People often have the best of intentions when they set out to protect their loved ones. But they can at times inadvertently commit malicious actions, in order to defeat their enemies who pose a threat to those people they want to protect. The protagonist’s reluctant decision to go against his high-standing morals, in a determined effort to save his wife, is the gripping motivating factor in the upcoming Western action film, ‘Diablo.’ The thriller’s director, Lawrence Roeck, and one of the film’s supporting actors, Adam Beach, both generously took the time recently to participate in separate exclusive phone interviews to discuss making the drama.
The movie’s worldwide rights were picked up by Orion Pictures and Momentum Pictures, after it premiered in October at the San Diego Film Festival. ‘Diablo,’ which Roeck also produced and co-wrote with his frequent filmmaking collaborator, Carlos De Los Rios, will be released nationwide on Friday in theaters and on Premium VOD.
‘Diablo’ follows a young Civil War veteran, Jackson (Scott Eastwood), who wakes up to find his beautiful wife, Alexsandra (Camilla Belle), has been kidnapped by a band of ruthless bandits. With killers around every corner, the lines begin to blur between who the good and the bad are, including Jackson. As a final gunfight looms for Jackson, he’s asked to risk it all to save the woman he loves. In his determination to rescue Alexsandra, the former soldier encounters several people who have both helped and hinder his quest, including Ezra (Walton Goggins), a murderous highwayman who seemingly kills for enjoyment; Nakoma (Beach), an Indian who nurses the wounded Jackson; and Benjamin Carver (Danny Glover), a friend he knew from the Army.
Roeck, who made his feature film writing and directorial debut with the 2012 drama, ‘The Forger,’ first mentioned how he became interested in scribing and helming a Western action adventure thriller for his sophomore effort. “The thought of doing a psychological thriller, which was mixed with a Western, really intrigued me,” he explained. The filmmaker added that “‘Diablo’ was actually my concept, and I came up with the idea to make the movie.”
The director also noted how Eastwood helped him develop the material. That collaboration helped make it “a natural process for me to come up with all the ideas” for the story, and then refine the concept. “Scott came up with the idea to make it a psychological thriller, and added the twist to the movie. So I had to implement that into the script with my writer, Carlos De Los Rios. So it was really the three of us who worked together to come up with the story,” the filmmaker revealed. “But the idea was something that I originally brought to those two guys.” Roeck added that he’s “really passionate about the project, and I love the story.”
While then further discussing his collaborations with De Los Rios on the two films, the helmer noted that “Carlos and I have a very specific process. I’ll come up with a concept for a movie, and then I’ll bring it to him, and we’ll test it out. We’ll discuss it and pick it apart,” Roeck explained. “By the end of that conversation, if I’m still excited about it, and Carlos has become excited about my idea, then it’s generally a go. I rarely bring an idea to him that I haven’t thought through.”
The filmmaker also divulged that he and De Los Rios “will then begin finessing the concept, so that we can really focus on what we want to do with the movie. Once we get he concept completely down, and figure out what we’re going to do, we’ll make a beat sheet.” Roeck explained that their beat sheet includes a series of numbers that correlates with a different beat in the story, and each beat explain what happens in that section of the story. “We beat the whole movie out on the beat sheet, so that we really know where the movie’s going, what ideas we’re using and how we’re going to execute those ideas.”
Roeck and De Los Rios then approached Eastwood and explained to him where they thought the film was headed, with the aid of the beat sheet. They also asked the actor what he liked and didn’t like about their plans for the story. “Normally, the answer from Scott was, ‘Show me something once you have it written.’ He would check out our ideas at the end. So we would write everything and bring it to him, and he would then give us his notes,” the director added.
The helmer further explained that the process was quite involved between him, De Los Rios and Eastwood. “It is a movie that was being constructed for Scott, so we wanted his feedback. We wanted him to feel very comfortable with the character. Once he felt really comfortable with the character, and was ready to shoot the movie, we would make our final changes, and then go make the film,” Roeck revealed.
Since Roeck had previously worked with Eastwood on ‘The Forger,’ he noted that he and the actor already had a friendship before they began shooting ‘Diablo’ together. ‘I think that really influenced our working relationship, more than anything else,” the director revealed.
“I think there was a transparency between he and I, as well as the ability to talk about things. It wasn’t like a purely business relationship, where the actor doesn’t have a personal connection with the director,” Roeck also stated about his collaboration with Eastwood on ‘Diablo.’ “Scott and I had traveled together. I had met him through his parents (actor-director-producer Clint Eastwood and Jacelyn Reeves), which really helped inform our process, in terms in how I directed him.”
While Roeck and Eastwood knew each other before they began filming ‘Diablo,’ the helmer admitted that “It is all business once you get in the trenches. You’re no longer buddies as you’re trying to figure out the scenes, and the money’s flying out the window, so to speak. So it was a real mix of a personal and professional relationship. It takes two to pull it off.”
But the director added that he first began developing ‘Diablo’ before Eastwood first gain recognition as an actor. “So the real decision to make the movie with Scott wasn’t because he was popular. It was because I really believed in him as an actor, and I wanted to make a movie with someone who I considered to be a friend.”
While Roeck considered Eastwood to be a natural fit to play Jackson in ‘Diablo,’ the helmer also set out to find a diverse supporting cast for the Western thriller, including Goggins, Belle, Glover and Beach. “The rest of the actors were mostly brought to me by Roger Mussenden,” Roeck explained. “I had hired Roger because he’s a great casting director; he did all the casting for the ‘X-Men’ series (including ‘X-Men,’ ‘X-Men 2,’ ‘X-Men: First Class’ and ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’) and a lot of other great movies. He has experience dealing with top-notch talent in Hollywood.”
The director added that Mussenden was “instrumental in referring Walton Goggins to me. Not only does he play Ezra in ‘Diablo,’ he’s also in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight.'” Roeck added that the casting director also brought “Camilla Belle to the table. She’s a fantastic actor who plays Jackson’s wife. Roger was also instrumental in getting Danny Glover” to sign onto play Benjamin. The filmmaker added that he “owes a lot to Roger for getting the supporting cast.”
While also discussing the casting process for ‘Diablo,’ Beach revealed that Eastwood “asked me to join him on this film, and obviously, I said yes.” The Golden Globe Award-nominated actor added that he was not only drawn to star in the Western because he and the Western’s lead performer are friends, but he also feels the script features “great twists…After reading the script, I was even more privileged to be a part of the film.”
Beach also praised Eastwood’s work ethic, as well as the opportunity to work with him. Once they both became attached to star in ‘Diablo,’ and began working together on bringing the story to the screen, Beach divulged that “We were working on trying to build the chemistry between our characters.” The supporting actor added that “Scott knew that since he was playing the lead role, it was important to get a cast around him that would make his character better.” Beach also praised the rest of the supporting cast, and their ability to help fuel Eastwood’s character.
Once Beach signed onto star in ‘Diablo,’ he noted that the main people he collaborated with as he built his character were Eastwood and Roeck. “We really isolated the scenes to the moments” audiences will see in the final cut of the film. There were only a few performers who the filmmaker and the lead actor collaborated with on each scene, a process which Beach described as “being very comfortable. We really focused on all the moments we had to shoot right away, so we didn’t have to come back a week later to shoot other sequences, and tie everything together.” The supporting actor noted that he appreciated that process, and described the set as having an overall “relaxed atmosphere.”
Beach added that he enjoys being a part of a film where he “connects with everybody, especially the director, who takes control of the situation. We worked so well together on this film that we’re going to be putting together another project together.”
Besides talking about directing the Western thriller, Roeck also spoke about serving as one of the film’s producers. “Anytime you’re directing a movie, and you’re also a producer, you have more power to be able to stick to your vision,” he revealed.
“There are a lot of different types of directors in Hollywood, but you can easily break them up into two main categories,” Roeck revealed. “There are the directors for hire. They comprise of the studios hiring people to direct films like ‘Superman’ or ‘Spider-Man.’ Those directors don’t own those properties, and they didn’t come up with the story’s idea. They’re employed by the studio, rather than having the film being an independent business.”
The filmmaker added that the other group of directors “make an independent movie like ‘Diablo,’ and then later sell it to a studio, like Orion Pictures. During that process, you have more of an ability to really shape the material as a director. Usually, in the very beginning of these projects, there isn’t anyone there to really produce the film,” Roeck admitted. “So if a director really wants to delve into a particular subject, they sometimes have to also become a producer, just to get their vision made.”
Roeck added that being a producer on ‘Diablo’ “was a real joy. I had a great producing team. Carlos De Los Rios, my writing partner, also produced the film with me. My business partner, Shana Wilson, who works more on the technical side, also served as our executive producer. Bret Pursuit served as my associate producer,” the director said. “They’re all talented people who really supported me.” Roeck added that being able to be a producer on his own movie “really allowed me to get my vision across.”
Beach also chimed in on filming ‘Diablo’ independently. “It doesn’t matter if a film is being made independently or with a big budget; who you’re working with matters more. It’s important to work with people who want to do the best they can…You usually look for projects where people are putting things on paper that show that they know what they’re doing,” the actor said.
The performer also revealed that actors can often read scripts where “after the first 20 pages, you think, where is this going? So it can be difficult to find good scripts and people you can connect with when you film.” But he felt that wasn’t the case with Roeck, Eastwood and the rest of the Western’s cast and crew.
While ‘Diablo’ is an independent adventure thriller that Beach felt that he could connect to, he also discussed how there can be difficulties in approaching the action sequences in these types of indies. “Stunts take a lot of time to film. So a lot of independent films won’t have the actors film those scenes, and usually leave that up to the stunt people to do,” the actor explained. But he added that he “tries to give stunts a go, but anything can happen. There can be a slip of a wire, or a fake punch that goes wrong, which leaves a person bruised and unable to film all day. So performing the stunts can become difficult.”
With ‘Diablo’ being set to receive a joint release on VOD and in theaters on Friday, Roeck admitted that he thinks “the school is still out” on the benefit of distributing an independent film On Demand at the same time as its theatrical premiere. “I’m learning about it as we go along. Any filmmaker really desires to have a large theatrical,” the director explained.
Roeck did admit that “anytime I can get my films to the public, in any kind of better fashion, I’m always going to try to do that.” But he also emphasized that “in terms of the day-and-date release, the verdict’s still out on it,” and he added that he’s not sure whether he’ll do it again in the future.
Beach also commented on ‘Diablo’ receiving a joint VOD and theatrical release, saying “I think the platform, with On Demand, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle and other streaming servies, are allowing young and independent filmmakers to show audiences their creative process. It has been hit and miss for certain films, but the platform has allowed viewers to select the genre” they want to watch at their convenience. The actor further noted how the On Demand platform is offering more viewers access to a wider range of films, and that he thinks VOD is “going to keep growing…It’s just one form of technology that’s going to keep expanding over the next 10 years.”
Since the drama is set in the post-Civil War era, Roeck also discussed the process of creating the visual look of the story. “The real fascinating thing about ‘Diablo’ was that the crew that worked on it makes a lot of Westerns,” the filmmaker revealed. “So the crew, including our costume designer, Christine Thomson, and Trevor Smith, our production designer, already had a lot of experience, and had done a lot of research, in the genre. So that was cool, because it brought a real level of authenticity to the film.”
Roeck added that ‘Diablo’s Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, was “responsible for bringing all of the beautiful cinematography to the screen. Dean’s a legend in the world of movies; he was also the Director of Photography for such moviess as ‘Apollo 13,’ ‘Jurassic Park,’ the first three ‘Halloween’ films, ‘The Thing’ and the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy. I think Dean brings a real classical sense to the camera,” the helmer revealed. “He really showed the landscape, and held really big, wide shots.”
Cundey was “also open to using drone technology on ‘Diablo,'” Roeck revealed. “We brought some companies in to shoot aerials with drones for the movie. It’s great to have such such an established Director of Photography be open to such new technology. Using the drones allowed us to cover the character of Jackson, and his journey through the countryside.”
While Roeck knew he wanted to show Jackson’s big journey throughout the film, he admitted that “whenever you try to do that, it poses a lot of difficulties, in terms of production logistics. It’s called a company move when you move your set and production crew. Anytime you move the circus, which is what the base camp is called, it’s very expensive.”
So while Roeck and his crew shot the thriller in Drumheller and Longview, Alberta, Canada, they “really tried to economize our locations. We went really far out into the wilderness, and were able to stay there for a few days.” The director further noted that he and the Western’s crew “really utilized the scenery that looked unique from different directions. So a lot of the big looks of ‘Diablo’ were set by Dean and I trying to maximize where we were. If we were going to drive 80 miles out into the wilderness, and shoot something in an area (that’s rarely used in films), we tried to get as much of it as we could.”
Beach also discussed filming ‘Diablo’ on location, saying “It’s nice to be able to visit different areas to film projects. You get to see and explore different landscapes. It’s also great to play different world views; like this film is set in the 1800s.” The actor added that he feels privileged to have the opportunity to travel to different places for his work, so that he can play different characters, “whether I’m playing Slipknot in ‘Suicide Squad,’ or the medicine man in ‘Diablo.’ Each location and character has their beauty.”
Roeck also revealed that as a filmmaker, he’s “mostly driven by story. So it would take a really good story for me to go back and make another Western. But I can definitely see myself go back into the genre, and shooting a continuation of ‘Diablo,’ and pick up where the movie leaves off.”
While the director feels like he could write and helm a follow-up to ‘Diablo,’ he added that he’s currently “working on a big international action thriller. It’s an untitled project that I started before ‘Diablo,’ and we’re going to go to camera this coming summer.” Roeck added that it’s “a movie I’m very excited about.”
The filmmaker also revealed a teaser about what the thriller will be about, saying it follows “a guy who inherits a huge fortune and disappears. It explores all the reasons why he disappears, and what he’s going to do when he comes back, and what his actions mean for his family.” Roeck added that he’s excited to be focusing on his next project, but “would love to come back and do another Western one day.”
Written by: Karen Benardello