“Once Upon A Time in Deadwood” is a new movie by producer Jeff Miller. Jeff had already achieved considerable success in the horror genre – with such films as “Dolls” and “The Toybox” under his belt – when he decided to get with iconic actor Robert Bronzi, who fortuitously is the spitting image of a certain action movie star, to make a new western.
‘’Once Upon A Time in Deadwood’’, now available on digital from Uncork’d Entertainment, continues to cement Miller’s career as one of today’s smartest and most creative movie producers.
Meagan Meehan (MM): The western, it’s a genre that never goes away but, like any genre, wavers in popularity. Where would you say it’s at the moment?
Jeff Miller (JM): It comes and goes. There always seems to be interest in a good one.
MM: How much say did you have in what shape and form this film took? Did you contribute any story ideas?
JM: Early on I came up with the title and the premise of setting part of it in Deadwood. Director Rene Perez came up with the basic “poisoning” storyline, which I loved. It was high-concept and very much in the vein of “Escape From New York” (which I only recently heard had been considered for Bronson at one time). I also contributed a few scenes to the script, mostly those that take place in the Deadwood jail and saloon, and also worked on and helped shape the rest of the script, though it was largely Rene’s.
MM: The film’s main inspiration, I imagine, was Once Upon A Time in The West?
JM: That was mainly just the title I wanted to make an homage to and of course Bronzi. Otherwise I just wanted to do a western starring Bronzi.
MM: What does Robert Bronzi bring to the table?
JM: Well, not only does he look like a famous action icon, but he’s a hard worker, a great person, and a friend. He’s trying really hard to do as much work as he can right now, and I want to help him with that. I’m developing other projects for him as we speak. This is a kind of unique situation, and I think we’re having fun running with it.
MM: Just how alike, in your opinion, is he to the lookalike icon?
JM: Obviously there are differences, but there are enough striking similarities to make people do double-takes when they see him in the street, like they did at Cannes earlier this year!
MM: How would you say Once Upon A Time in Deadwood differs from “Death Kiss”, the other film you did with Bronzi?
JM: This one has a more structured storyline than “Death Kiss” had. It’s got a “ticking clock” concept, where “Death Kiss” is more of a series of vignettes loosely tied together. But they’re both stories about a man seeking his own brand of justice, and so I think the same audiences will enjoy both.
MM: And whose idea was it to bring Michael Pare in?
JM: That was mine. We’d wanted a name actor for our main villain. Filmmaker friend James Cullen Bressack had previously e-introduced me to Michael, whom I’d tried to get into another film last year. That one didn’t work out because of Michael’s schedule, but I liked that Michael had been in some westerns like Bone Tomahawk and Timothy Woodward Jr.’s Traded, and fortunately we were able to get him in this one. Michael was a pleasure to work with. Great guy, very professional, full of knowledge and stories about the industry.
MM: Where did you shoot?
JM: Most of the movie was shot in Northern California, with a few days outside Yosemite National Park, and a couple of days in Almeria, Spain, where many spaghetti westerns were filmed. In fact, many Bronson/western fans may recognize the famous house from “Once Upon A Time in the West” as the location of one of our set pieces. Overall, we wanted to go for both mountain and desert looks in our western, try to make it look more “epic.” It’s a travel picture.
MM: You’ve always got a lot of projects going on at once – what else have you in the works?
JM: I’m executive producing a Bronzi prison action flick called “Escape From Death Block 13,” directed by Gary Jones, that will be coming out next year. We shot it before “Once Upon A Time in Deadwood,” but there is a lot of action, and it’s a big film (shot at the same prison where they shot “The Shawshank Redemption”), so it is taking longer to finish. I also helped EP a horror film in the UK that will be coming out next year as well. Meanwhile, I’m developing a couple of more action features, including at least one more that we hope to shoot with Bronzi this year.
MM: Where would you like to be in five years?
JM: Making bigger films for larger audiences, but with some degree of creative control. Movies are too hard to make to not care about what you do. And hopefully Bronzi will be in some!