developing movies. And you’re 93 years old.
WALTER MIRISCH: I have done nothing to deserve that. It’s probably genetic.
PETE HAMMOND: I heard you just had a Hallmark movie done.
WALTER MIRISCH: Yes, they just reran it a couple of weeks ago.
PETE HAMMOND: And another PINK PANTHER?
WALTER MIRISCH: Yes, I’m working on the script of that for MGM now. It’s going to be a combination of live action and animation. It’s really challenging and something new, and I’m very excited about it.
PETE HAMMOND: Do you have any favorites among your films?
WALTER MIRISCH: How many children do you have? Do you have a personal favorite? If you have, you won’t tell.
PETE HAMMOND: Your films really hold up. They live on.
WALTER MIRISCH: That’s what classic movies are, I guess. And that’s the exciting thing about living to this ripe old age. You get to see how succeeding generations react to your films, and to the things you wanted to say to your audiences. And it’s particularly true to WEST SIDE STORY, and the message of WEST SIDE STORY. That message needs to be repeated again and again, because we still haven’t learned our lesson. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, in which attacked the racial issue right in the heart of the civil rights revolution, I hoped would make a real contribution to better understanding, and tolerance. I like to think that it made some kind of contribution, but it didn’t solve it; the problem is still with us. Motion pictures, besides entertaining, can be tremendously important in educating people. Because it’s a way to make people understand issues in a way that’s easy to accept. And hopefully they will come away from it feeling much more sympathetic to that black detective who is the protagonist.
PETE HAMMOND: Now THE MAGNIFICENT 7 lives on; you made three sequels yourself to this movie.
WALTER MIRISCH: Yes, the first one, Yul Brynner appeared in, RETURN OF THE 7. Then other people played him. And over the years we used the franchise a number of times.
PETE HAMMOND: The TV series.
WALTER MIRISCH: And it is now being remade. We’re shooting it now, down in Louisiana. It stars Denzel Washington, who plays the part that Yul Brynner played. Chris Pratt, who plays the lead in JURASSIC WORLD. And Ethan Hawk. It’s got a wonderful cast.
PETE HAMMOND: And you’re going to have an executive producer credit on it. Is it going to have any of that iconic theme by Elmer Bernstein, one of the most famous pieces of music in movie history?
WALTER MIRISCH: It was not nominated. Actually it was nominated in one of the sequels; but not in the original. It just goes to show you that the Academy Awards are not perfect. (Note: Elmer Bernstein’s scores for MAGNIFICENT 7 and RETURN OF THE 7 were both Oscar-nominated, and both lost)
Mirisch and Hammond admiring a huge poster
PETE HAMMOND: This coming from a man who used to be president of the Academy.
WALTER MIRISCH: It is a magnificent piece of music, and it developed its own life. It became the theme of the Marlboro cigarette company, and they played it for years and years and years.
JAMES HORNER COMPOSED ‘MAGNIFICENT 7’ REMAKE’S SCORE BEFORE HIS DEATH!
And on the heels of our MAGNIFICENT 7 story, a remarkable surprise! While composer James Horner recently died in a private plane crash, we will hear more of his music. During an NPR interview, MAGNIFICENT 7 remake director Antoine Fuqua revealed that Horner, who also scored Fuqua’s just-released SOUTHPAW, surprised him with a completed score for MAGNIFICENT 7 based on the screenplay – currently shooting. For the complete interview, go
SPENT SUNDAY WITH BRUCE BOXLEITNER!
watching the GUNSMOKE and HOW THE WEST WAS WON star pose for photographer/action director Steve Carver (LONE WOLF MCQUADE, BIG BAD MAMA). For his upcoming photography book, UNSUNG HEROES & VILLAINS OF THE SILVER SCREEN, Carver uses 19th Century photo techniques, and he’s been taking these portraits of stars and characters actors for 22 years! There aren’t a lot of smiles in them, either: just like the old tintype days, they have to pose motionless for 8 seconds. Try it! The whole story, and wonderful portraits, and my interview with Bruce, coming soon to the Round-up!
I’M THE ‘WRITER’S BLOCK’ GUEST THURSDAY NIGHT!
Jim Bell, Bobbi Jean Bell & me
On Thursday, July 30th at 8 pm, I’ll be joining hosts Jim Christina and Bobbi Jean Bell for an hour of talk about writing and up-coming Westerns on their weekly show, Writer’s Block, on L.A.Talk Radio. You can listen live (at ‘Listen Live 2’) HERE. You can call in live at 818-602-4929. And if you miss the live broadcast, or want to catch up on earlier shows, you can find podcasts of them HERE .
SEE ‘DON RICARDO RETURNS’ FRIDAY NIGHT AT ANDRES PICO ADOBE!
The Andres Pico Adobe Museum is a jewel in the San Fernando Valley. The headquarters of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, built in 1853, it is the second oldest home in Los Angeles. On Friday night, July 31st, at 8 pm, they will screen the 1946 swashbuckler DON RICARDO RETURNS, starring Fred Coby and Lita Baron (a.k.a. Isabelita). This rarely seen (I’ve never seen it) PRC Studios Spanish adventure story was filmed in part at the Pico Adobe itself, so seeing it there should be particular fun. The story is by Johnston McCulley, the creator of Zorro. The screenplay is co-written by Jack DeWitt, who would later gain fame for scripting A MAN CALLED HORSE, and Renault Duncan, pen-name for the screen’s Cisco Kid, Duncan Renaldo! The address is 10940 Sepulveda Ave., Mission Hills 91346. Their phone is 818-365-7810. Their website is www.sfvhs.com.
The movie is free, the gates open at 7 pm, so you can come early, and bring snacks or a picnic dinner. If you’ve never visited the Adobe before, here’s a perfect opportunity.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Have a great week – or what’s left of the week!
All Original Contents Copyright July 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved