With the disappointing grosses for COWBOYS & ALIENS, and the abrupt halt on production of Disney’s THE LONE RANGER, there’s been, understandably, a great deal of hand-wringing over whether we’re hearing the death-knell for the current western revival. I don’t think so. When a New York Magazine blog posed the question, based on the public response to COWBOYS & ALIENS, whether the western was dead, a frequent response was, “Huh? Was that supposed to be a western?” Just to keep things in perspective, C&A, as of Thursday, has grossed a very respectable $92,000,000. This is only a disappointment if you’re dumb enough to spend $230,000,000 making the movie.
Having learned that the plot of THE LONE RANGER involved the masked rider of the plains doing battle with werewolves, I can’t be too upset that Disney has decided to rethink their approach, and try to bring the budget down from a high of $285,000,000. Maybe the industry is learning the lesson they should have gotten from JONAH HEX, that scifi and horror elements rarely mix well with western stories.
Granted, no one lost any money on the very good CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, or the very bad BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA and JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER -- because no one spent any money on them. We’ll have to wait and see how ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER does with its $70,000,000 outlay. As a Paramount Pictures insider put it to me, it’s a movie that should be made. But it should be made by The Asylum for $250,000. (Incidentally, last year The Asylum made the very watchable western 6 GUNS, and I’ve been bugging them ever since to do 7 GUNS.)
But the good news is that there are a lot of good projects in the pipeline, for big-screen and small!
‘YELLOW ROCK’ EDITING LOCKED
Lenore Andriel, who co-wrote, co-produced and stars with Michael Biehn and James Russo in this tale of greed and deceit, tells me, “The picture is now ‘locked’. It’s in sound editing, sound design, sound fx at Monkeyland Audio. The score is being composed by Randy Miller, an incredible award winning composer.” You can hear an impressive example of his music when you visit the YELLOW ROCK site.
“We've added pickup shots that Daniel Veluzat was our 2nd Unit Director for, which really add to the levels of tension, production value, and clarity to the film. He did an amazing job, as did the actors, James Russo and Peter Sherayko, and our wonderful crew in the 110 degree heat!” To learn more, visit the YELLOW ROCK website HERE. For Round-up articles on the filming of YELLOW ROCK, read part one HERE, part two HERE.
‘COWBOYS & INDIANS’ READY TO GO TO MARKET
The third feature, and first Western by brother co-writers and co-directors Aaron Burk and Tyler Burk, was shot at the Whitehorse Movie Ranch in the Mojave Desert, and as you can see by the trailer, there’s plenty of action. Aaron tells me, “Our sales agent is currently shopping it around for domestic sales. And we’ll probably be going to AFM (the American Film Market) to sell it internationally.”
I’ll soon have an extensive interview with the Burk brothers in the Round-up, but in the meantime, you can learn more about COWBOYS & INDIANS at their website HERE.
‘THE FIRST RIDE OF WYATT EARP’ NEARS COMPLETION
Toplining Val Kilmer as Earp, THE FIRST RIDE is based on the true story of the murder that brought together the Earp brothers along with Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Charlie Bassett and Bill Tilghman. From ARO ENTERTAINMENT, the cast also includes Trace Adkins, Diana DeGarmo, Shawn Roberts as a young Wyatt, Levi Fiehler, Matt Dallas, Scott Whyte, Wilson Bethel and Daniel Booko. It’s directed by Michael Feifer from a screenplay by Darren Benjamin Shepherd. When I asked producer Jeffrey Schenck how post-production was going, he told me, “We’re almost there. Check with me next month.”
To read the Round-up’s two-part coverage on the shooting on FIRST RIDE, go HERE and HERE.
‘MORGAN KANE: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS’, BEGINS
The folks at WR Films continue to keep development of the Morgan Kane franchise, based on the best-selling Norwegian western series, shrouded in mystery. What I can tell you is that they’ve acquired the right to all 83 of Louis Masterson’s novels, and are planning to start with a trilogy of films, the first, MORGAN KANE: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, based on two of the books, EL GRINGO and EL GRINGO’S REVENGE. I understand that a first draft was delivered the first week in August, but they’re playing it so cagey that I still haven’t found out the screenwriter’s name. I’ll tell you more when I know more, but in the meantime, you can read about my visit to their set, for the shooting of e-book covers, HERE.
TARANTINO’S ‘DJANGO UNCHAINED’ TO ROLL IN AUTUMN
Aiming for a Christmas 2012 release, the long-rumored Quentin Tarantino ‘spaghetti southern’ is set to roll shortly in Louisiana. With Jamie Foxx as the title character, a freed slave turned bounty-hunter under the tutelage of dentist Christoph Waltz, the film boasts a striking supporting cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and most recently Kevin Costner, as the sadistic trainer of ‘Mandingo’ fighters at a plantation/brothel known as Candyland. Also rumored to be involved are Treat Williams and Franco Nero, cinema’s original Django.
TONY SCOTT IN TALKS WITH WARNERS TO REMAKE ‘THE WILD BUNCH’
‘AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES’ TO STARZ
Producer Jeffrey Schenck tells me AMERICAN BANDITS will premiere on the STARZ network on September 11th. Written and directed by Fred Olen Ray, it’s the story of what happens when the brothers must split up until the wounded Jesse heals. It stars Peter Fonda, Tim Abel and Jeffrey Combs. At the recent B-MOVIE CELEBRATION, Fred won two Golden Cobs, for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, and Jeffrey Combs won for Best Lead Actor. To read my review, go HERE. To read my interview with Fred Olen Ray, go HERE.
And that's not all! On Wednesday I hope to be on the set of a new Western, GANG OF ROSES II!
HIGH HOPES FOR ‘SHADOW HILLS’
The pilot for the series about a former buffalo soldier-turned horse breeder in an ethnically mixed town in the Oklahoma Territory is taking shape in the cutting room. Executive Producer Scott Steel tells me, “Things are great! We are in Post and editing. After seeing some of the footage, we really feel we have something special, and know that your readers are really going to love SHADOW HILLS when they see it!”
Lamont Clayton, who wrote, produced, and stars in the show, agrees. “It looks amazing. John Amos (who plays the town’s blacksmith) said he had the same feeling he had about ROOTS that he has for SHADOW HILLS. He and I really think we have something here!” To read my article about the shoot, go HERE.
AMC’S ‘HELL ON WHEEL’S GETS PLAYDATE!
AMC’s long-anticipated Western series, centered on the building of the trans-continental railroad, will premiere on Sunday, November 6th, following an episode of their highly successful THE WALKING DEAD.
Starring Anson Mount, Colm Meany, Wes Studi, and Common, it follows Mount’s character, a former Confederate soldier out to avenge his wife’s death. The title refers to the traveling saloons, brothels and gambling dens that moved on wheels to follow the track-layers -- Historian Stephen Ambrose wrote a wonderful book on the subject by the same title.
HISTORY CHANNEL’S ‘HATFIELDS AND McCOYS – AN AMERICAN VENDETTA
The History Channel will produce it’s first dramatic, non-documentary miniseries, telling the true story of America’s most deadly blood-feud. Kevin Costner will star as Devil Anse Hatfield, and Bill Paxton will star as Randall McCoy. Kevin Reynolds, who directed RED DAWN, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, and previously directed Costner in ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, will be at the helm. Writers are Rod Mann (DEADWOOD) and Ron Parker (BROKEN TRAIL).
TNT ORDERS ‘GATEWAY’ PILOT
TNT has given a cast-contingent order for a westerns series, GATEWAY, about a Colorado town in the 1880s. A lawman has been killed, and his three sons must step in. The script is by Exec Producer Bruce McKenna (BAND OF BROTHERS, THE PACIFIC), and Danny Cannon (CSI) will direct.
‘RECONSTRUCTION’ GOES FROM FX TO NBC
Developed for FX, RECONSTRUCTION has been shot as a pilot at NBC, directed by Peter Horton and written by three-time Emmy winner Joshua Brand (NORTHERN EXPOSURE, A YEAR IN THE LIFE). Set in Missouri after the Civil War, it’s the story of a war vet who settles in a town where he is greeted as its savior. It stars Martin Henderson (OFF THE MAP), Emma Bell and Rachel Lefevre.
AND IN PRINT:
THE TRADITIONAL WEST
A brand new anthology of traditional western stories from The Western Fictioneers, the only writers’ organization devoted solely to traditional Western fiction, has been published in both e-book and print version. The authors include Matthew P. Mayo, Robert J. Randisi, Dusty Richards, James Reasoner, Larry D. Sweazy, L.J. Washburn, Jackson Lowry, Larry Jay Martin, Kerry Newcomb, and C. Courtney Joyner, who has lectured on how to break into Western print (see HERE).
THE NOT SO TRADITIONAL WEST
Michael Druxman, screenwriter of the excellent CHEYENNE WARRIOR (see my review and interview HERE;), has published a new book of short stories entitled DRACULA MEETS JACK THE RIPPER & Other Revisionist Histories. The story entitled THE OLD COOT is about Jesse James.
EXCELLENT ‘GATHERING REMNANTS’ ON THE DOC CHANNEL
Though you might not know by the title, GATHERING REMNANTS is a documentary about cattle-driving cowboys. What they have to say about their way of life is, by turns, fascinating and heartbreaking. Much of it is startlingly beautiful. It’s showing twice on Thursday, August 25th on the Documentary Channel, locally at 6:30 p.m., and again at 9:30 p.m., but systems vary, so check your listings.
CELEBRATE ROY ROGERS’ 100TH BIRTHDAY AT THE DOUBLE R BAR RANCH!
Head to Victorville on Saturday, August 27th, for a celebration of the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West! Among those taking part in the festivities will be Roy’s daughter Mimi Rogers and grand-daughter Julie Ashley Pemilla, actors Dick Jones, Ty Hardin, Hugh O’Brien, Andrew Prine, Bo Hopkins, Dan Haggerty, Donna Martell, Darby Hinton and Beverly Washburn, and authors Julia Ann Ream and Charlie LeSueur. For all the particulars, go HERE.
TCM FANATIC - WESTERN NOW ONLINE!
And speaking of TCM, have I mentioned that the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here?
THE AUTRY NATIONAL CENTER
Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.
HOLLYWOOD HERITAGE MUSEUM
Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.
WELLS FARGO HISTORY MUSEUM
This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.
FREE WESTERNS ON YOUR COMPUTER AT HULU
A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.
The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.
TV LAND - BONANZA and GUNSMOKE
Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.
NEED YOUR BLACK & WHITE TV FIX?
Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.
RFD-TV has begun airing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW on Sundays at 9:00 a.m., with repeats the following Thursday and Saturday.
Also, AMC has started showing two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN on Saturday mornings.
Just as I was about to shut down, I spotted an interesting email from Nikke Finke's DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD. Disney's Rich Ross attended D23, a sort of Disney-only Comic-con this weekend, and in an interview said he was eager to try again with THE LONE RANGER. He said he was eager to work with everyone involved, and he named them all...except director Gore Verbinski.
All Contents Copyright August 2011 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved