Ray Wylie Not Proud of Last Rites of Ransom Pride Movie

December 10, 2010 - By Trigger  //  News  //  24 Comments

When I first caught wind that a movie written by legendary Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard was in the works, and that it starred Kris Kristofferson and Dwight Yoakam, my ears perked to say the least. But as the movie neared release, it was clear something about Last Rites of Ransom Pride was off. Information about the film was sketchy at best, and despite my best efforts to obtain more, emails and phone calls weren’t returned.

Then when it came to the movie release, there seemed to be all kinds of drama and confusion. First it was announced that it would be first motion picture released solely online. Then all of a sudden, almost on accident I discovered a dozen or so poorly-promoted short-run screenings had been set up around the country, and was in luck that one was in driving distance. The screening wasn’t promoted at all, and was attended by only three people. Despite the star power and intriguing trailers, something was clearly amiss behind-the-scenes of Last Rites.

Interested to find out the whole story, I reached out to the Ray Wylie Hubbard camp, and was granted an exclusive interview from Ray to discuss for the first time the background of Last Rites of Ransom Pride, and why the project has had such troubles.

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Ray Wylie Hubbard: In my camp we didn’t talk about it. And it could kinda make you curious, here it was, I wrote this movie with Tiller Russell, with a great cast. And the reason was I got my heart broken. And the movie, in my opinion, did not turn out very good, because of a number of reasons.

I met Tiller Russel through Charles Bowden whose a writer. Tiller called me up and wanted to do a video for a song I wrote called “Resurrection.” So I flew out there, met him, and we went out to the Salton Sea and shot the video. Then we started talking about movies, and we wrote The Last Rites of Ransom Pride together. I flew out there (LA), he flew out here (Austin), and we wrote the screenplay and he took it to a producer out there who said it was really good. Tiller said “well I want to direct it, and Ray is gonna score it,” and he (the producer) said, “In order to do that, you have to shoot it independent, and you need to shoot 8 to 12 minutes of something. So I called up Jack Ingram, and got Gary Busey and Taryn Manning, and we shot a short in a day out there where they filmed The Alamo. Then we went around to Houston and Dallas to these rich people’s houses and gave them the pitch.

So they raised $2.9 million dollars here in Texas, with no help from the Texas film commission. New Mexico offered some incentives, but Nomadic Pictures out of Canada said, “Will give you another million if you shoot it in Canada,” so that gave us 4 million. We were scripted at 6 million so we had to cut some things out. We had to go from four bad guys to two bad guys, stuff like that. I sent the script to Kristofferson, he said “Yeah I’ll do it.” Then somehow Dwight got it, and I gave it to Earl Brown from Deadwood. So they went up there and filmed it.

Triggerman: Were you there for the filming?

Ray Wylie Hubbard:I was there for the first 8 days.

I was music supervisor. I had tried to convince Tiller and the production company that if I could get Hayes Carll, Jack Ingram, Cody Canada (from Cross Canadian Ragweed), and Randy Rogers in this scene, they didn’t even have to speak, but if they were over there, then I could use them to do a soundtrack album, and I thought it was a brilliant idea. Tiller said no. So we started butting heads. Now instead of being my screenwriting partner, he was the director, and I was the music supervisor. We could have gone to a record label and said we had the first Americana movie ever made. So at that point I had lost any influence I had over Tiller.

Triggerman: So you were kind of marginalized, from a creator and originator of this film.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: The script was really strong enough to get these actors to sign on. They wouldn’t have signed on if they didn’t like the script. When I was ready to score the picture, Tiller said that because of the Canadian laws, they had to get a Canadian to help. So I met this guy, great guy, great keyboards, but when they sent me part of the movie with this score on it, I hated it. I hated the score and I hated the editing. I said, “I can’t approve that.” As music supervisor, that means I would approve that, and that thing is like The Jonas Brothers trying to do “Sympathy for the Devil.” So we had a horrendous fight over the phone. I said, “Tiller, this is not the movie. What happened to this thing that I stood in these people’s living room and told them I was gonna score and how it was gonna be and we raised money on what I said.” So we parted ways.

At that point, I started to pull all of my songs out of the movie, and Judy (Ray’s wife) convinced me not to. She said you need to honor your contract. I haven’t seen the whole movie. I just run through it to see what they did to my songs, and it broke my heart. Then I read the reviews, and the reviews, the consensus was that it was probably pretty strong on paper, but the editing, the movie came across as cheesy, and I’d have to agree with them.

Triggerman: So you’re not happy with the score. Are you not happy with what they did with your script as well?

Ray Wylie Hubbard: I thought the editing and the score ruined the rest of it. I think the dialogue is good, the storyline was good. It just seems like they kind of got in there and didn’t know what they wanted to do. They didn’t know if they wanted to be “Kill Bill” or “Appaloosa.” It’s painful in that it could have been powerful. It could have been a really powerful movie, with the score just being simple and dirty, and the soundtrack album could have been great.

At some point along the way decisions were made based on fear, not on art. I wrote the script with the music. I really have a lot of respect that the movie even got made. But from where I am, we could have at least got a triple, and we didn’t even get a base on balls, we struck out. And then Tiller called me up and told me he was wrong because he never even gave me a chance to come to the plate and swing. I will tell you that Tiller called up about a month ago he said “I was wrong.”

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I reached out to the co-writer and director for Last Rites Tiller Russell, who sent me this statement:

“I think Ray is a brilliant writer. And collaborating with him on the screenplay for Ransom was a moving, memorable experience. I’ll never forget it. I’m saddened by his response to the film. But making a movie is a complex undertaking and a crazy process. We had our differences when it went from script to screen. I suppose time will tell about the merits of it. If you’re curious, please see it yourself. For my part, I will always have love and respect for Ray.”

Last Rites of Ransom Pride can be viewed On Demand thought Amazon for $3.99, and is also available on DVD.

24 Comments to “Ray Wylie Not Proud of Last Rites of Ransom Pride Movie”

  • This is to bad. The trailer looked a bit strange, but worth giving a shot. Now sounds like this thing is kind of a disaster.

    If they were going for a Kill Bill or Appaloosa, thats to bad. Those are not good movies, and certainly Appaloosa isn’t near a good western even with its cast.

    I am looking forward to True Grit. Anyone know the music behind that movie?

    • I, too, am really looking forward to True Grit. The Coen Brothers are absolute geniuses, and together again with Jeff Bridges is a dream come true. To top it all off they’re making a Western! I imagine Carter Burwell will do the score, he does most of their movies I believe.

      • Looks like Bridges just put an eye patch on Bad Blake! should be a good one.

        They trailer plays out with Cash music…I am curious if there will be any other songs from an artist besides the “scene” type instrumental music.

        • “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” is the perfect track for the trailer! My guess is that the actual soundtrack will be orchestral, but who knows? The Coens have gone both ways in the past.

      • Yeah, I just read online that Carter Burwell is doing the music for this one as well. I was kinda hoping for a T-Bone Burnett score again (O’ Brother Where Art Thou), but I know this will end up being amazing. I’m probably going to check out Last Rites of Ranson Pride also, hopefully soonish.

  • I bought this on dvd and was slightly disappointed because of the jumpy editing, thanks for tracking the story down on how this happened. Because yeah from the trailers it looked killer.

  • Bummer.. Now im wondering if Provinces of Night will ever surface.. Similar cast too..

  • The soundtrack he wanted to put together sounds awesome. It would be great if he could release it & say this is what I wanted to.

  • This is also on Netflix Instant. Now that it’s colder than a witch’s tit outside, I’ll be watching more movies and I’ll check it out with a grain of salt.

  • i was excited about this movie…until i watched the first 25 minutes on NEtflix, for free…(side note, its ratings on netflx dont even garner a single star–but i didnt let that deter me)…it was just too campy…choppy, hip….detached, fragmented— not sure what else i can say…i stopped watching it and felt no loss…i submittted a song for the contest they were having (2,000 bucks) but i guess it wasnt appreciated, didnt even make the voting….

    as far as ray is concerned, it sounds like it was a total mess…its a shame…but yeah, he should try to divorce himself from this mess as much as possible.

    • Sounds like it was similar to that “Assasination of Jesse James” movie Pitt was in a few years back.
      -campy…choppy, hip….detached, fragmented

  • […] The film Last Rites of Ransom Pride could have been something special, but even the script’s co-writer, Ray Wylie Hubbard, thinks the finished product comes across as cheesy. […]

  • Complex undertaking…Great blog Triggerman.

  • BUMMER! oh well, got it coming in the mail. Great concept though. Maybe one of the big movie companys will see it and remake it. There’s always that 50/50 chance of making it better or worse. At least they won’t be starting off with a great John Wayne flick…

    • I’d say this to you and everyone else: If you’re going to see this movie in the future anyway, try to go into it with an open mind. I didn’t think it was great, but I enjoyed watching it. Form your own opinions.

  • I saw the original Ingram/Busey trailer when Ray Wylie presented it at the Country Music Hall of Fame showcase he did for a Americana Music Association event. As a fan of his music and Westerns I was in heaven at the prospect.

    But like you I started getting sporadic and contradictory news via emails from one of the cast. I posted from these on occasion and in one case was asked by another party of the effort to retract a story.

    I thought that even if this movie was as good as Tombstone the way it’s being handled is doing to send it straight to DVD.

    What a waste of talent. I hope this hasn’t soured Ray Wylie on doing more movies. I think another visionary and Austin resident, Robert Rodriguez, should have a few margaritas and talk some things over.

    • I think the first place I saw mention of this movie was on Twang Nation. There’s more from my interview from Ray Wylie that I will post at some point, but he said he was not discouraged, and that he has some more ideas and projects coming down the pike.

      • That’s good news pard, thanks!

  • I thought the movie was visually appealing, the actors and acting were solid, but the movie lacked much-needed songs. At least they kept it short so it moves along. Overall I’d give it 2.5/5 stars. I wish Ray had been given a larger oversight role, and I regret there’s no sound track he envisioned. It could have added so much. It’s too late for Tiller to apologize now.

  • I bought the DVD ‘cos I’m a major Dwight Yoakam fan and his character seemed to be really intriguing. In fact, the whole cast was amazing. The script was great.

    The problem is the darn ‘rock n’ roll’ editing that was used completely screwed up the movie. This could have been a wonderful existential western…all the characters were there. I mean, the cast was Grade A, the costumes were top notch, the scenery amazing and when the director actually allowed the camera to just sit and focus on the actors, a great story unfolded.

    But, if you listen to the director’s commentary…its like Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets movie making — if I heard the word “awesome” once, I heard it a thousand times. So we had to valley boys decide to make an MTV western and they fell flat on their faces. I also think the fact that none of the major actors are discussing it or seem to want to be promoting it speaks volumes to me. I mean, this was one of Dwight Yoakam’s meatiest roles and the director botched it.

    I admire Ray Willie Hubbard and hope he gets to make his movie at some point. Maybe Mr. Tiller has learned a valuable lesson — sometimes the original visionary (Hubbard) needs to be honored because he actually knows what he/s talking about and is necessary for that vision to unfold.

  • I also think the fact that none of the major actors are discussing it or seem to want to be promoting it speaks volumes to me. I mean,

    sorry…it was supposed to read ARE NOT discussing and seem to NOT WANT to be promoting

  • […] first part of my interview with Texas songwriting legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, we talked about how he wasn’t proud of the end result of the movie Last Rites of Ransom Pride of which he co-wrote. In the second part we turned out attention to more positive things, namely […]

  • I bought the movie at a video rental store for 7 bucks, I thought it was really good.

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