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Thomas Jane is determined to revive the Western. He's headed back to the movie genre's roots and back to Utah to do it.
He will be starring in and directing a film he co-wrote, "A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand," which is scheduled to begin shooting in Monument Valley in southeastern Utah in April.
"It's something I always wanted to do," Jane said while in Park City to promote another project - "Sirius," a still-in-production documentary about UFOs. "I've always been a big Western fan. We haven't seen a really good one since 'Unforgiven.'"
His project harkens back a lot farther than 1992, when "Unforgiven" was released. Jane is going to what he calls "John Ford country" - the location where the legendary director filmed some of the greatest Westerns ever made, including "Stagecoach," "Fort Apache," "My Darling Clementine," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "The Searchers."
"Nobody's really shot a Western there for years and years and years," Jane said. Scenes from a variety of movies have filed in Monument Valley, but nott full movies "because they considered it plagiarism after John Ford made so many Westerns there. But enough time has gone by - 60 years - that we can revisit it as a location."
And "A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand" will have more in common with Ford's films than just the location.
"It gets back to the classic Westerns," Jane said. "It's not a revisionist Western. My Western just gets back to what was great about them."
It's a straighforward story of an ex-soldier who attempts to clear his name while being tracked down for a rape and murder he didn't commit.
"It's a very clearly defined moral dilemma," Jane said. "A very iconic, almost mythic kind of character. And a very simple storyline. My Western is basically the hero's journey."
Jane has a long list of film credits (although he may be best known for his starring role in the 2009-11 HBO series "Hung"), but this is his first Western. And he envisions it as a story and a location that's fit for the big screen.
"We spend so much time staring at our little digital devices," Jane said. "And our brains are occupied in kind of a cyber world. I think the movies can be another way to reunite us with the natural world. What's beautiful about this country. What's primal about being human, and that's to connect with nature in a way that's bigger than us."
Scott D. Pierce