Oater taps muscles, morals, McLish

Producer Ron Samuels’ independently financed $ 12 million “Raven Hawk” just started shooting in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and L.A. — with a slightly differentfocus than other female-driven Western actioners.

Front and center of this modern-day-oater-with-a-social-conscience is physical actress Rachel McLish, who went toe to toe with Louis Gossett Jr. in the flyboy pic “Aces: Iron Eagle III.”

Starring as a Native American wrongly convicted of murdering her parents, the two-time Ms. Olympia’s character returns to her tormented reservation 12 years later, determined to right the wrongs wrought by a sinister high tech waste disposal plant.

Also starring are John Enos, William Atherton and Ed Lauter.

Gun manufacturer Jim Davis co-financed “Hawk” with Samuels, and will also co-produce. The two previously put together backing for the “Iron Eagle” series.

Albert Pyun will direct “Hawk” from a script by Kevin Elders, who also penned all the “Iron Eagle” pix, and Nora Gaye will associate produce. The film, which has not yet found distribution, will be wrapping in late August.

Keeping in mind recent pix featuring strong femme leads with big pecs and bigger firearms, Samuels added that “Hawk” will be “a better showcase for the physical prowess of an actress — and that includes the ‘Terminator’ and ‘Alien’ films.”

McLish, who bowed on the big screen in “Pumping Iron II: The Women,” will do most of her own stunts, including “being dragged by a horse down a riverbed,” per producers on the Santa Fe, N.M. set.

Calling from high atop the Puie cliff deep inside 11th century Anasazi tribal land, Samuels said the film is also important because “we’re on sacred ground here. The Tribal Council has never allowed Hollywood crews to shoot in this area.”

After some negotiating, cameras were trained on even the annual powwow, where Indian nations gather outside Taos. McLish’s part-Mescalero Apache heritage helped seal the rare permit, per Samuels.

Additionally in the works for Samuels is the upcoming CBS telepic “Mustang Sally,” described as an updated “Raising Arizona.” The plot focuses on an iconoclast highway patrolwoman whose best friend is a blind mechanic. Samuels, who will produce, hopes to spin it off into a series.

Another percolatingproject is the love story feature “A Matter of Honor,” which takes place inside Mexico’s ancient bullfighter culture. The Mexican Government has agreed to co-finance the $ 15 to $ 20 million pic, per Samuels.

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