Hollywood actor Bill Pullman joked that Wilbur, the horse he rode in “The Ballad of Lefty Brown,” will be more of a draw to Whitehall’s premiere of the modern Western film than he will be.
Wilbur will be housed in a temporary corral, along with a couple of other horses used in the film, in the alley behind the movie theater, 29 W. Legion Ave., starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The movie begins at 6 p.m. (See information box.)
Getting to Pullman at the show might prove to be a bit of a challenge, however. Although Pullman and writer-director Jared Moshe will be there and available for photos and a meet-and-greet, the Friday evening screening at the Star Theatre is sold out.
Proceeds go to a good cause. The benefit has so far raised close to $10,000 for Whitehall’s Jefferson Valley Museum, said Colton Anderson, Star Theatre manager. Anderson expects the silent auction during the premiere will generate even more funds for the museum.
When The Montana Standard asked Pullman in a telephone interview on Wednesday about the amount raised, he jokingly asked, “Does that put me on the map?”
Pullman, who owns a ranch near Whitehall, said the movie, which hit select movie theaters in the spring of 2017, has received “a really good response.’’ The Los Angeles Times called it "elegiac," and a “satisfying indie western.” He said the film, which prompted a bidding war among distributors, went to Video on Demand last month.
Pullman plays the lead role of Lefty Brown, a ne’er-do-well ranch hand who rises to the occasion and outsmarts his friend’s killer despite having been a fool most of his 60-plus years. The movie gives Pullman a chance to demonstrate his acting chops, moving from goofy to serious.
The movie also brought film work to nearly 100 locals who were cast as extras or in small parts or who worked behind the scenes. Much of the film — made in 2016 — was shot on location at Bannack State Park, a preserved ghost town south of Dillon.
Cory Birkenbuel, 39, of Dillon, who played a ranch hand, called the experience “a dream come true.” The ski instructor said he’s only just begun to get cast in movies. He said seeing himself on the big screen made him “a bit giddy.”
Dillon residents Seth Carlin, 28, and his mom, Dena Carlin, 55, also were in the movie. Dena, an extra, said the experience was “fun.”
Seth Carlin played Tanner, a bandit who gets shot off a horse. Carlin said it was “weird” watching a stunt man get his beard and hair trimmed to look like Carlin so he could perform the stunt.
Carlin recalled with fondness joking around, smoking cigarettes and eating lunch with Hollywood giants.
"They were really nice, a lot more laid back than I expected," Carlin said.
Peter Fonda and Kathy Bates also are in the film.
Lexi Anastasia, a 20-year-old Montana State University film student, said she had to scream in one scene, but her scream wound up on the cutting room floor. She called seeing herself on a large screen with Hollywood royalty like Pullman and Fonda “surreal.”
But she said the experience also grounded her.
“It opened my eyes to different times in history." The movie is set in the late 1800s in Montana’s homesteading era.
“I think it’s one of the best movies. It’s so authentic and real. Their acting is so real,” Anastasia said.