A family affair: Behind the scenes with Bill Pullman

October 5, 2016

BUTTE — Hollywood actor Bill Pullman said making the film “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” — being shot in southwest Montana — is unlike anything he’s ever done in the world of cinema.

Pullman, 62, has made more than 60 movies to date, plus acted in TV and on stage. He divides his time between his home in southern California and a ranch outside of Whitehall.

He called the experience “hallucinogenic” because he is working with his entire family, as well as longtime Montana friends during the 20-day shoot in historic Bannack, 25 miles southwest of Dillon.

His wife, Tamara Pullman, and their three grown children all worked as extras. Montana friends such as retired Montana Shakespeare in the Parks artistic director Joel Jahnke show up in the film. The production hired close to 100 locals to work as extras. Real Montana ranch hands play Montana ranch hands.

“I’m looking out at my own community and family,” Pullman said Saturday from the set.

A former mining town that sprung up in the late 1800s, Bannack went bust by the early 1900s. With historical buildings still intact, it is a state park — and a perfect backdrop for a Western.

Producer Neda Armian said she and the director, Jared Moshé, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, considered other locations to film the movie, but ultimately decided on Montana because of the authenticity that would bring to the project.

“Montana lent a heartbeat to our movie that you can’t buy,” Armian said. “Montana is very much a character in the story.”

Pullman’s character, Lefty, feels he must avenge the death of a friend. Pullman said the movie is a fresh look at a classic Western drama because his character is “not equipped” to be a hero.

“They call him a fool,” Pullman said before going into a trailer to have his makeup and hair readied for a scene.

“There’s an emotional connection he hasn’t learned to hide,” the actor said.

To prepare to play Lefty, Pullman said he took unusual steps to get into character.

While traveling, he encountered a woman with a limp walking into an airport bathroom. Pullman approached her when she emerged because his character, Lefty, has a limp and Pullman felt inspired watching her walk. Pullman said the interaction was initially awkward.

“I watched her face. I couldn’t tell her reaction at first,” Pullman said.

But the stranger opened up to Pullman and said her limp was an encumbrance she was trying to overcome.

Armian called working with Pullman a humbling experience.

“Aside from being enormously talented, he has a deep humanity about him that is unparalleled,” Armian said.