What started out as a limited TV series has been edited into a thrill-a-minute western film.
The last time we saw Ric Maddox blazing across the Wild West, he was riding tall as legendary lawman Pat Garrett in The American West, the limited-run AMC dramatic documentary series co-produced by Robert Redford. Now he’s back in the saddle for what he considers a dream project: Dead Men, an exceptional three-hour western now available on streaming platforms and DVD and Blu-ray.
Maddox co-wrote and co-produced the engrossing drama with director Royston Innes and stars to perfection as Jesse Struthers, a young man who’s driven to extremes and propelled on a vengeance trail after his father is killed by the lackeys of land-grabber Cole Roberts (Richard O. Ryan) in 1860s Arizona Territory. Left for dead by his unreliable brother Jake (Aaron Marciniak), Jesse is adopted by an Apache tribe — and taught to be a formidable warrior — before he can attempt to reclaim what’s rightfully his with a little help from cunning cardsharp Benjamin Brown (Shawn Parsons of TV’s Justified and Queen Sugar); his Apache wife, Ila (Marisa Quintanilla); fancy lady Sissy McHale (Sasha Higgins); and, unexpectedly, his errant but repentant sibling.
Originally conceived as a limited-run TV series, Dead Men represents an attempt by Maddox and Innes to return to the roots of their favorite genre. “I think Roy and I weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel for westerns,” Maddox says. “We were just looking to get the wheel out of the mud and get it back on the road, so to speak.
“John Ford, who was a veteran like myself, had the right idea of just getting everyone out of Hollywood, out in the middle of nowhere, out where there are no phones, no nothing, and just getting everyone out into the landscape, getting into the terrain. That was something Roy and I wanted. We wanted to get out into these beautiful places in Arizona where, historically, the actual Apaches did run. It was just such a great experience.”
Long before his involvement with Dead Men, Maddox got his cowboy on while growing up on his family ranch in Pleasanton, Texas. There, he learned to rope and ride under the tutelage of his father, Richard Calvin Maddox, a cowboy and competitive team roper. He earned his spurs as a real-life hero with the U.S. Army in Iraq, serving as an Alpha team leader in the 1st Battalion 8th Infantry Regiment and earning five Army Achievement Medals and the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge. After his honorable discharge, he landed a small role in The Alamo, the 2004 historical epic that director John Lee Hancock filmed on various locations in Texas. After that, Maddox realized that, hey, maybe acting was a career worth pursuing. So he trained for three years at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York, landed supporting roles in other films and TV productions — and earned the Best Supporting Actor award at the 2013 Playhouse West Film Festival for his performance in the dramatic short Black Irish.
And now? Well, Dead Men ends with a scene that leaves it wide open for a sequel. “We know,” Innes says, “that there are a lot of people that are hungry for westerns. And Ric and I are very eager to do our best to help the genre come back.”
From the July 2018 issue.
More from the July 2018 Issue