Nate will be providing an array of photos that will tell the story better than I ever could, but I will say our four days in Memphis were a real adventure and a wonderful experience.
I’ve been on my share of movie sets – admittedly, mostly my own – but I never fail to get caught up in the excitement of filmmaking, whether it’s Phil Dingeldein and me shooting a movie in a week using security cameras or sitting next to Richard Zanuck watching Sam Mendes trying to get Paul Newman to emote in the master shot. Some people find the process boring, but not me – at least, not when it’s my material being filmed.
Virtually everyone we met on set was great. The crew is a friendly, hardworking bunch from four states – California, Mississippi, Tennessee and (I think) Louisiana…though it may be Arkansas. I immediately got hugs from both director John Hillcoat (LAWLESS) and a particularly warm one from director of photography Javier Aguirresarobe when I complimented him on his terrific work on WARM BODIES. Producer David Kanter of Anonymous was essentially our tour guide, a warm and friendly one at that. But best of all was getting to know and really talk Quarry with writers Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy (both of RECTIFIED). Before going to set, I delivered to their trailer complete sets of the first editions of the original 1970s Quarry paperbacks THE BROKER, THE BROKER’S WIFE, THE DEALER and THE SLASHER. I don’t have many of these left, and Michael and Graham were like fanboys reacting to receiving them. These are smart, talented guys who know the Quarry series inside out. I’m very lucky to have them (as they put it) “playing in my sandbox.”
The actors were friendly, warm, and very interested in meeting Quarry’s creator (and his family). Logan Marshall-Green and I immediately started talking about Quarry, and watching him play the character showed me how much homework he’d done. My first sight of him on set, actually, was him talking to a wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet who had found his way to the set. Logan is a charismatic, intense actor but not pretentious. He has the young Quarry nailed, and you have a real sense that this committed actor is the linchpin of the production.
Nate, Barb and I are all big fans of SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD, so meeting Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a big deal. She turned out to be as friendly and approachable as someone you’ve known for years. She plays Quarry’s wife Joni and seems anxious to come back for more.
And Stellan Skarsgard is supernaturally right as the Broker. He’s also friendly and funny, a very charming guy. I pointed out to him that the Broker wasn’t as evil as the guy he played in GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and he said, “So I am progressing.” I brought him a vintage copy of THE BROKER and he was quite taken with the sleazy paperback edition (and pleased to see his character get top billing). He was fascinated by the terrible mustache worn by the Broker on that cover.
The cast is amazing. Kurt Yaeger (SONS OF ANARCHY) plays a Quarry adversary and had done incredible homework, bringing a well-read copy of the Foul Play Press paperback edition of QUARRY for me to sign. He’s friendly and fun and an awesome athlete (“awesome” in its true meaning). Nikki Amuka-Bird (LUTHER) was pleased and amazed to find out that Barb and I were fans of the outrageous UK series BAD GIRLS, on which she was a regular in season six. She was a delight to chat with, and she too had been reading the Quarry books. She plays the wife of Quarry’s Vietnam buddy, Jamie Hector (THE WIRE), who I met briefly. Very friendly, and I watched him tear it up with Logan on several scenes. Just before we left, I was able to shake hands and briefly talk with Noah Taylor (GAME OF THRONES), who plays Buddy, a character based on Boyd from QUARRY aka THE BROKER. (My understanding is Boyd became Buddy to avoid confusion with the Boyd Crowder character on JUSTIFIED).
The first of two on-set days began mid-afternoon at a ranch-style home in Mississippi that stood in for Joni and Quarry’s house (there’s a pool where Quarry loves to swim). Warm, but nothing Iowans aren’t used to. The rest of that day was spent at a gravel and stone quarry, where Quarry and the Broker confab (we had brought our bug spray). The second day was in Memphis at several funky bars, only a few blocks from our hotel.
Memphis is a great town. I much prefer it to Nashville, even if the latter is where I recorded “Psychedelic Siren” with the Daybreakers back in 1967. I despise country western, as is fairly well known (exceptions: rockabilly and Patsy Cline), and a town where both rock ‘n’ roll and soul music have such deep roots holds huge appeal to me. We did not go to Graceland – it’s very hard for me to do things I’m expected to do – but we made the Sun Records tour, which I enjoyed very much…standing in the same space as Howling Wolf, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee was like being a believer in church. No remodeling to speak of has been done in the studio, where bands are still recording to this day (or night…it’s evenings only, due to the tours). Next time we will hit the Stax Museum, highly recommended to me by my Crusin’ bandmate Brian Van Winkle.
It was hard to leave Memphis, and not just because of the food there or the ten hours that lay ahead on the return voyage to Muscatine (we broke that in two on both ends of the trip, to spend time with Nate and Abby in St. Louis).
I haven’t spent this much time on set since ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE, and it really reminded me of how much I miss filmmaking. I am hopeful that I will be part of the process, when…you can’t make me say “if”…this pilot is picked up. Working with these people would be a blast.
And that dated usage reminds me to comment on just how much fun seeing QUARRY produced in ‘70s period is. The costumes and art direction takes you back to an era that remains vivid in my memory, and yet has somehow how become a long time ago.
As I write this, they are still filming, with two days to go. I do wish I were there.
Something wonderful and wonderfully strange popped up on the Net recently. Somebody posted at Harlan Ellison’s chat site, complaining about writers continuing the work of other writers, included me on the list of infamy, for finishing Mickey’s work. Harlan stepped up and defended me loud and long in his own inimitable fashion. He and I don’t agree on Mickey as an artist, but I can’t tell you what it means to me to see one of my favorite writers – and Harlan is that, all right – defending me and saying I’m a terrific writer myself. For a guy like me, it doesn’t get any better. This sparked some interesting responses (including one from our friend Mike Doran), so scroll down to Harlan’s piece, then take in the responses. [Nate here—New posts will push the older ones down, eventually into an archive. Look for “A VERY FRIENDLY BUT VIGOROUS TAKING-BY-THE-SHOULDERS AND SHAKING FOR JIMMIEJOE IN KOKOMO” on Sunday, August 4 2013]
David Williams is a smart, straightforward reviewer who has been systematically reviewing the Heller novels. He usually likes them a lot (not always), but he has been a huge supporter of the series and of me. This link will take you to a TARGET LANCER review, and this one will take you to a very nice overview of the series from this reliable reviewer.
Another of those “movies you didn’t know were from comic books” has popped up. Not bad of its kind.
This is an interesting, somewhat positive review damaged by the reviewer’s agenda (a rather stunning misreading of the women in COMPLEX 90). It’s intelligent, though, and worth reading, if for no other reason than seeing how political correctness can spoil a book for you. Velda is called “Thelma” by the female reviewer at one point, and considering THELMA AND LOUISE, that’s an interesting Freudian slip.
This look at graphic novels properly credits ROAD TO PERDITION for its historic role in the rehabilitation of the art form.
Here’s a look at Hard Case Crime and THE FIRST QUARRY from a reviewer who likes my work but isn’t crazy about the tough, nasty, sexy nature of my books there (and other books as well). Interesting stuff, showing how you can not like something and do so in a measured, non-hysterical way.
Keep an eye out for VCI’s new DICK TRACY serial releases (DICK TRACY – COMPLETE SERIAL COLLECTION, DICK TRACY – 75th ANNIVERSARY EDITION ORIGINAL SERIAL). Phil D. and I prepared new video documentary material for these (and they include older doc material by us, as well, plus a commentary by me on the first several chapters of DICK TRACY).
And now I’m going to turn the update over to Nate for some more Memphis pictures.
All signs point to a series pickup
with Nikki Amuka-Bird
with Director John Hillcoat
with Logan Marshall-Green aka The Right Quarry
with Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller (and the mad photobomber)
Kurt Yaeger says “See you next week!”