Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goodbye, J.R. Ewing

With word of the death of Larry Hagman--in Dallas with Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy reportedbly at his beside--here's a short piece I wrote for The Dallas Morning News in 2009 about Hagman's induction into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. Oh, and I took this horrible photo, too.

Hagman remembers ‘Dallas’ days

Special to the Dallas Morning News

       AUSTIN--In the winter of 1978, Larry Hagman drove the cast of the new television show “Dallas” around the city of Dallas in a converted bread truck showing them dive bars and much fancier restaurants. He was the only native Texan among them, and felt it his duty, his television wife Linda Gray said Thursday as Hagman was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame.
       “He’s’ the consummate actor,” she said of television’s J.R. Ewing. “He’s funny. He’s absolutely adorable. He’s the man you love to hate, and he’s my best friend.”
       He also apparently makes a great pitch man for efforts to expand Texas’ incentive program aimed at attracting more movies to film in Texas. As Hagman, told it, he parading around the Texas Capitol this week handing out $10,000 bills (with his own photo on them).
       “You have all these fans here and you’re going to get your money back a hundred time over,” Hagman said as he echoed the night’s clarion call. “You can’t miss.”
       Hagman, looking gaunt from a 1995 liver transplant, said younger fans today are more likely to remember him from “I Dream of Jeannie” than “Dallas,” but the latter surely left the larger cultural mark.
       Also inducted into the hall of fame were Powers Boothe, an MFA grad of SMU and Snyder native; “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke, a McAllen native; and Billy Bob Thornton, a native of Arkansas? No worries; his roles as Davy Crockett in “The Alamo” and as a high school football coach in the big-screen “Friday Night Lights” earned him the Tom Mix Honorary Texan Award, so named for the western star who actually hailed from Pennsylvania.
        They walked a roped-off red carpet in a tent on the tarmac of Austin’s former airport turned by the Austin Film Society into a film studio, while patrons who paid up to $500 to bask in the glow held up digital cameras trying to get a shot through the phalanx of television cameras. A bartender aptly named Estrella (star in Spanish) served up endless libations.
       The lesser-known ducked past the cameras with little notice. Among those was Don Stokes, the Dallas film pro and president of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, a film lobby group aiming to convince the Legislature to increase spending for its financial incentives program. The  legislation passed unanimously out of House committee this week.
       “There are a couple of television series pilots (at least one eyeing Dallas) that, if they bill passes in time, we have a significant shot at getting here,” Stokes said.
       Event emcee Thomas Haden Church termed the legislation a “call to arms,” noting that a West Texas-set film he is a part of is about to shoot in Australia. “I’m a Texan and I’d really like to see the Texas film industry flourish,” he said.
       Boothe spoke of growing up on a cotton farm in Snyder and, in a fit of teenage rebellion, telling his father, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but it’s sure not going to be this. So I chose the movie business.”
       The hall of fame ceremonies unofficially open the South By Southwest Film Festival, which begins today and runs through March 21 in Austin.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

'Corpus Christi' is back in development hell

The word was Richard Kelly would shoot his next film Corpus Christi in both Corpus Christi and Austin in the summer. That would the summer of 2012. Clearly it never happened. Here's the first real mention I've seen of an obvious why--which beats the conjecture on that the film is about Jesus and his "roving band of homosexual apostles"--from Variety: "the cast never came together and the project remains in development."

Sounds simple enough. Here's betting the film pops up to ride a tasty wave again in a year or two.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Terrence Malick takes his film crew to Mexico

Terrence Malick's untitled film formerly known as Lawless that has been scurrying around Austin, Texas, for a month or so has apparently headed down south to old Mexico.

Is it just me or is that international look of disdain coming from Ryan Gosling?

At least he's smiling in this photo. And in this one he just looks like a busy actor.

Oh, and for a guy with a cult following like Malick, it certainly makes sense that this music-industry-set film would include music from the band the Cult.

Nicolas Cage invades Texas 'Hot Spot'

Nicolas Cage took a break from filming in downtown Taylor to play a game of pool with a local. Cage has been all over Central Texas small towns--Bartlett, Granger, Smithville--of late shooting David Gordon Green's Joe and is based on Larry Brown's novel of the same name.

The official description: "Joe is the story of an ex-con who becomes the unlikeliest of role models to 15-year-old Gary Jones, the oldest child of a homeless family ruled by a drunk, worthless father. Together they try to find a path to redemption and the hope for a better life in the rugged, dirty world of small town Mississippi."

Cage, who plays the title character, was in downtown Taylor near the venerable Louie Mueller's Barbecue on Monday with the street closed off. Film trivia buffs might note that he was filming on the same street that was home to the car lot in noir cult film The Hot Spot from director Dennis Hopper. The same block was recently used to film much of original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre co-writer Kim Henkel's new film Boneboys.

On Tuesday, the Joe set had moved just out of town to a rural house amid plowed-under cornfields (see the photo). The setting was a whorehouse, said Deby Lannen, head of the city of Taylor's Main Street Program and also the go-to person for film projects in the city near Austin. Taylor was recently certified as a "Film-Friendly City" by the Texas Film Commission.

Green, who earlier this year moved to Austin, home to his mentor Terrence Malick, appears poised to go back to his indie, George Washington roots with this latest film. Of course, now he wants to do a big-screen version of Little House on the Prairie.

Oh, and that little film Green was shooting in Bastrop last summer that I thought might perhaps be Suspiria? It's Prince Avalanche, his adaptation of an Icelandic road comedy. They have roads in Iceland? And Paul Rudd was in Austin but was too miniscule to be noticed? I'll give $5 and a hug to the first person who can confirm that Rudd is a tiny guy with a giant head. Takers?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rowdy Stovall's 'Mexican Sunrise' a taut, suspenseful film

I first heard about Rowdy Stovall and his film Mexican Sunrise in 2005 from Tom Copeland, who was in the process of retiring as Texas' longtime film commissioner.  Copeland raved about Stovall’s potential as a filmmaker and about the skill he saw in Mexican Sunrise. All these years later I finally got to watch the film that Stovall is shepherding about Texas to select theaters in a newish cut. I can see what Copeland meant. Mexican Sunrise is a taut tale whose border-town night gone wrong premise grew out of Stovall’s years spent teaching and surfing in Mexico. Before that he played football at Stephen F. Austin State University.

The film brings to mind the Mexican road trip that a pair of horny teenage boys take in Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show, only ten times more deadly. In Stovall’s version, a group of buddies take off to a border town for a bachelor party. Prostitutes, free-flowing booze and good times await. But one of the guys has a nasty secret—he’s racked up a big debt to an unforgiving Mexican drug lord and his buddies must pay the price.

The nonlinear opens with the screams of one of the men who appears to be buried alive. As the film unspools, we get the grisly truth. Shot in Austin and Mexico, Mexican Sunrise rings true and the acting is solid. It'll make you squirm in your seat. Like a first love, Stovall admits that he can’t help trying to introduce his first feature film to new audiences. The film is a keeper. Now it’s time to see what comes next from this creative force that Copeland rightly predicted is a name to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jared Leto joins New Orleans, um, 'Dallas Buyers Club'

"Is Dallas a suburb of New Orleans?"
Jared Leto has joined the cast of Dallas Buyers Club, which will, naturally, begin filming in New Orleans next week. I'm sure they'll at least wander past the actual Dallas long enough to get a skyline shot. Or maybe they can use file footage. Besides, the po boys are better in N'awlins and so are the filming incentives.

Leto plays a cross-dresser in the true story of Ron Woodruff-- to be portrayed by Matthew McConaughey--who was given six months to live from AIDS and then began  smuggling alternative drugs into the U.S. to help himself and others. Jennifer Garner is also in the cast as Dr. Eve Saks.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mira Sorvino comes to Austin for TNT's 'Trooper' pilot

If it seems like Austin is heating up as a shooting locale all of a sudden, you're right. First we've got Terrence Malick running around town with a string of big-time actors including Natalie Portman and Ryan Gosling for the music-industry-set film formerly known as Lawless, and David Gordon Green is supposed to start filming Joe with Nicolas Cage any minute now. Now add to the mix a TNT television pilot called Trooper starring Mira Sorvino and Jay Hernandez.

Extras calls are out amid talk of a quick shoot Nov. 6-13. TNT's official description of the show is: "Trooper centers on a recently divorced female state trooper who is as unconventional at work as she is at home raising her three kids. Her partner on the job is a widowed father who has a much more by-the-book approach to policing." A pilot was shot last year for CBS, but they declined, so this is actually a second series pilot. No word on whether Austin would have a chance to host the filming if it goes to series. But with ABC Family's The Lying Game just closing shop on its second season here, word is clearly getting out to the TV community about Austin.

Oh, did I mention that Robert Rodriguez is doing a little Sin City 2 shooting right now, this minute (through Nov. 8) in Austin, too? It's percolating in the Austin film/TV biz, bub.