Archives For Cowboys For Christ

We here at The Wild Hunt love to keep tabs on films that may interest (or concern) a Pagan audience, and today I have information on two films, one a documentary, and one a long-awaited sequel to a beloved cult-classic. We start off with the Robert Stone documentary “Earth Days”, which looks at the formation of the modern environmental movement culminating in the wildly successful 1970 Earth Day celebration.

“It is now all the rage in the Age of Al Gore and Obama, but can you remember when everyone in America was not “Going Green”? Visually stunning, vastly entertaining and awe-inspiring, Earth Days looks back to the dawn and development of the modern environmental movement—from its post-war rustlings in the 1950s and the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s incendiary bestseller Silent Spring, to the first wildly successful 1970 Earth Day celebration and the subsequent firestorm of political action.”

Aside from the natural interest many Pagans have in environmental conservation and activism, the movement that produced the 1970 Earth Day celebration also had a fundamental impact on Wicca and modern Paganism in America.

“The spirit of Earth Day 1970 did not just happen; its roots could include the gradual stirring of environmental consciousness that accelerated in the 1960s, but that stirring itself had deeper roots in an American consciousness of a special relationship with the land, even if that relationship was often abusive. Still, if there was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England, that year was 1970.”Chas Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America

“Earth Days” is scheduled to start hitting theatres on August 14th (today!), so be sure to check it out when it hits your neck of the woods (if it doesn’t hit your neck of the woods, don’t despair, it’ll air on PBS in April). Having seen some of Robert Stone’s other documentaries, most notably “Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” and “Oswald’s Ghost”, it is clear he has a keen perspective of the cultural threads weaving in and out of America in the 1960s. For some early reviews check out this critic’s pick, and three perspectives from The Daily Green.

We now turn to a film that takes an entirely different perspective on “caring for the Earth”, the long-awaited Robin Hardy-directed companion to the 1973 cult-classic movie “The Wicker Man”. That film “Cowboys For Christ” “The Wicker Tree” is currently shooting in Scotland, and Shock Till You Drop has an exclusive set report from Susan Granger.

After coaxing British Lion chairman and CEO Peter Snell out of retirement to become his producer, Hardy and Snell joined forces with Peter Watson-Wood and his partner, Alastair Gourlay, to bring The Wicker Tree to the screen for a tight $3 million budget. Last year, Hardy shot some exteriors in Texas and had preliminary talks with Christopher Lee and Joan Collins. Then Lee developed back problems when he tripped over a cable on a movie set in Mexico, leaving him unable to tackle the physically demanding role of Lachlan, and Joan Collins made other plans for this summer. So Hardy chose Scottish actor Graham McTavish (Rambo) who says, “I feel in some ways, a great responsibility to Christopher Lee, to Robin and to the legacy of The Wicker Man. As someone who was inspired by that film, it’s tremendously exciting and challenging to fill the shoes of Christopher Lee – and I only hope I can do it. For an actor, Lachlan is a role you seize with both hands.”

For those greatly disappointed by Sir Christopher Lee getting hurt and not being able to play the leading role of Lachlan fear not! According to the report he’ll still be appearing in a “pivotal” and “instantly recognizable” role in the film. Could this mean a direct connection to “The Wicker Man”? Could Lee be reprising the role of Lord Summerisle in a cameo? The thought of waiting till 2010 to find out seems torturous. I recommend reading the whole set report for some Robin Hardy quotes bagging on the horrid Nicolas Cage “Wicker Man” re-make (apparantly Cage is clueless as to why it failed), and some short interviews with some of the other stars of “The Wicker Tree”. Be sure to also check out the gallery of production stills.

ADDENDUM: Oh! How could I forget that Hayao Miyazaki’s new film “Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea” is out in theaters now!

With Cate Blanchett as a sea-goddess (in the English dub) how can you go wrong?

As hinted in my recent post about the knighting of Sir Christopher Lee, it looks like the fiscally derailed production of “Cowboys For Christ” is back to filming in Scotland. Both /Film and ShockTillYouDrop are reporting that the long-promised sequel/re-imagining/companion to the classic 1973 horror/folk-musical “The Wicker Man” is now in the midst of shooting.

“ShockTillYouDrop have been informed that Robin Hardy’s long awaited Cowboys For Christ is finally in production. Some shooting has already taken place in the US and the filmmakers are reportedly in the midst of the Scottish shoot right now. Hardy’s 1973 directorial debut The Wicker Man is truly one of the most jubilantly beloved films in the pantheon of British genre pictures. I still see it doing abundant business as late night screenings, and pretty much everybody I speak to holds it close and dear, including those of us all too aware of its shortcomings. For a good few years now, Hardy has been touting Cowboys as a kind of follow up, a ’spiritual successor’ to feature a number of the same ingredients as Wicker Man: a clash between pagans and Christians, a remote rural location, Christopher Lee as a mysterious aristocrat.”

That there will be a continuity of director and lead actor (Hardy and Lee) from the original film is certainly promising, as is the prospect of a another folk-centric soundtrack. This time headed by Scottish musician Keith Easdale of the band Calasaig. If this production finds success, or at least an appreciative cult audience, we might get the full “Wicker Man Trilogy” that Hardy mentioned back in 2007 (the proposed third film “Twilight of the Gods” would be set in Iceland and deal with Norse pagan themes). Then again, considering the 36-year wait between “The Wicker Man” and “Cowboys For Christ”, Hardy might not make it to a third installment, he’s no spring chicken you know.

In any case, I’ll be queuing up to see the film once it sees the light of day, and who knows? Perhaps the subcultural love for the original film, a love that has spawned a musical in England, and a rock opera in California, might just erase the bad taste of the misguided 2006 remake and spur a big sequel-demanding payday for “Cowboys For Christ”.

Queen Elizabeth, finally recognizing Lord Summerisle’s Christopher Lee’s contributions to culture, philanthropy, and the preservation of Britain’s unique religious heritage, has awarded him a knighthood.

Sir Christopher Lee

“Golf legend Nick Faldo and veteran horror actor Christopher Lee were both made knights in Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday honours list released Saturday … Lee, 87, has spent his career terrifying cinema-goers. As well as appearing in classic horror films such as 1958’s “Dracula” and 1959’s “The Mummy“, Sir Christopher also played memorable baddie Scaramanga in the 1974 James Bond classic “The Man With The Golden Gun“. In recent years he starred as Saruman in “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy and Count Dooku in the “Star Wars” prequels.”

He not only won the hearts of many Pagans (including mine) for his role in “The Wicker Man”, he is also, in the words of Wired Magazine’s “Underwire” blog, “King of All Nerd Franchises”.

“Lee can lay claim to the unofficial additional title of King of All Nerd Franchises. In addition to his several battles with Peter Cushing in Hammer Films’ Dracula movies, he was a Bond Villain (The Man with the Golden Gun), Fu Manchu in a bunch of movies, a Lord of the Rings baddie (Saruman), the eerie villain in The Wicker Man (the original) and Count Dooku in the Star Wars series. Along the way, he appeared on The Avengers, Space: 1999, multiple Tim Burton movies and more video games than you’ve had hot dinners.”

Sir Christopher, who is now 87 years old, is still working. He is set to appear in Tim Burton’s adaptation of “Alice In Wonderland” as The Jabberwock, and is finally participating (if current accounts are correct) in the filming of Robin Hardy’s long-delayed sort-of sequel/re-imagining of “The Wicker Man” entitled “Cowboys For Christ”.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The weekly Indian paper Mainstream takes a look at the recent protests and conflicts in Tibet, and discusses them as a conflict of rival faiths. Placing Communism in the same idealogical family as the Abrahamic faiths.

“Abrahamic religions, whenever they conquer a territory, convert the inhabitants and try to suppress their ancestral culture. Ancestral history becomes a prohibited subject. In Afghanistan and Pakistan pre-Islamic Hindu-Buddhist history is not permitted in schools. China is doing the same in Tibet…”

The author closes the piece by calling on the Indian government to abandon their “chicken-hearted” stance towards China and support autonomy for Tibet.

If you were looking forward to Robin Hardy’s “Cowboys For Christ”, a re-imagining of the cult classic film “The Wicker Man”, you may have a long wait. Work on the film has been halted due to a loss of financial backing.

“Cameras were due to start rolling in Dumfries and Galloway this month on the follow-up to the 1970s film starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. However, a statement from the local council confirmed that producers had cancelled the shoot due to last minute difficulties with finance. Councillor Gill Dykes described the news as ‘bitterly disappointing’.”

Alternative financing is currently being sought, but there is a very good chance that the entire project will be scuttled and the film never made.

Followers of the Taoist sea goddess Matsu are planning to seek UN protections for their religious and cultural heritage.

“Followers of the folk deity Matsu from both sides of the Taiwan Strait are planning to seek United Nations approval to have the Matsu culture declared intangible world cultural heritage, a promoter said yesterday.”

UN heritage declarations are usually made for tangible places or monuments. The awarding of world heritage status to a belief system would raise a host of questions and issues, conceivably pitting UN calls for protections and preservation against conversion attempts by monotheistic faith groups.

Is George Clooney’s girlfriend Sarah Larson a Witch? Her ex-boyfriend seems to certainly hint at the prospect in a lurid accounting he gives to the tabloids.

“Rock musician Tommy McKaughan reveals how the former Las Vegas waitress used to spice up their moonlit romps in the woods with a spot of witchcraft … ‘Sarah’s a total hippy at heart, heavily into all the spiritual, mystic stuff – crystals, tarot cards, healing. And along with her witch-like charms she’s a brilliant fun girl with no inhibitions. She loves nothing more than getting naked in a forest.'”

Of course, with anything printed in the gossip rags, a huge grain of salt should be taken along with the sensationalist assertions.

In a final note, BostonNOW reviews an upcoming novel by A.W. Gryphon entitled “Blood Moon”, another entry into Wicca-inspired fiction.

“Blood Moon is Gryphon’s first book, and it is also the first novel in the planned Witches Moon Trilogy. As with several other books I’ve read recently, this one is hard to categorize. It deals with Wicca and Witchcraft, so it could be paranormal or urban fantasy, yet Blood Moon is also a mystery, and it could also fit as a women’s fiction novel as we uncover a woman’s childhood and the facts of her mother’s life. Regardless, this is a book that will capture your interest from the beginning, and it will be hard to put down before the story is complete.”

With this, and a recent fiction release by Druid priestess Ellen Every Hopman, the small but vital “Pagan fiction” genre continues to grow.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

Back in 2006 I reported that Robin Hardy, director of the 1973 cult-classic The Wicker Man, was “very committed” to making a musical production of the film for the stage. Now it looks like plans for a musical stage adaptation are well underway.

In the woods there grew a tree…

“Innovative theatre company, The Motion Group, have the rights to stage The Wicker Man in the UK. Working with the 1973 screenplay and music they are adapting the film for the stage with Robin Hardy and Gary Carpenter. They may even use some of the original cast. The aim is to realise the original film on the stage in as loyal and exciting a way as possible. Artistic director Andrew Steggall believes that in its essence the story is inherently theatrical – being about a ritual as it is, and including so much ‘role-playing’ and music.”

To make the production happen, The Motion Group is approaching funding in a unique manner. They are urging fans and supporters to purchase a piece of the play.

“We are selling “pieces” of the Wicker Man to you! Each “piece” (like a share) costs 100 pounds and could earn you a return on your investment based on later ticket sales.”

There are 400 shares/pieces available for purchase, those who buy ten shares or more will be invited to a pre-production party featuring stars from the film in attendance. The Motion Group says they are coming from a place of “sincere belief in the theatrical brilliance of the original movie”, so terrifying visions of a singing Nicolas Cage can be put aside.

In other Wicker Man-related news, actress Britt Ekland, who appeared in the original film as the free-spirited Willow, recently told television host Jonathan Ross that she regrets refusing to appear fully nude in The Wicker Man. Eklan’s resulting body double, now said to be a local stripper from Glasgow, had an inferior posterior according to the actress.

“‘I didn’t want to show my bottom but I shot myself in the foot,’ Ekland said on BBC1’s Friday Night With Jonathan Ross. ‘They put in the ugliest, biggest bottom in the world. Mine was much smaller and much nicer. I recently found out it was a stripper from Glasgow’ … 65-year-old Ekland said she was less than pleased with her mystery body double and wished she had felt confident enough to bare all.”

Ekland’s famous nude dance-scene has elicited quite a bit of speculation over who the body-double was. Many fans believe the double was a local by the name of Jane Jackson, while Gary Carpenter insists the double is Lorraine Peters, an actress who appeared elsewhere in the film.

In a final note, director Robin Hardy has released more information about his forthcoming “re-imagining” of The Wicker Man entitled Cowboys For Christ. Joan Collins has signed on to replace Vanessa Redgrave, and folk musician Keith Easdale has been tapped to produce music for the film.

Time for a quick look at upcoming films that may appeal to a Pagan/occult audience.

Those of us who are fans of “The Wicker Man” (the original of course, not that abomination starring Nicolas Cage) should be pleased to learn that Robin Hardy (who directed the original film) is planning to start filming “Cowboys For Christ” (a sort-of sequel/re-imagining of “The Wicker Man”) in September.

“That long-awaited “Wicker Man” re-imagining – same story, different backdrop – is finally (this thing has been a long time coming) about to get underway. “Cowboys for Christ”, from writer/director Robin Hardy (the chap that brought us the original “Wicker Man” – not the mind numbing remake), has set itself a September 10 start date. Its booked locales in Scotland and Texas to shoot. Starring Christopher Lee and Faye Dunaway, the film tells of a Christian singing star and her chaste fiance, a Texas cowboy, who travel to Scotland for a music festival that is merely the curtain-raiser for a horrific pagan ritual of sacrifice and murder, and it’s uncertain if the power of the Americans’ Christian faith will be strong enough to survive the assault of the pagans.”

They are still looking to cast the leads (the Christian couple), so if you can sing very well, know how to ride a horse, and can convincingly fake a Texas accent, why not audition?

The film “Stardust” (adapted from a novel by Neil Gaiman) is opening in theatres on August 10th. Considering a good part of the story is set in the lands of Faerie, and with Michelle Pfeiffer playing the evil witch Lamia this is sure to be a treat! Plus the trailer looks quite fun.

No word yet if Tori Amos will be the voice of a red-leafed talking tree that Gaiman based on the singer-songwriters.

In October you have the film adaptation of the beloved (and pagan-friendly) young-adults novel “The Dark Is Rising”, but as mentioned previously on this blog, there are some serious fears that the movie has been “sanitized” of all the great pagan content. Some fans of the books are not happy at all with the announced changes.

“I am spitting chips and blood. I am crackling with furious static. Any minute now, small pieces of paper, coins and pens are going to drag themselves across the tabletop, bent and pulled towards me by the immense, bending-the-laws-of-physics fury I’m experiencing right now.”

I guess we can only wait to see how much damage has been done to this classic.

Also of interest is the November release of “Beowulf”. With a screenplay partially written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Robert Zemeckis, this film adaptation of the ancient English epic mixes live action with heavy computer animation to give it a unique look/feel. You can watch a teaser trailer for the film, here. I have no idea how “pagan” this adaptation will be (unlike the recent “Beowulf and Grendel” which was chock-full of pre-Christian elements), but the cast is certainly an interesting mix.

Finally, in December we will see the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel “The Golden Compass”, part of his highly acclaimed “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

Due to the Gnostic themes within the novels, some have labeled it the “anti-Narnia”. But fans have been worrying for some time now over the removal of religious themes to be replaced with a anti-fascist/control storyline. But the trailer itself looks exciting, plus, witches!

That is all I have for now, see you at the movies!

The Guardian catches up with Robin Hardy, director of the pagan-themed cult classic “The Wicker Man”. Hardy discusses his latest book “Cowboys For Christ” (a sequel of sorts to “The Wicker Man”) and marvels at the cult audience that has built up amongst his most famous film.

“There have been so many books about the film, and there was an academic festival in Glasgow, for which I gave the keynote speech. And to tell you the absolute truth, it’s very difficult not to howl with laughter most of the time. I mean, we had essays on The Wicker Man and Wittegenstein, The Wicker Man and feminism, and all sorts of things like that. It went on for days, and it took itself very seriously.”

While Hardy denies it, The Guardian thinks that paganism is the dominant theme to Hardy’s work.

“Hardy denies that paganism is the uniting interest of his life. Scoffs at the idea. I’m sure he’s right. He probably has many other interests – having children, for instance – that wouldn’t make a film, but have been just as defining. Still, I think it’s fair to say that paganism is a theme.”

Hardy plans to shoot a film version of “Cowboys For Christ” starring Christopher Lee as soon as he has enough financial backing to go forward. Lets hope that happy day comes soon.