Judd Nelson talks about his role in the upcoming western Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story and shares an exclusive clip.
Judd Nelson is perhaps best known for his role as the bad boy John Bender in the 1985 John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club. Since then, he’s played an array of characters including a successful young businessman accused of murder in the based-on-a-true-story courtroom thriller Billionaire Boys Club and the ruthless CEO of Creedmoor Records in the hit TV Show Empire. Yet, somehow the versatile actor's résumé did not include a single sagebrush saga until he landed a part in Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story, which opens Friday, November 4. Nelson shares his experience filming his first western — and an exclusive clip.
Cowboys & Indians: Stagecoach being your first traditional western, what did you do to prepare for your role, and how was the process different in terms of your other projects?
Judd Nelson: In most projects, and this was no exception, my preparation begins by reading the script again and again. For me, the script is a treasure map, with answers to questions not only about story, but also about character, behavior, relationships, what the subject of a conflict might be, and more. There are always gold nuggets buried within the script, and sometimes hidden in plain sight. Since movies are often shot out of sequence, often with little or no rehearsal, the more I can acquaint myself with the piece as a whole, the more likely I might be able to make simpler, more expressive, and more understandable choices as we hunt and peck our way through the shooting schedule.
C&I: As a bandit in Stagecoach, did you draw from a specific iconic western actor, like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood? Furthermore, do you have a favorite western outlaw character?
Nelson: Without a doubt, my favorite western actor is Clint Eastwood. I do not consider myself even close to the legendary status and cultural importance of Mr. Eastwood, and would never dare consciously draw from his work.
C&I: What was it like working with Trace Adkins, who is mostly known for his singing?
Nelson: Trace Adkins (Nathaniel Reed/Texas Jack) was a lot of fun to work with. The story calls for my character (Sid Dalton) to be a close and trusted friend of Texas Jack, and that was simple with Trace. Not only is he easy to work with, he's a great guy. Unlike me, he's a man of few words, but has lived a very interesting life, and tells wonderful stories. I would work with him again anytime. And I had no sense that he was any less experienced than anyone else in the cast, all of whom were excellent. And if you ever need to be tortured by someone, I strongly suggest you choose Kim Coates (Calhoun). He is a talented, experienced and well-prepared professional who commits himself 100 percent to the role. And if Mr. Coates' character is seeking revenge, then dagnab it, he'll dive in head first. And that makes it very exciting to work with him. Claude Duhamel was great fun to work with, and a perfect Frank Bell. Garry Chalk (Doc Forrester) is someone I've worked with before, and is always a positive presence on set. Our leading lady, Michelle Harrison (Laura Lee Reed) was ready to go right from the start. With such a short shooting schedule, everyone has to hit the road running. Terry Miles, our very capable and levelheaded director, had the inspired notion to change Calhoun's murderous partner from a hit man to a hit woman, and Helena Marie was beautifully fierce as Bonnie Mudd. And Mr. Miles deserves a lot of credit for completing a full-length film, involving gunplay and horses, in only 11 shooting days. I was very impressed with actor John Emmet Tracy. Though he played the smaller role of Hank Holliday, his talent and intellect are obvious, and I think we will be seeing a lot of great work from him in the future.
C&I: How did it feel to be in era-appropriate attire?
Nelson: Our costume designers, Kenichi Tanaka and Lora Halladay, did a truly outstanding job. Sid Dalton immediately came to life for me the very first time I put on the clothes they had for me. And when I looked around at the the other actors, it was clear no wardrobe detail was overlooked. Also, the prop department was fantastic, as was the armorer, gearing us up with authentic late-19th-century weapons and saddles. And all of the horse trainers and stunt riders were top notch and very helpful.
C&I: What drew you to this role, and do you have any western roots?
Nelson: The fact that I'd never done a western before was reason enough for me. No, I don't have any western roots, but like most manifest-destiny Americans, I've always enjoyed the genre.
C&I: There have been a lot of westerns recently. Do you feel like the genre is making a comeback? If so, would you do another western after your experience on Stagecoach?
Nelson: The western was one of the foundational building blocks of Hollywood, and I don't think it's ever gone away. Almost all the greats of American cinema have been in them over the years, from Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Marlon Brando, and Clint Eastwood to Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, and Clint Eastwood, to Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Kurt Russell and Clint Eastwood, to Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Clint Eastwood. The great directors have always made westerns, from John Ford, Howard Hawks, Elia Kazan, George Stevens, and Clint Eastwood to the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Edward Zwick, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Clint Eastwood. And I enjoyed my first western experience so much that I'm doing another one in December called Hell's Acre. Damian Nieman wrote the screenplay and will direct the film.
C&I: What scene are you most proud of in the film, and why?
Nelson: I'm not more proud of one scene than any other, but I had the most fun in the scene where I'm yelling at Calhoun to shoot me — probably because I got to fire off a few rounds and hoot and holler.
Check out an exclusive clip from Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story below.