Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson make a movie in Bastrop, TX

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The Bastrop Advertiser
November 9, 1989
by Ellen Moore 

Willie Nelson in Bastrop making a movie?

Yes, and Kris Kristofferson, Rip Torn, Helen Shaver, executive producer Stan Brooks, co-producers and scriptwriters Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright, director Aaron Lipstadt, the rest of the cast — and a crew of thousands.

Or, so it seemed Monday at Bastrop State Park where the big budget made-for-tv movie “Rip” was being filmed to air in February on CBS during “sweeps” month.

Beneath the shady pine trees the scene resembled nothing as much as a stirred-up ant bed.

Yet, amid the confusion, calm did rein.  Because the man behind it all, Willie Nelson, is Mr. Calm himself.

“He’s such a wonderful man,” said Bastrop State Park Director Ned Ochs’ wife Marianna Ochs. “He’s just so nice, and so calm and so easy to talk to.”

Let Willie return the compliment:  “The park people have been wonderful.  They’ve bent over backwards to help us.’” 

He adds, “And I like the Bastrop area a lot.  I’ve been in Bastrop before, but I’ve never been to this park.  I’m coming back.”

We went out on Monday with the wild hope that we’d get to talk with the star, but we wouldn’t have bet any money on it.

Yet not five minutes after we arrived, Willie Nelson came strolling up with that smile on his face.  Despite the fact he was in the middle of eating his lunch, not to mention making a 3.5 million dollar movie, he said that certainly he’d be pleased to talk (and have his picture taken by our ace photographers.)

“This movie is produced by Cream Gravy Productions and Pedernales Films, that’s me and Bud (Shrake), in conjunction with CBS-TV,” he explained.  “The script was by Bud and Gary (Cartwright).”

The move has been filmed entirely within a 30-mile radius of Austin and the whole group had just finished filming in Dripping Springs (using the High School Gym) and in various areas of Austin , like Hill’s Steak House on South Congress and a bikers’ bar with real bikers.

They werein Bastrop for two days, then were to go on to Pflugerville and back to Austin.  They hope to wrap it up by the middle of next week.

The movie, according to Willie, is about “A modern-day Texas Ranger”  Willie paused, pointing toward Kris Kristofferson who came strolling up.  “He’s Rip and it’s his job to take care of me.  I was a prisoner dumped in his lamp.”

Kris added, “And I’m in the middle of tracking a serial killer.  Willie ends up helping me out.”

The movie is made in Texas, by Texans.  Austin will be Austin in the movie, Dripping Springs will be Dripping Springs, and Capbin 4 and Capbin 14 in Bastrop State Park will be Rose’s Motel — in both exerior and interior shots.  There will be much in the movie for all Central Texans to recognize and enjoy.

When asked if he liked the movie business, Willie smiled and resplied, “I don’t like standing around a lot but it’s okay if you’re working with people you like.  It’s not if you’re not.”

Simple enough.

Of course, making movies is not new to the multi-talented man.  And he must like doing them because he was definitely the moving force behind the movie being made.

The script had been floating around for a long time.  We asked Bud Shrake when he and Gary wrote it, and Bud replied without hesitation, “1937.”;  We asked him again and he added, “So long ago I could barely hold a pen.”

As Gary Cartwright explained with more substance, “I can’t remember when we did the first draft.  MGM had it for close to two years and couldn’t cast it.  They saw it as a big movie and with Marlon brando, George C. Scott, Robert Mitchell, Lee Marvin, all the stars that were big back then.”

“Our idea was to cast Ben Johnson, a really great actor, and make a good movie.  They saw it as box office whammo, and it never happened.

“We ended up optioning it three times and by then it was a shopworn script.  We’d forgotten what all it was about and had lost hope.

“Then Aaron Lipstadt, who had directed Willie in an episode of ‘Miami Vice,’ saw it at Willie’s office and liked it.  They took it to CBS and in March or April, Bud and I went to L.A. and it was a done deal.  Bud and I did a complete re-write.”

Cartwright pointed out that of the 37 speaking parts, all but three are from Texas.

Willie, of course, is from Abbott.  Kris is from Brownsville, and Rip Torn is from Taylor.  Only the female lead, Helen Shaver, is a L.A. actress.

And of course, the writers themselves were both born and bred in Texas and are extremely respected writers around these parts.  Shrake is a well-known novelist in his own right and he’s also a scriptwriter, a former senior editor at Sports Illustrated and a name to be reckoned with on all three coasts.

Cartwright, a senior editor at Texas Monthly,is the author of two novels and two nonfictional books — true stories as only he could tell them, bigger than Texas tales.

If I have to give you Willie credentials, you’re not reading this anyway, and Kris Kristofferson is also a multi-talented man of means.  Houston Oiler’s’ coach Jerry Glanville (the man in black) considers Kris one of tee three greatest poets in the world .  He’s also written and sung a few songs, made a few albums and starred in some movies.

They all took time out to do this movie.

Willie’s got a tour coming up at the end of the month — “California and down the coast.”

Kris just finished making a film in Nicaragua called Sandino, about Nicaragua’s national hero in the 1930s, directed by Chilean Miguel Latin.  (He played a newspaper reporter.)  And he has an album coming out – Third World Warrior.

Time is running short and as Cartwright says, “It’s a tricky business.  It’s really ard to budget time.  A scene that’s supposed to take two hours can take all day.  Bud and I rewrote 15 pages this morning.”;  He added, “But every day is a new experience and the locations have been great.”

He added, looking around, “It’s really beautiful here.”  When asked if any locals were used as extras he replied, “There are surprisingly few extras in the movie because it’s all so rural.  We used few, if any.”

For a television movie, this one is big time.

“IT has a $3.3 million budget,” Cartwright said.  “That’s unusually high.  They usually don’t go over $2 million.  And we have three stars.

“Willie wanted Kris and luckily it fit into his schedule.  If it had been anywone but Willie, Kris probably wouldn’t be here.”  He laughed, then added, “None of us would.   Willie’s been great to work with.”

The film is to be shown in February, “probably on the second or third Sunday in February.”  He added, “It is a big deal.  CBS calls it their ‘big gun’ for the winter sweeps.”

We dropped in on Cabin 4 just in time to see the rehearsal of a love scene betewen Kris and Helen, with Cartwright right on the scene.  At one point, Kris said good naturedly, “Let’s not change this scene because of a hat,” when there was trouble figuring out the logistics involved.

All-in-all, Monday was one memorable day at Bastrop State park, and an experience we can relive when the movie airs in February on CBS.

But mainly,  we’ll always carry with us that memory of the smiling and soft-spoken Willie, politely taking time out to talk to a small town, small-time newspaper reporter, and tipping his hat when he walked away.

Willie, we love you, and we hope your movie turns to gold, just like everything else you touch.

2 Responses to “Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson make a movie in Bastrop, TX”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice to see the hometown paper!!!
    Dallas

  2. LindaLee says:

    I think you are the only person I know from Bastrop!

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