Farmington High alums debut work in new Hollywood western movie
FARMINGTON — Film director and Farmington native Mark Gould has struggled to climb the ladder in Hollywood since graduating from film school, slowly building his resume by doing music videos, infomercials and small projects for Netflix.
But he'll be showing off the biggest project of his career Friday when his Western film "Gone Are the Days" opens at the Animas 10 Allen theater in the Animas Valley Mall, 4601 E. Main St.
The film stars such well-known actors as Lance Henriksen ("Aliens," "Dead Man," "The Right Stuff," "The Terminator"), Tom Berenger ("Platoon," "Major League," "The Big Chill," "Training Day," "Inception") and Danny Trejo ("Heat," "From Dusk 'til Dawn," "Breaking Bad," "Machete") in a tale of an aging outlaw forced to confront his past and the consequences of his actions.
Gould, a 1988 Farmington High School graduate who earned a theater degree from New Mexico State University before graduating from the CalArts School of Film/Video, understands that "Gone Are the Days" could be his ticket to career advancement if it finds critical or commercial success. At the same time, he's hesitant to put too much emphasis on it.
"I'm thinking about that a lot," he said during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Los Angeles. "I don't think I can put too much weight on this, but I am hoping for the best for it, and I hope an audience comes out to see it. No matter what happens, I know you've got to keep going, keep making films. It's not going to define me."
Gould became involved in the project when he read a 10-page summary of a script generated by his friend, Farmington native and former San Juan County District Attorney Greg Tucker, who still lives and works in the area. Tucker, a 1992 Farmington High School alum, based the screenplay on a novella he had written during his college days at Arizona State University, and at the urging of one of his professors, he submitted it to the former HBO and Bravo television series "Project Greenlight," where it won an award.
But development of the script remained stalled for several years until Gould got his hands on it in 2015.
"I said, 'This is a script we need to do, and we need to do it now,'" Gould said, describing his enthusiastic take on the summary.
He brought it to Oculi Entertainment and Directional Entertainment, which committed to the project. By 2016, a cast and crew had been assembled, and the film — which is set in turn-of-the-century Durango, Colorado — was shot in Southern California with Gould at the helm.
The director said he would have preferred to shoot the film in the Durango area, but the project's modest budget didn't make that possible. Part of the reason Henriksen, Berenger and Trejo agreed to do it, he said, was because it was being shot in the Los Angeles area, and the three actors could return home each night, rather than spending weeks or even months on location in Colorado.
The film is a different kind of Western, Gould said, though it retains the hallmarks of the genre in terms of action, setting and style. The story is driven by the characters rather than a standard good guy-bad guy plot, and that's what made it attractive to Gould in the first place, he said.
"It was the darkness of it, but it was also the redemption," he said. "We all need it. We're all going to look back when we're old and think, 'Who did I hurt?' Some of the best films are those where people get that redemption."
Gould reveled in the experience of working with Henriksen, Berenger and Trejo, all Hollywood veterans who have worked on dozens of highly regarded film and television projects.
"It was my first time to work with any of those actors, and, boy, was it an experience," Gould said.
He especially enjoyed working with Henriksen, he said, noting how the actor enveloped himself in the lead character, Taylon Flynn. Gould had appreciated Henriksen's work in another Western, a little-known 1995 film called "Dead Man" directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Johnny Depp. Henriksen portrayed the bloodless Cole Wilson in that film, a bounty hunter with a taste for cruelty and human flesh and a profound intolerance for polite conversation.
"He had so much hate in him," Gould said, laughing while recalling Henriksen's memorable performance in that film.
Henriksen fully embodies both characters, Gould said, and their anger largely defines them, though Flynn is a far more complicated figure. The emotional rawness that Henriksen is able to summon up is what appeals to Gould both as a director and as a viewer, he said, and it harkens back to the work of other actors in Hollywood Westerns from the 1960s and 1970s, he said.
"I loved 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' — how light it was and how heavy it was. And I loved 'The Outlaw Josey Wales,'" he said, noting how the characters in both films are unable to escape their past, try as they might.
That same story arc is present in "Gone Are the Days," Gould said, and he recommended that aspiring filmmakers search for a project that appeals to them in the same way this one did to him.
"It's about finding a story and developing a story," he said.
And no one becomes successful on their own, Gould said.
"Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate," he said. "Find people to get involved with."
Gould, Tucker and Henriksen will be present for the Q&A session after Friday's 6:45 p.m. screening. The film will be screened at the Animas 10 all week and at the Durango Stadium 9 Allen theater before opening March 23 in Beverly Hills, California. Its DVD, digital and on-demand release comes April 10.
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.