Fango’s original British correspondent and longtime contributor, novelist and screenwriter/producer Philip Nutman has confirmed the rumors that following hot on the heels of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (which he adapted with Daniel Farrands from Jack Ketchum’s novel), he will script and direct a film version of Ketchum’s horror-flavored Western novella THE CROSSINGS. “With the exception of Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND,” Nutman tells us, “I’ve never fallen so much in love with a book and seen the movie in my head—and that includes the soundtrack—as I have with THE CROSSINGS.”
Nutman (pictured directing writer Rhodi Hawk in an upcoming short) will also produce the movie alongside Gary (DEATH LINE) Sherman for his newly-formed RPM Filmworks company. Veteran entertainment attorney Andrew C. Rigrod and Ketchum himself (a.k.a. Dallas Mayr) will co-produce. “When Phil came to me and asked about the rights to THE CROSSINGS, I said yes because after all the TLC he gave to THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, I trust my material in his hands, Mayr says. “Phil won’t inflict ego, trendiness or narcissism upon it. I have every faith he’ll just turn it into…a movie. Hopefully a great Western.”
“I didn’t anticipate doing another Ketchum project after the possibility of writing and producing [a film of the author’s] THE OFF SEASON dissolved late last year,” Nutman says, “but then the two Mikes [director Michael Kennedy, a.k.a. “Archibald Flancranstin,” and producer Michael Anthony] who made HEADER, the totally sick and still unreleased movie of Edward Lee’s novel, insisted I read THE CROSSINGS. They approached me during the Fango show in New Jersey last October and said they wanted me to write and produce a project for them that would take them to the next level as filmmakers. They said, based on GIRL NEXT DOOR, they wanted to do a Ketchum story—THE CROSSINGS. I said I’d think about it, and admitted I hadn’t read the novella. But once I finally did earlier this year, I fell in love with it, and by 20 pages in, I knew I had to acquire the rights and adapt it.
“After living with THE GIRL NEXT DOOR [hitting DVD via Anchor Bay December 4) for nearly eight years, the last thing I had on my mind was another Ketchum project,” he continues. “But my first love movie-wise, when I was a kid, was Westerns before I discovered horror movies, and the idea of doing a dark, dark, horrific one was a no-brainer. But THE CROSSINGS is more than that—it’s about the loss of family, and being haunted by the past; about the family you make and making sacrifices for people you care about. It has a lot of subtext that echoes classic film noir, and in fact Dallas has told me he was somewhat influenced by James M. Cain when he wrote it. But my pitch is, this is Clint Eastwood’s THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES goes to hell: We have a small ensemble of protagonists who unite to save a young girl from devil-worshipping white slavers—three Mexican black witches who sacrifice babies to their ancient gods—and a villain, Paddy Ryan, their enforcer/rapist, the most evil son of a bitch to stalk the west, and his gang of vile bastards. Paddy is like the 1840s human/living version of Freddy; he’d think nothing about raping a child to get what he wants.”
Despite his enthusiasm for THE CROSSINGS, Nutman reveals that he plans to make his directorial debut on another film first. “I contemplated THE CROSSINGS as my feature breakout, but since this is likely to be a $15-20-million project, I decided to reactivate an old script and prove I can helm a feature before trying to persuade investors to pony up a large chunk of money for THE CROSSINGS. All I can reveal right now is that actors Kane Hodder and Christa [2001 MANIACS] Campbell are seriously interested in signing on, and I’d love to work with Sid Haig and Bill Moseley, casting them against type in cameos. More on this when I’ve signed off on contracts.” The unnamed project will also be produced through Nutman’s RPM Filmworks with his partners, production designer/art director Roger (SESSION 9) Danchick and Marcie Giannattasio; Mikes Kennedy and Anthony are also involved.
Even now, however, THE CROSSINGS is already attracting name talent and the strength of its source material. “I pitched the project to Mark [ALIENS] Rolston, and he loved the story and is seriously interested in playing Ryan,” Nutman reveals. “Having seen Mark play a totally evil character on the set of David R. Ellis’ forthcoming ASYLUM, I sensed he’d be perfect—he was so great as the prison rapist who made Tim Robbins’ life miserable in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. He’s a terrific character actor who brings gravitas to every role he undertakes.”
Nutman is also in discussions with Hodder and J. (SAW III) LaRose to play fellow members of Ryan’s rapist marauders/white slavers. “I want actors who can physically convey evil without saying a lot, and watching ED GEIN, Kane sold me as someone beyond Jason. And having recently met J., I was immediately struck by his physical presence. He wants to play bad, and I want to mess up his good looks and turn him into a nightmare on a horse; fortunately, he can ride.” Other major casting is underway and will be announced soon.
“I want to take audiences on a hard ride into hell and make a Western that carries them to the heart of darkness,” Nutman concludes. “As the tagline I’ve come up with states, ‘When you cross the line, there’s no turning back.’ This movie is going to be very dark, very bloody and hopefully something viewers will never forget.”