No easy ride for Sam
An unusual, awardwinning western is front and centre tonight as the Gold Coast Film Festival enters its final days
CTOR and playwright Sam Shepard says he received a hostile welcome from locals in Potosi and Uyuni, in Bolivia, while shooting the western Blackthorn – because they were ‘‘rife with superstitions’’ about white visitors.
The Right Stuff and Assasination of Jessie James by the coward Robert Ford star filmed the movie entirely on location in Bolivia and once he left the capital city of La Paz, the cast and crew were met with much suspicion. He says is was because locals were not accustomed to ‘‘seeing white people’’.
‘‘Seventy per cent of the population is Indian and rife with superstitions,’’ he says.
‘‘In the mountains an Indian lady appeared suddenly from nowhere flailing her arms, shrieking loudly. I didn’t know what was happening but stopped instantly. They later explained she believes white faces are ghosts who will tear her belly out and eat her intestines.
‘‘The culture is distinct. Packs of dogs behind barbed wire.
‘‘In one scene, I was trying to herd a llama, which is indigenous to the area, and people were screaming. Their belief is the pregnant animal, seeing white people, would abort or deliver a stillborn baby . . .
‘‘Spanish is not their first language . . . Translators with us told us what was happening.’’
Shepard’s performance as the grizzled outlaw Butch Cassidy, now calling himself James Blackthorn in the film, has been praised as one of his finest.
The actor, who co-stars alongside Eduardo Noriega and Stephen Rea in the film, says the locals weren’t the cast’s only obstacle in making the film – the country’s topography and climate proved to be a challenge as well.
‘‘It was hard going . . . Wasn’t easy working at 1500 feet (457m), where the air is thin and (it’s) hard to breathe,’’ he say.
‘‘Our hotel rooms had tanks of air, and on location auxiliary oxygen went around. We shot in places so remote that driving to the location took two hours.’’
screens at Australia Fair Cinemas, Southport, tonight at 6.30pm as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival, which continues until Sunday.
encore, Page 27
Sam Shepard stars in Spanish western