Ernie Hudson/Bill McAdams Jr. Interview
By Gary Murray
“This is the first script I ever wrote” said director/actor/writer Bill McAdams, Jr. of his new film Gallows Road. The bright-eyed excited man was in town to promote his latest film. Gallows Road was one of the opening works at the USA Film Festival held in Dallas, Texas. The writer and director also took a role in the film.
With the film-maker is one of his actors in the work, Ernie Hudson. Ernie, along with Kevin Sorbo, stars in this ensemble drama that takes on small town racism and religion during tragedy. It is a powerful film with a Christian theme running through it.
Known for his role of Winston in Ghostbusters, Ernie Hudson has a long and varied career over the years. He appeared in such films as The Crow, Miss Conjugality and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. On television, he has had varied roles in such shoes as Taxi, Desperate Housewives, Oz and Law & Order. He is one of the rare actors who can do both drama and comedy with ease.
Bill McAdams, Jr. made House of Fear and Money Shot and has appeared on different television shows. He was working on Good Will Hunting and realized that he could have the same success that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were having with their project being produced. Bill thought that he could do the same thing and that started his career.
“I always wanted the right person to play Bob Collins, the lead” said Bill. He considered Morgan Freeman but he knew the right person would attach themselves to the project. At a comic book convention, he ran into Ernie and told him the idea. “Once he responded to the script, I knew I was going to make it,” said Bill
The road to making an independent film is a twisted process. “When you are an independent film-maker, you make it happen” he said of the process of getting the film into production. “You adapt wherever you can to get the project done. Once you get a name talent like Ernie attached, it is easy to dangle it in front of somebody else like Kevin Sorbo. Then you have a movie.”
Ernie gave a simple answer about being attached to the project. “I like Billy and his passion in what he was doing,” said Ernie. There is this confidence that Ernie saw in Billy that made Ernie do the project.
Ernie expanded on his thought. “I like to help people realize their dreams. My grandmother used to tell me that if you want God to realize your dreams, then you have to help other people realize theirs. When I finally got the script, I liked the idea and story. The story is dealing with a lot of serious issues told from his perspective. It was important for me to help him tell the story he wanted to tell. I was committed to doing it.”
Getting Kevin Sorbo to the screen was a much easier path. Billy had worked with Kevin Sorbo (best known as TV’s Hercules) on some PSA commercials and he had a working relationship with the actor. “I gave him a nice monologue where he devastates,” said Billy. “He delivers it. You know your actor delivers it when you forget he is Hercules.”
The part Ernie did was done in five days which is a monumentally short amount of time. “I can’t just have him sitting around Texas,” said the director. He also had Kevin Sorbo for two days. The rest of the cast worked for a few weeks to get the film made. They worked a week took a week off then worked the next week. This pattern happened for three weeks. It was a very unusual shooting schedule but Bill McAdams, Jr. made it work.
Ernie has no problem working in the different media such as television and films. He said, “The actors realize that the money is in TV unless you are one of these top tier guys. It is getting harder and harder to make a living in this business. If you are an actor you have to be versatile enough to do it all. I don’t know anyone who says that they will only do movies. The top names in film are now doing TV. It is more about finding the parts that are really interesting. I like to work.”
Ernie talked about the new Ghostbusters film that is being rumored with female comics. At this moment, he has not been officially approached to reprise his role.
He has been attached to the Ghostbusters franchise for decades and has a very melancholy about the experience. “We did the first two and they will stand on their own,” Ernie said. On the thought of the original cast making a third film, he said, “You can’t re-do it. That is with any kind of sequel, no matter who is in it. Even if it were Bill Murray and the crew, you can’t re-do it, Ghostbusters is magic.”
But he is also proud of his work in Ghostbusters. “It is very cool to be in an iconic part like that,” he said of the role from years ago. “You come out to be in this business, to be a part of something that is iconic like that but you can’t buy a cup of coffee with it. I’m flattered, I happy but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a job because I was in Ghostbusters. At least no body has ever told me they hired me because of the movie.”
When asked about this film and its final print, Bill McAdams, Jr. was proud of this work. “I shot a lot of footage,” he said. “I had to cut probably 30 minutes of the film. Post-production was a nine week edit. I had a ninety minute cut at first and it was harsh. I had to find the right tone. Cutting too much and it becomes a thriller, you leave it too long and it becomes an independent film. Right now, we are sitting on 100 minutes and it is right on the money. We have a good distribution cut, now.”
According to the producers who were at the premiere, the film will open on a platform release. It will appear in a few film festivals and a hopeful theatrical run before it is released on DVD in August. They are also in negotiations for various platforms and video on demand. The producers are hoping to have as many copies of the film in as many hands as possible. They truly believe in the work.