Apr 19, 201212:19 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
'Heathens & Thieves' Carries On Western Tradition
Until fairly recently – actually, until Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2010 remake of True Grit recorded a worldwide gross of more than $250 million – most film industry decision-makers would tell you that, given the tastes of contemporary moviegoers, it’s hard to make money by making westerns.
And that heavily influenced their decisions about which movies got made – and which didn’t.
But indie filmmakers Megan Peterson and John Douglas Sinclair didn’t embrace that conventional wisdom as indisputable fact. Which is why they had the gumption to co-direct Heathens & Thieves, an unabashedly old-fashioned western that will be screened Friday, April 20, at WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival, and April 26 at the Sacramento International Film Festival.
And, of course, they hope it’s coming soon to a theater or drive-in near you.
So what’s it all about? In Northern California during the post-Civil War era, two men – Saul (Andrew Simpson), a twentysomething drifter, and Bill (Richard Doyle), his older sidekick – hear rumors that there’s stolen gold hidden on the remote ranch of two Chinese settlers. So Saul rides out to the spread and seeks work as a farm hand from Zhen (Boyuen) and his wife Kun Hua (Gwendoline Yeo). The plan: While Bill waits nearby, Saul will gain the couple’s confidence – so he can swipe their gold.
Unfortunately, other people have heard the same rumors about the stolen gold. Even more unfortunately, one of those people is Sherman Rutherford (Don Swayze), an ornery outlaw who always travels with very bad companions.
Heathens and Thieves by moviestune
Co-director Sinclair admits that, when he and Peterson started work on Heathens & Thieves, “There was a perception that westerns didn’t have much market value. But you know what? When you try to chase the market, you can wind up at the end of the wave anyway.”
“And besides,” Peterson adds, “we thought there was a market out there for westerns. It’s just a matter of being able to reach it.”
Sinclair – who counts Unforgiven and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as his all-time favorite westerns – thinks the market is much larger than most Hollywood decision-makers realize.
“It’s hard to find someone who really doesn’t appreciate a good Western,” he says. “And there’s something we discovered while making a western: Deep down, westerns are kind of buried in all of our psyches. And it brings out the kid in everyone when you’re working on one.”
Peterson – who says Once Upon a Time in the West is her all-time favorite western – notes that, shortly before production began in Northern California, “We had a crew member who came out all the way from Ohio just because he wanted to work on a Western. For no pay, for deferred salary – just to work on a Western.”
“Same thing with our costume designer,” Sinclair adds. “She agreed to work with us simply because she wanted to work on a western. We found that was a factor for a lot of people.”
“For the actors, too,” Peterson says. “Because, really, who doesn’t want to strap on a gun and go out and play cowboys and Indians?”