Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Young actor joins Duvall in 'Night in Old Mexico'

Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) will play the grandson to Robert Duvall's grandpa in A Night in Old Mexico, the Bill Wittliff-penned film which we told you about two weeks ago. Latest reports confirm almost all of the filming will be in Brownsville (doubling for Mexico). At one point Austin was looking likely as a shooting location. It's a reteaming of Wittliff and Duvall, who wrote and starred respectively in the TV adaption of Larry McMurty's novel Lonesome Dove.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Malick's 'Red Wing' actually 'Marfa Lights' retooled?

UPDATE: No, Red Wing is not in fact Marfa Lights, I am told by a source very much in the know. The film just wrapped.

I told you here two weeks ago about the film Red Wing being shot in the North Texas town of Whitewright with film auteur Terrence Malick's stepson Will Wallace directing. But it took the trades finally reporting on the movie to clue me into the screenwriter behind the project: Kathleen Orillion.

What difference does that make? Well, Orillion was also the writer of Marfa Lights,  which producers Malick and Ed Pressman were pushing as the first film from Burnt Orange Productions, a for-profit project of the University of Texas that closed down in 2008. 

When Burnt Orange was set up in 2003, Malick worked with screenwriting students in UT's Michener program to adapt for the screen six works of fiction that had entered the public domain. Orillion adapted George Sand's book Le Petite Fadette into the family saga The Marfa Lights. The novel has a twist. Red Wing's plot has been described as having a twist. Both are small town love stories.

An article in the Dennison, Texas, newspaper seems to bear this out. (Perhaps they had read my blog?)

Oh, and additions to the cast I hadn't previously reported on include Joelle Carter and Fort Worth native Bill Paxton. They join Luke Perry and Frances Fisher.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rusell Crowe to direct Bill Hicks biopic?

That's the word here, though it's pretty early in the process for the film biography which may start shooting next year. It sounds like a personal project for Russell Crowe, with his pal penning the script. Can Aussie Crowe possibly properly depict the Bill Hicks story of a Houston teen who turned into a comedy cult legend? I'd love feedback on this one. At least Crowe has apparently nixed playing the lead role himself.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Frances Fisher joins Malick-written 'Red Wing'

My sources say Frances Fisher is joining Luke Perry in the cast of Will Wallace-directed Red Wing, which begins shooting in North Texas this next week. Casting notices say it will shoot in Dennison, but there is indication the set may actually be in Whitewright.

The script is from Terrence Malick, Kathleen Orillion. Wallace is best known as an actor and has appeared in his stepfather Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line and The New World. Ed Pressman, Malick's partner in Sunflower Films is producing the film.

Fisher went to high school in Orange, Texas.

Long-awaited "Night in Old Mexico' gets greenlight

UPDATE: A major casting call in Brownsville is making it clear the bulk of filming will be in this border town. (This blog post is even mentioned in the local paper.) And it appears Todd Allen's Presidio Pictures is involved in this one.

Bill Wittliff (Lonesome Dove) has been trying to get his script for A Night in Old Mexico before the cameras for so long--dating back to at least the '80s--it's become a legend. Actor Robert Duvall has been pining to star in the film for years. It looks like it's greenlit to finally happen this month in Texas.

The story is about an older man whose ranch is being foreclosed on. He heads with his grandson to Mexico, where they end up in a whorehouse.

It's set to shoot in both Austin and Brownsville (*though at least one reputable source has it entirely in Brownsville) with Spaniard Emilio Aragon directing.

In her book on the Austin film scene, Chainsaws, Slackers and Dykes, Alison Macor talks about how Clint Eastwood was approached in the '90s to star and the late Dennis Hopper was once tapped to direct with Duvall as the lead.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

'Boneboys' set to premiere at Fantasia Fest

Montreal's Fantasia Fest bills itsel as the world's largest genre film festival, and Central Texas-shot Boneboys will make its debut there on Aug. 4.

It's a big moment for co-directors Justin Meeks and Duane Graves, whom I first met as a duo with the release of their horror film The Wild Man of the Navidad. The Boneboys script is from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre co-scribe Kim Henkel, whose other life is as a college prof (Graves and Meeks were his students). That's probably why Henkel dubs it a modern take on Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.

I met Henkel on the Boneboys set in late 2010 and took these photos. He was easy going and seemed to very much enjoy being back living in the Austin area.

Janis Joplin biopic close to actually shooting

This just in from Deadline: Stage actress Nina Arianda will play Texas singing legend Janis Joplin in a film titles either Joplin or The Gospel According to Janis  that concentrates on the last six months of Joplin's life. Sean Durkin, director of the creepily interesting Martha Marcy May Marlene (I finally saw it this past weekend) will helm the Joplin pic, so it could be a very different approach.

It's supposed to start shooting early in 2013 at a budget of about $20 million. This is from the folks who have rights to 21 of her songs.

If I'm remembering right (I am), there were at one time dueling Joplin biopics in the works, so I will truly believe it when I see it. The producers were said to be looking at Philadelphia as a shooting location.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Altman almost ended career with a 'Hard Body' in Texas

UPDATE: Harrigan tells me they angled to have the film shot in Texas, but it still likely would have ended up filmed in California.

I'd heard the story before of how Robert Altman was set to do a fictional version of the documentary Hands on a Hard Body. The location was to be a car lot in either Hutto or Texas, just outside of Austin, Texas.

But now noted author Stephen Harrigan, who wrote the script for Altman, reveals in Slate that the cast would likely have included Meryl Steep, Hillary Swank, Billy Bob Thornton, Jack Black, Chris Rock, John C. Reilly, and Steve Buscemi. Wow!

And to think that these days the 1997 documentary Hands on a Hard Body by S.R. Bindler (a high school buddy of Matthew McConaughey who also directed MM in Surfer, Dude) is out of print. It tells of a contest to see who can be the last to have their hand on a car. The winner gets the car. Too bad we didn't get Altman's version.

'Red Wing' to shoot in North Texas

Will Wallace will direct the film Red Wing in Dennison Whitewright, Texas, starting on July 16. Why should you care? Well, if one-upon-a-time teen heartthrob Luke Perry as a star doesn't do it for you, consider the Malick factor.

Terrence Malick originally developed the story, and his Sunflower Films' mate Ed Pressman is producing the film. Wallace has had roles in Malick film's including The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line and The New World. Oh, and Wallace is Malick's stepson.

Given the Malick connection, I have no clues as the story, except for the casting notice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kicked out of the mall for taking photos

Yes, I was kicked out of Austin's Highland Mall yesterday for taking photos of the dying place!

The first indoor shopping mall in Austin, Texas, opened in the 1970s. Now it's mostly vacant with no major anchor department stores left. Austin Community College has bought the whole thing and will make it into classroom space, but some little stores survive. I dropped in Monday to take a look and take photos.

It turned into an interesting adventure as I was literally led out of the door by some overzealous security guards who photographed (irony!) my license plate and then followed me for a mile or so away as I drove away. I did some quick research and discovered they can kick people out for taking photos, but they can't keep you from shooting or displaying the photos. Despite private ownership, a shopping mall is a public place.

For more on the rights of photographers, read this.

Here is the full set of Highland Mall photos.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Malick's 'King of Cups' (or whatever it's called) shoots in LA

In our latest installment in "What's up with the latest Terrence Malick cloak and dagger?" we have this photo of Christian Bale and Cate Blanchette, supposedly from the King of Cups set in Los Angeles. Or it could be the Lawless set. Or they could just be trying on some new black clothing.

Then there's also this shot of Bale and Natalie Portman in a cool old car with the film called Knight of Cups. What?

Anyway, the film has something to do with Austin. Doesn't it?

I can give you this explanation of the name King of Cups from the tarot card:

"A devoted husband and father. A man fiercely protective of his loved ones. A successful and mature man employed in the creative arts. A new connection is possible. A man capable of giving and receiving love freely without the reservations of youth. Love lessons have been learned, this man is ready for deep commitment. Appreciation for creative pursuits."

Texas film commissioner steps down

Evan Fitzmaurice's brief tenure as head of the Texas Film Commission has ended. I know because I read it here in the Austin American-Statesman. The industrious reporter there found out about it a week after Fitzmaurice left. I'm sure Fitzmaurice announced this to his boss months ago.

Here's the deal: Up until I voluntarily (as in it was my idea) ended my The Dallas Morning News column in December, I'd had a column about the Texas film industry for 12 years (first in the Austin American-Statesman, then The Austin Chronicle). I never once met Fitzmaurice (pronounced Fitz-morris). I talked to him when he was hired and a few times after that by telephone. He was a nice guy, an attorney brought in, I was told, to streamline the state's film incentives program. Then the contact stopped. It wasn't his fault; Gov. Rick Perry's staff--the Texas Film Commission is a part of the governor's office--decided that all contact would henceforth come through the Guv's press office, the office that is notorious for not returning calls from the media or, if they do, offering as little information as possible. I wasn't even sure what Fitzmaurice looked like until I saw the photo above.

Compare this with his predecessors: Longtime film commish Tom Copeland is my Facebook friend.  He and his assistant director Carol Pirie (who has retired) were always helpful and honest with me as I began trying to let the public know about Texas film. Copeland's hand-picked successor Bob Hudgins left with some allegations hanging over his head, but he was helpful in getting word out about the Texas film industry and its goings-on. Fitzmaurice made it clear pretty early that he wouldn't have a lot to say to folks like me who write about the industry. I started checking with him less frequently. Finally I was told I couldn't talk to him. I mentioned this to some film commission staffers, who shall remain nameless, while waiting in line for a South By Southwest Film Festival screening this past March. They seemed very surprised I'd never met him in person.

OK, this may sound like no big deal, but it is when the Texas Film Commissioner has historically been a face for the industry, a promoter if you will. It will be interesting to see who Perry picks to fill the slot next. For now a guy named David Morales, another attorney, is in charge. He joined Perry's staff late last year and before that was a long-timer in the attorney general's office. Here's betting I never speak to him at all.