A Lonesome Dove and a Yalid
Filmmaker David H. Hickey is an oddity in these parts — he generally avoids making movies about dead teenagers.
Sure, as an actor, he’s open to everything. He’s had bit parts in Sin City and last year’s straight-to-video thriller Serum (shot on location here). But when the 43-year-old is behind the camera, he takes a higher road. “Horror films are like porno,” he said. “They’ve got a built-in audience. “My stuff is more psychosomatic and relationship-driven. … I want to be able to tell my own stories.” And nutty ones at that. Scheduled to go into production late this summer is his Three Texans and a Baby Jew, a “Christmas story” about three people who use the lyrics to old Jimmie Rodgers tunes to teach a poor sap of a yalid a few Torah lessons in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Hickey is currently “talking” to some high-profile actors to star in the film, but he said he won’t start casting until he gets a little closer to the production date.
In the meantime, Hickey will spend the next few days wrapping up another off-the-wall project. The Eastern Hills High School grad is shooting the final scenes on his immigration farce, Baghdad, Texas, in Austin. The rest was shot last February and March in the hill country, where Baghdad tells the “real” story behind Saddam Hussein’s execution: The whole thing was staged, and when the former dictator attempted to flee by plane to Cuba, he crashed in our backyard. Hickey intends to submit the comedy of errors to this fall’s Toronto International Film Festival. Also be on the look-out for his comedy Brothers Dogs and God, starring Police Academy’s G.W. Bailey, on Netflix soon.
Another title that Netflix will be releasing soon is Walking Tall: The Payback, a straight-to-video spin-off of The Rock’s 2004 Southern action yarn, itself a remake of a ’70s flick of the same name. Chances are that the latest installment in the WT franchise will be worth missing, except for the fact that one of our own has a bit part in it. Local Charles Baker plays a generic baddie who gets killed — before the opening credits roll. The mustachioed Cowtown resident, who turns 36 this month, doesn’t rest his laurels on that, um, killer cameo but on a more significant role he’s landed on the upcoming ABC mini-series Comanche Moon, the prequel to Larry McMurtry’s famed cattle-herding epic Lonesome Dove.
In Comanche Moon, Baker plays Monkey John, a roughneck who tags along with the story’s bad guy, Blue Duck, and his pack of renegade red men. Baker spent two weeks on the set with marquee actors Wes Studi and Steve Zahn, among others, last April in Santa Fe. He said it was “one of the coolest experiences” of his life. “The people were a lot more relaxed about their jobs than I expected,” he said. “The crews were way more professional than on anything I’d ever worked before. It was amazing how well-organized everything was.” As a 22-year-old music major at UTA, Baker was lead singer for the now-defunct local alternative act Stargazer. One afternoon before rehearsals, he walked into a conversation his band was having. “He’s a great singer,” Baker recalled overhearing one of his band mates say. “If he only had more personality.”
The following week, Baker signed up for acting classes and soon parted ways amicably with Stargazer. He began to work earnestly in the local acting community and now has a few irons in the fire. He’s featured in Jon Keeyes’ short Equilateral, is currently shooting an independent horror-western in Austin, and last year directed The Waterson Project, a short about two thugs who pitch a screenplay to movie execs in honor of their mob boss. All of his work in front of the camera, he said, is what’s making him “slack off” from submitting Waterson to festivals. “I keep missing those deadlines,” he said, like a true charismatic, take-Hollywood-by-storm dynamo.