AUTRY & INSP CELEBRATE ‘THE VIRGINIAN’S’ 50THANNIVERSARY!
On Saturday, September 22nd, the Autry will mark the landmark television series’ half century with a day and night of activities. Simultaneously, the INSP network will present a marathon of episodes, to welcome the series to its regular Saddle-Up Saturday programming. The series was a landmark for many reasons. The first non-anthology series to run 90 minutes, it was essentially a whole movie every week.
Happily, many of the stars of the series will be attending the Autry event, including James Drury, who played the title character of The Virginian (his character had no other name), in all 249 episodes. Also attending will be Clu Gulager (Emmett Ryker), Randy Boone (Randy Benton), Gary Clarke (Steve Hill), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Diane Roter (Jennifer Sommers), Roberta Shore (Betsy Garth), and Don Quine (Stacey Grainger).
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., THE VIRGINIAN stars will be signing autographs in the lobby (I assume on a rotating schedule, and they charge for this).
There will be screenings of episodes in the Wells Fargo Theatre, and at 1 p.m., the stars will take part in a panel discussion, moderated by the Western Clippings website author Boyd Magers.
From 2 to 4 in the Autry Cafe, Stuart Nisbet, the bartender in the series, will present ‘Saloon Stories From Bart the Bartender.’
And from 5 to 9 p.m. in the
Heritage Court there will be a chuck-wagon dinner with the cast (this even is sold out). To learn more about the event at the Autry, go HERE.
INSP will begin their marathon at ten a.m. western time, with THE EXECUTIONERS, the first episode of the first season.
Incidentally, THE VIRGINIAN is, of course, based on the novel by Owen Wister, published in 1902, and which has been filmed at least five times, starting with Cecil B. DeMille’s 1914 film, starring Dustin Farnum. It was filmed again in 1923 starring Kenneth Harlan, and the first talkie version was in 1929, with Victor Fleming directing star Gary Cooper. It was done again in 1946, starring Joel McCrea, and a TV movie version, starring Bill Pullman, in 2000.
If you’ve only seen the series, you’d be surprised to read the novel, and learn that Trampas, Doug McClure’s character, and close pal of the Virginian, is his deadly enemy in all of the other versions, my favorite being Brian Donleavy opposite Joel McCrea. And if you read the book, then watch HIGH NOON, also with Gary Cooper, you’ll be struck by the fact that, despite its claims of being based on the story THE TIN STAR, the movie is largely plagiarized from the last few chapters of THE VIRGINIAN.
SPEAKING FOR THE DEAD (MEN – THE SERIES) – An interview with director Royston Innes
To see the DEAD MEN: THE SERIES TRAILER, go HERE.
On Wednesday, September 26th, the first two episodes of a new Western web series will premiere on the internet. It’s entitled DEAD MEN – THE SERIES, and if you click on the link above, and watch the trailer, you will have seen as much as I have. But while 2 ½ minutes can’t tell you everything, it can tell you this: it looks like a real movie. Unlike most of the made-for-the-web western and pseudo western programming I’ve seen, it isn’t green-screened, it isn’t CGI’d, and it doesn’t have any zombies. It’s clearly shot on real locations, with professional camerawork and costuming and art direction.
It’s the brain-child of a pair of men, Australian co-creator and director Royston Innes, and Texan Iraqi War vet co-creator, producer and co-star Ric Maddox. It’s the story of a man named Roy Struthers and his family, a Civil War and Indian Wars veteran who left the battlefield owning precious little until a small piece of land in the
When I spoke to director Royston Innes, he told me how the project came to be, and what he and Ric Maddox envision for its future.
ROYSTON: The time is right for westerns, although my next project is a film noir. For me, it’s not so much about the Western; it’s more what’s behind it. I go to films these days, and there’s just no real men. I’m Australian, so you grow up with a certain ruggedness. Every child has moments when you come home from a fight, and you’ve gotten mangled. And your dad says, “Well, you did good.” There’s something a little tougher. But you find with so many actors these days, they come out to
, and they get ‘into the program.’ And slowly but surely they become part off the machine, and they lose what was so interesting about them. Know what I mean? L.A.
HENRY: Yes, it sorts of vacuums the personality out of them.
R: Yes it does. And I believe it’s because they think there is something further ahead of them, almost like an idea of who they should be. It’s all created by fear. So when we decided to go to
to shoot, it was really important to me to get real cowboys. And my strength, because in my youth I was very devoted to acting, and I studied with the very best in the world – I spent two years studying with Mike Nichols. I went to the Arizona Academy of Dramatic Arts in , and I sought out the best teachers around. I was very happy to finish it at the time I came out to New York , I quit. What I really like to do is (work with), I wouldn’t say unknown actors, but with people who just aren’t actors. But what they are is they’re character. For example, the gentleman who plays Virgil (friend of Roy Struthers), Brent Rock, you would have seen him in the trailer – L.A.
H: He reminded me of a younger Sam Elliot.
R: He is; he’s got the presence -- he’s on-screen, and he electrifies. And he’s a real cowboy, a real horseman who lives in
. He’s on his horse every day; he does it for a living. That’s who I want in my films: real men. Because of the, as you say, the vacuum of personality that happens, you have to go and search these people out. And I want to give them the opportunity. Because if you cast right, and they trust in you, and they believe in you, and I do my job, you’re going to get a better performance than any actor could give you. Tombstone, Arizona
H: That’s very interesting, that you’ve devoted so much time to your study of acting, and concluded that you don’t need professional actors.
R: Well, yes and no. It takes time. I have another picture I’m doing next year, a semi-western very similar to LEGENDS OF THE FALL, shooting in
H: I understand you grew up, in
R: I was obsessed with film. I’d watch three movies a day, every day. Obviously you had to go to school, but every waking moment I could, I watched. I was a bit of a shut-in child, really, I was very anti-social. I’d go to the video store each and every day, and in the ten-minute walk it took me, I’d audio-taped movies, and I listened to them on my Walkman. They’d become such a huge part of my life that even when I wasn’t watching them, I was listening to them. SCENT OF A WOMAN had a huge impact on me. Because it had a standard first act. And you think you know where it’s going, then suddenly they pack for
H: Any particular western filmmakers have an impact on you?
R: You know who had a big impact on me? It was about ten seconds, in a film by Jim Jarmusch called DEAD MAN. It’s a fantastic film; it’s one where you can almost sense the sweat and the grime. There’s a scene when he’s coming into town, and it’s his point of view, what he’s seeing through the carriage door. And it’s so dangerous, it almost feels unlivable, and pioneering, and there are no rules. That moment had a massive impact on me. Is there a western director who’s had a massive impact on me? No. It’s more about authenticity, and celebrating the real man.
H: How did you and Ric Maddox get together?
R: I directed Ric in a play, here in
. Ric had been in the armed forces in Los Angeles Iraq, and this was a play about , and I chose him specifically and another fellow who had just come back, and they were amazing. Ric and I struck up a friendship, and we were talking one day about business, and what films he’d seen recently. And gotten a bit nostalgic about certain actors, like the Yul Brynners, the John Waynes, and where have these men gone? We live in an amazing time where there’s no excuse now for anyone not to pick up a camera and create something. There’s so much available. So on that idea, of the real man, and there’s no better genre (for that) than the western, we started to create something. We kind of inspired each other, and one would write, wouldn’t it be great if this would happen? And it turned into a series that I’m really proud of. Each episode is ended with a little twist. Iraq
H: Did you always see DEAD MEN as a web series, or did you see it as a feature, and figure out how to break it down?
R: I was enticed to the web because it was still underground. It still hadn’t laid its roots yet. I wanted to come along and shock them. I really think that this is going to be one of the premiere quality pieces on the web. We put a lot of effort and a lot of energy and a lot of money to make it that good, so it could be real entertainment, and it’s for the web. Eventually the web and web series are going to be the norm, and people will get most of their content there, just right now people don’t know how that’s going to happen. And if I could say that DEAD MEN contributed to that, I’d be very very happy.
H: How long is each episode?
R: From seven to ten and a half minutes. We’re premièring the first two episodes on Wednesday, September 26th. I’m not going to give anything away, but the first episode sets up where things are going, and I just wanted to give people a little bit of a taste of the speed and the action that they can expect with episodes.
It has a genuine viciousness to it. There’s a lot of knife fights, and a lot of spilled blood. Eventually we’re going to get this done in all the different languages, so people can enjoy it. Westerns are huge in Asia and
H: I’m very aware of that because the Round-up is read everywhere around the globe.
R: Well, tell them that they can expect it to be translated into German, French, Japanese and hopefully Cantonese as well.
H: I’ve heard that you’re planning to do five seasons of DEAD MEN.
R: Yeah. It’s funny, we’re getting a lot of heat from this trailer, and because it’s taking web series where they haven’t been before; we’re getting a lot of heat from distributors who want to turn it into something else, something bigger. Maybe a TV show. I’m going to all these meetings.
H: You wouldn’t object to that, would you?
R: (laughs) Are you kidding? Given a bigger budget, this could be amazing. We already have episodes through season two planned out, and it’s going to take it to a different level – I wish that I could tell you what’s going to happen. We have it all planned out – guaranteed five seasons. And if TV picked it up I’d be so happy! I’m particularly a fan of TV shows where it doesn’t stay in the typical three or four locations. Almost like an on-going movie.
H: Speaking of locations, how did you like shooting in
R: Loved it. It’s my people. I love communities. I moved from
H: I’ve been talking to some actors in the new LONE RANGER movie, and they had a crash course, and they absolutely loved it.
R: Going back to
Arizona, Ric had shot a film there before, called MATTY, and when he told me about the people in , it just felt right. We made a half dozen trips up there, scouting locations, and our budget, while big for a web series, is rather small. And when people understood what we were trying to do, for the western, they opened up their homes to us; they opened up their land to us. Amazing group of people called the Bell Boys, they have a livestock company, and they helped us with all the horses and the cattle, for next to nothing. Amazing individuals –friendships that I will keep. Couldn’t find a better place to shoot than Arizona – now I’ve just got to get those damned tax credits. Arizona
(We talked a bit about the perils of the tax credit money that states provide to encourage filming, particularly that director Daniel Adams is in prison for inflating his expenses to get bigger tax credits – read last week’s BIG VALLEY article for details.)
R: I grew up with strong principles, and I was taught to hold on to your principles at all costs. And it’s a daily struggle. Part of it is believing in a higher force, and that you’re answerable. That’s one thing I loved about
H: How long a shoot was it?
R: It was a decent one; it was close to a month. (laughs) And it was a tough one, Henry. Low-budget; everyone doing everything. Putting the scarves in the ice water, and putting it around my camera-operator’s neck so he doesn’t pass out. We were there in June, We’d put ourselves in a position where we had to come back for something, and our locations were rough. We had a thirty-minute four-by-four ride down to these locations. Someone put a porta-loo down there, and that was it. If the car went down, you were in trouble! But again, no place better to get real vista shots. We didn’t have all those luxuries, and at lunchtime we didn’t even always have shade. But we came together as a unit, and it was a helluvah experience for an up-and-coming director like myself.
H: Who is your cinematographer?
R: I actually had two D.P.s. Bruce Logan, who shot the original TRON, and was involved with the original STAR WARS and 2001. And Paul Hudson, he has a place called Lizardland Studios in
Director Innes, D.P. Hudson
H: It’s been so long since I talked to anyone who actually shot film.
R: I’d love to shoot film. There’s just a couple of things; when I’d be taking takes, in the back of my mind I’d be thinking of the cost. I want to get the best performance, the best take, and sometimes that takes ten or fifteen takes.
H: As you said, there’s really no excuse to not go out and make a movie, now that the changes in technology have brought the prices down.
R: There’s no excuse not to be the master of your own creation right now. If you’re not creating your own reality right now, you’re being a little lazy, to be blunt.
H: What do you think of recent westerns?
R: TRUE GRIT was wonderful – I’m a huge fan of the Coen brothers. And they’re writing – they’re in my top five. They have an amazing D.P. in Roger Deakins, who gets them exactly what they want, and they take care of the rest. 3:10 TO
H: And as you say, there are so few actors that you can take seriously as a man.
R: And that’s why there are so many cuts. Because the camera doesn’t lie. And if you’re comfortable in your own skin, and comfortable as the man that you are, the camera can stay on you for that much longer. We need to be on the lookout for more of those kinds of actors.
To learn more about DEAD MEN: THE SERIES, visit their website HERE.
There’s a saying among magicians that if you know a hundred ways to control a selected card, but only one way to produce it, you know one card trick; but if you only know one way to control a card, but a hundred ways to produce it, you know a hundred tricks.
In some ways screenwriting – in fact any kind of writing – is like performing magic. While there are a limited number of plots, there are infinite ways to tell them. As Alexander Pope said, you should write, “…what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”
Michael B. Druxman proved his abilities as a story-teller with his screenplay to CHEYENNE WARRIOR (1994), which I have described here as not only the best micro-budget western I’ve ever seen, but also one of the best Westerns of the last twenty years. The movie, directed by Mark Griffiths, is one of the most successful that Roger Corman has ever produced. It’s combination of solid western qualities, plotting and believable romance has generated a considerable international following and fan base.
Not surprisingly, Druxman immediately set to work plotting the sequel. Unfortunately, Corman, who owned the characters in the story, was not convinced a sequel was warranted. When Corman couldn’t be convinced, Druxman rewrote the sequel to make the characters similar, but not the same, with an eye towards making it with the same leads, Pato Hoffman and Kelly Preston. Sadly this did not produce a movie, but it did produce a very fine script, entitled SARAH GOLDENHAIR. Thinking it some of his finest work, Druxman took the very unusual step of publishing this unfilmed screenplay.
Well, no follow-up to CHEYENNE WARRIOR has happened yet, but Michael Druxman has revealed the further machinations involved in the attempt, with the publishing of his new book, CHEYENNE WARRIOR II / HAWK. You see, Roger Corman eventually came around and hired Druxman to write a sequel after all, and he wrote CHEYENNE WARRIOR II. Upon reading it, Corman felt certain changes were necessary, in order to give the film a stronger female lead – ironic considering he had grave doubts about the original CHEYENNE WARRIOR because Kelly Preston’s part was so prominent.
The second draft became HAWK, and as Corman was getting ready to put it into production, Canadian tax-shelter problems stalled and eventually killed the project. Druxman has printed both drafts of the screenplay in one volume, providing readers, and especially writers, with the rare opportunity to compare different versions of what is substantially the same story.
The similarities are obvious: both versions, as well as SARAH GOLDEN HAIR, revolve around the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. Many of the characters are the same. The differences are often more subtle: a white man is caught by
poaching rabbits on their land. In one version, the action is seen from the white man’s perspective; in the other, from the Indians’. A Scandinavian couple are father and daughter in one version, and husband and wife in the other. Then there are the major changes: Rose, a ‘Calamity Jane’ sort of character, is one of the two leads in one version, and doesn’t exist in the other. Cheyenne
CHEYENNE WARRIOR II / HAWK is a terrific read, and one of them would make a terrific film (and one would make a good film). Michael Druxman’s character, Soars Like a Hawk, usually just called Hawk, was one of the great strengths of the original film, and he’s a great strength here, because he is a ‘noble’ Indian, but not of the incredibly stoic, humorless sort.
Over the years, I’ve always warned beginning screenwriters to make a script the absolute best that they can before showing it to a potential buyer, since it’s nearly impossible to get them to read another draft: you get one shot. Here you can compare two different versions of the same story, and see which you prefer. I have a strong opinion as to my favorite, but ironically, I believe the other version is the more commercial.
Reading CHEYENNE WARRIOR II / HAWK, whether you’re a fan of the original CHEYENNE WARRIOR, and wanted to know what happened to those characters, or whether you want to deepen your understanding of the screenwriting process by comparing the two different versions, offers a unique opportunity for the reader that should not be passed up. If you’d like to read my interview with Michael Druxman, and my review of CHEYENNE WARRIOR, go HERE. For my review of the SARAH GOLDEN HAIR screenplay, go HERE. To purchase CHEYENNE WARRIOR ll /HAWK, or any of his other published screenplays, contact Michael B. Druxman at firstname.lastname@example.org or PMB142, 6425 S. IH-35, Suite 150, Austin, Texas 78744.
Just found out that on Wednesday, September 19th(tomorrow) at the Egyptian Theatre in
, Kirk Douglas will be appearing before the movie, at 7:30. Details HERE. Hollywood
SEE ‘NOW THEY CALL HIM
’ ON THE BIG SCREEN! SACRAMENTO
If you’re going to be in Portland, Oregon on Sunday, September 23rd, run, don’t walk, to the Mission Theatre to see NOW THEY CALL HIM SACRAMENTO (1972). This rarely seen and quite amusing Spaghetti Western comedy is a fake ‘Trinity’ film, with
playing the Terence Hill role, and Fred Harrison as Bud Spenser. And Michael Forest , famous for STAR TREK, and various Spaghetti Westerns and Roger Corman movies, will attend! Also, Roger Browne, the English voice for Terence Hill, and former president of the E.L.D.A. (English Language Dubbers Association) will attend. To learn more, go HERE. To read my review of Michael Forest , and to contact video distributor Dorado Films, go HERE. SACRAMENTO
Okay, that’s gotta be it for this week’s Round-up! Sorry for delaying this until Tuesday night.
Next week I’ll tell you about a
you can attend, a partial staging of the RAMONA pageant at the very place where the book was written, and more! Cowboy Church
All Original Contents Copyright September 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved