Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Shot in Texas: '12 Mighty Orphans' first up for new film company
By Joe O'Connell Special Contributor
The Dallas Morning News
@joemoconnell on Twitter
Todd Allen hopes Fort Worth’s Mighty Mites are the start of something big for the Texas film scene.
Allen, an Austin native who has worked for decades as an actor, has formed Presidio Pictures. The company plans to first shoot 12 Mighty Orphans, an adaptation of Jim Dent’s true story of the Masonic Home of Fort Worth’s Depression-era Mighty Mites football team.
Preproduction for a spring Fort Worth shoot would start a string of Texas-made Presidio features with budgets ranging from $8 million to $30 million.
“The financing for most independent films is cobbled together with duct tape,” said Allen, who is raising funds in Texas for not just the cost of film production but also much of the distribution. “I think [Presidio] will have a substantial impact on the industry here. If it works, it’ll put a lot of people to work.”
Robert Duvall , Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Aaron Eckhart and Andy Garcia are already attached to a planned second Presidio feature, The Last Full Measure, a true story of a father’s efforts to honor his son killed during the Vietnam War.
Presidio — with former Sundance Institute chairman, Orion Pictures director and Imagine Entertainment chairman Jack Crosby on its board — could prove a shot in the arm for the Texas film industry as major films choose locations offering larger financial incentives. Jerry Bruckheimer told The Hollywood Reporter this week that his revived The Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp will shoot in New Mexico and possibly Louisiana because of those states’ heftier incentives. Texas had been looked at as the movie’s shooting location.
“My fear is it’s going to be a hokey cartoon,” Allen said of The Lone Ranger. “It’s going to cost $200 million and, if it doesn’t make its money back, it’s going to be another nail in the coffin of the genre.” (Bruckheimer says it will cost $215 million to be exact, trimmed back from $260 million.)
Allen knows the Western genre well, having acted in such films as Wyatt Earp and Silverado. “I can’t think of a single actor I’ve met who didn’t want to do a Western,” he said. “I think that’s where my mojo is at.”
Thus he’s also planning Rio Grande, a feature adaptation of Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson’s memoir co-written by David Marion Wilkinson; a television miniseries of Wilkinson’s early-Texas novel Not Between Brothers made in partnership with Kevin Costner; and the big-screen film noir Western The Deserters based on Luke Short’s novel.
Allen got his start when he happened upon the ranch set of Honeysuckle Rose (1980) in Johnson City and was mistaken for the ranch owner’s son. Director Jerry Schatzberg asked if he wanted to be an extra, and Allen caught the acting bug.
Throughout his career, Allen said he tried to stay out of his trailer and on the set figuring out the film business.
He moved back to Austin from L.A. with the expectation that acting would take a back seat to producing. But Quentin Tarantino, whom he met in a Los Angeles acting class 25 years ago, tapped him for a role in Django Unchained, a Western about slave traders featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell.
“When I first talked to Quentin he said he wanted to shoot in Texas,” Allen said.
But his acting gig starts in February in Louisiana, the land of attractive film incentives.