domingo, 23 de octubre de 2022


Simon Thompson

Walter Hill attends Los Angeles premiere of 'Dead For A Dollar' at Directors Guild Of America in Los ... [+]FILMMAGIC

After a six-year hiatus, legendary filmmaker Walter Hill is back behind the camera with a Western thriller, Dead for A Dollar.

Boasting a cast that includes Christoph Waltz and Rachel Brosnahan, it also sees him reunite with Streets of Fire alum Willem Dafoe. Waltz plays famed bounty hunter Maz Borlund who is tasked with tracking down Brosnahan's Rachel Price, the missing wife of a wealthy businessman. En route, Borlund comes across his sworn enemy, Dafoe's Joe Cribbens.

I caught up with Hill to talk about the movie, his Hollywood hiatus, reuniting with Dafoe, the film's challenges, and celebrating the 45th anniversary of The Warriors.

Simon Thompson: It has been six years since you directed your last movie, which is the longest gap in your career. Were you waiting for the right project to come along?

Walter Hill: I think it's because of two things. It took quite a while to get going, from when I thought it was a viable film to getting it financed and the cast put together. I think all that was made vastly more difficult by the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding movies. Also, because it was a Western, they're getting harder to get made. The financiers do not believe in them to the same degree as other genres.

Thompson: You are no stranger to the genre. Many of your projects have the same DNA as westerns at their heart. It appears to be this genre, like horror, that goes in and out of favor in Hollywood. Why is there this ebb and flow of popularity of Westerns within the industry when they're so ingrained in cinema's DNA?

Hill: I think that since the 60s and 70s, with the Italian westerns, they're now not simply part of American cinema, they're part of world cinema. The mythopoetic quality, or whatever you want to call it, is now a world treasure. People complain that musicals have declined, sophisticated comedies have declined, and so on, but audiences go through constantly shifting preferences. It is fair to say that the Westerns were overdone in the 50s and 60s, especially on television. There were so many of them, and many were quite bad, so that doesn't help. I think the modern audience has completely lost touch with the agrarian past of America and probably their families. I think that's inevitable. I believe the Western, of all traditional genres, is perhaps most subject to parody and that in itself distances people. One thing that makes it hard to get finance is the assumption that the audience is older. There are a lot of those people, but they are not the demographic that the advertisers most appreciate, so there are many reasons for the decline. The reason they perpetually keep coming back has to do with the desire of filmmakers and actors. They like doing them, being in them, and measuring themselves against Westerns of past performances and those classic performances.

Thompson: Talking about actors, Dead for A Dollar reunites you with Willem Dafoe. You worked together previously on Streets of Fire which is a personal favorite of mine. Streets of Fire has the DNA of a Western and a musical at its heart, the two problem children. Have you and Willem been looking for something to work on together again for a while?

Hill: Yes, it turned out that way, Willem and I have been quite friendly since Streets of Fire. We got on quite well when we did it, and I thought he gave a terrific performance. As you well know, he went on to have a tremendous career, and we've stayed in touch. We've always expressed a great desire to get back together and do something. Time, circumstance, availability, and opportunity are always tricky in the picture business, but this was the first chance we had for a real viable project. I actually wrote this part for him. I knew Christoph had committed to playing Max Borlund, and I wanted a suitable antagonist. I wanted somebody very opposite, very American and regional, who could play that. I wanted a similar opponent and antagonist, so I didn't want a terribly young fellow. I wanted somebody of the same generation because I thought that would make it more interesting. The movie works. The stories are parallel, and then they cross here and there.

Thompson: Willem and Christoph only get three scenes together. Were they on set at the same time?

Hill: Actually, Willem had another movie to go to, so he started first in the film. As he was ending, I think he was shot out in about two weeks, and as he was finishing, Christoph was starting, which forced me into what I most dislike doing, which is shooting an ending in the middle of the movie. There was no choice, and it seemed to have worked out alright. It's a much greater test of your technical skills and your filmmaking craft to do it that way, as you should really shoot the end of movies at the end. It also helps if the financiers threaten to pull the plug on you. They are less likely to do that if you don't have an ending.

Thompson: I suspect every movie you've made over the decades will have thrown up a challenge for you. Was that one of the biggest challenges for you with this one?

Hill: I think so. As you say, it's been six years since my last movie, and two of those years were because of the pandemic, but also that happens if you're one of those film directors who are not part of the streaming game, which I am not.

Thompson: Is that by choice?

Hill: Absolutely by choice. Well, I say by choice, but I can't tell you the phone is ringing off the hook to try to persuade me to do those things. At the same time, I'm at a point in my life where I'd like to do a couple more films and have a reasonable time in between. It's just how things are when you're trying to get them financed these days.

Thompson: How long did you have to shoot this?

Hill: We basically shot the movie in 25 working days, which is a short schedule for a feature film, especially compared to the old days. We also lost two or three days to COVID and had weather problems, all the stuff you get while making movies. I think it was John Ford who said that almost all the luck you get when you're making a film is bad luck, and it turns out he was entirely correct, but we persevered. I was the beneficiary of not only a first-rate cast but a totally professional one; they were on the stick, knew the jokes, and hit the marks. They were very professional. I was indebted to their quality. I couldn't be happier with them.................

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