Helmer auditions Texas

Howard vows version to deal with historical complexities

AUSTIN — Ron Howard remembers the Alamo as well as “The Alamo.”

Though he remains mum whether a retelling of the tale for Disney will be his next film, he is scouting Texas locations for the film with producers Brian Grazer and Todd Hallowell.

The helmer held a press confab here Monday, discussing the project with Texas Gov. Rick Perry before a portrait of Sam Houston in the Governor’s Mansion.

Howard and Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment is based at Universal, but occasionally makes films for other studios, such as the Touchstone pic “Ransom.”

Howard vowed that his version, penned by John Sayles, would deal with many of the historical complexities — including the Mexican point of view — that were glossed over in John Wayne’s 1960 film.

Also to be dealt with would be Alamo heroes William Barret Travis’ serial marital infidelities, Jim Bowie’s slave trading and Davy Crockett’s overall political incorrectness.

“I believe audiences are ready to embrace the complexities of the film, but it still boils down to heroism,” Howard said. “The simplistic approach is not appropriate and it’s not interesting. We know there will be limitations and controversies.”

Previous reports have had filming of a Sayles-penned script beginning as early as this summer near Austin and in North Carolina.

But Tom Copeland, director of the Texas Film Commission, said it might be fall before filming could begin, because of the massive sets that would need to be constructed.

And Howard said he still has to convince studios to shoot in Texas, not Canada.

“It wouldn’t quite make sense to make it anywhere else,” said Howard, who added that actor Russell Crowe suggested he discuss the project with Perry.

Australian Crowe has become an honorary Texan himself. “Texas” is the name of the documentary about Crowe’s band, 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts. The pic, which follows the band’s performance at an Austin club, screened at last week’s SXSW Film Festival. The band also performed at the birthday party of Perry’s daughter.

Copeland said it would be a major blow if the legend of Texas were filmed elsewhere, particularly if it falls victim to the filming incentives and devalued Canadian dollar that have sent so many U.S. productions across the border.

“We’re just pleased they’re here and considering it as strongly as they are,” Copeland told reporters huddled in the Governor’s Mansion entrance — just a few feet from a massive painting of the Alamo battle in which Crockett wields a rifle butt as a weapon against the attacking Mexican Army.

Howard, who shot the telefilms “Cotton Candy” and “Skyward” in Texas early in his career, said he hopes to hire a large percentage of his crew from the Lone Star State if his plans work out.

(Joe O’Connell is a free-lancer based in San Antonio. Dana Harris contributed to this report.)

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