C.M. 'Carty' Talkington is the writer-director of the 'Western psychedelic road opera' LOVE AND A .45 (1994), a film that features Renee Zellweger in one of her breakout early performances and has an enduring cult following. Unfairly overshadowed by the success of Quentin Tarantino, who remains a fan of the movie, LOVE AND A .45 exudes the restlessness, wild imagination, eclectic tastes and rebelliousness of its creator. I talked to Carty about his career as a filmmaker and musician. In part one we talked about his early influences and early scripts, and the making of LOVE AND A .45.     

Part two of the interview. 
Part three of the interview. 

What films impressed you the most growing up? 
I loved watching films as a kid, and I watched everything that I could. The list is endless really. GIANT (1956) impressed me a lot. I was once at a film festival in Marfa, Texas, where they shot it. We all stayed at the Paisano Hotel, which is where Rock Hudson, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and George Stevens stayed when they were making the film. The lounge was in the suite where Rock Hudson had his room. All I could think about was what kind of really wild things must have taken place in that room!

I loved all of Sam Fuller's films, especially ones like THE NAKED KISS (1964) and SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963). David Cronenberg is a genius, and VIDEODROME (1983) is a very important and timely film. I'll never forget first seeing the likes of Coppola's films and Scorsese's MEAN STREETS (1973) and TAXI DRIVER (1976). Scorsese's films really made me see the connection between music and film. He and Kubrick are my favorite filmmakers. When I watched the re-release of 2001 (1968) in the 70s, I sat there thinking ''This is where I have to go.'' 

What are your earliest film-related memories? 
I remember the sound of my mom's Super 8 camera whirring and the light on my face as I was taking my first steps. I immediately found it to be the most comforting sound. When I was eight I started making little short films, and my mom gave me that Super 8 camera. I got obsessed with the special effects and I started doing in-camera stop-motion animation, taking all my toys and bringing them to life. I made one movie called Barbie and Ken Have a Terrible Car Accident, where they both got decapitated. My sister and I made a bunch of films together. 

When did you become interested in acting? 
I started acting in school plays, and as I got older I started auditioning for stuff. My friends and I created an underground theater company in the warehouse district of Dallas and we did original plays that I wrote, directed and acted in. I did that for about three years, and then I did the same thing in college. I remember it was my first year of college and I was in an audition for Uncle Vanya, and I said ''You know what, guys? I can't do this anymore. I'm going to have to leave. '' I suddenly realised that I wanted to write and direct, and work with actors, but I didn't want to be an actor. I decided to move to Los Angeles and start writing films. 

Can you talk about your first script? 
It was called Savage TV. In 1986 I had read an incredibly brilliant and important book called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978). It was written by Jerry Mander, who was a huge advertising executive in the advertising industry as it took off in the 60s and 70s. He started up a firm in San Francisco that went on to become one of the biggest ad agencies in the world. He was inside the belly of the beast. Mander began to become concerned about what TV physically does to people and he found that it was toxic and affecting the way we think and use our imagination. It's all very scientific. The book really made sense to me, and I thought it was very brave and that it encapsulated a lot of the things that I was feeling. It inspired me to write the screenplay Savage TV as soon as I arrived in LA, which would have been 1990. 

What's the story about? 
It's about a guy who goes to Los Angeles and wants to get into the advertising business, but he can't get in. He sees an ad in the L.A. Weekly where you can get paid to watch television. He's like a guinea pig. He starts to realise that he is participating unknowingly in a program to control the American mind through television, and he teams up with a televangelist who was part of the program to try and stop all this from happening. Through the script I got an agent, Jeff Robinov, who also became a very good friend. Jeff later became the President of Warner Brothers for six years. 

How did the script for LOVE AND A .45 come about? 
For my next script, which became LOVE AND A .45, it was literally about what genre would give me the best chance to direct a film. Savage TV and Hollywood Anarchist, my third script, are more like the things I'd usually write. Growing up, my favourite songs and films had to do with outlaws. The idea was to take things I know and people I know and stick it into a genre. I wanted to hit all the elements of the outlaw genre and make it really rock n' roll, wild and violent. I saw LOVE AND A .45 as a Western psychedelic drive-in road opera. I was really influenced by Joseph H. Lewis's GUN CRAZY (1950). That film blew me away. 

Why do you think LOVE AND A .45 got made when Savage TV didn't? 
I clearly saw that I was getting a chance because of this Quentin Tarantino guy. I had just started to hear about him. I would send my script out and they would say ''Oh, this reminds me of Quentin Tarantino.'' I had not seen anything he had done or read anything he had written, but I realised that I was riding on his coattails. He was really helping me indirectly! I knew that I was getting a wonderful opportunity because of Quentin, but that it was also going to hurt me. And that is the way it happened. But I am just so happy to have gotten the film made. 

How did you convince the studio to allow you to direct the film? 
When I moved to L.A., I didn't know anybody and I had zilch. I told any lie I could to get in. I told Trimark I had made some short films. When they asked to see them I told them they had all burned up in a fire! I only had one four- minute short I'd made. I'm not reckless, but I'm willing to take calculated risks. I had spent years and years writing and acting in plays. When my mother came to visit me she noticed I had all the pages of 'How to Direct a Film' all over my hotel wall!

I believe they sensed that I could do it. I knew that I could do it even though I had never done it before. I certainly acted confident. Jeff Robinov got me this wonderful producer named Darin Scott, who at that point had done three or four first-time director films and delivered them successfully. He had just finished MENACE II SOCIETY (1993), which was a great film. 

Would you have let anybody else direct the film? 
I remember my agent Jeff calling me and telling me Oliver Stone's people wanted a copy of the script sent over immediately. They had the script for two weeks. Perhaps they were considering buying it. They eventually called and said they passed. I love Oliver Stone. I think I might have allowed him to direct it. But other than him, it was always going to be me. I was even offered $250, 000 by Charles Evans, the nephew of Robert Evans, for the script, but on the condition that I didn't direct it. Charles wanted to direct it himself. It was difficult to say no, not only because of the money, but because through his uncle, Charles was probably going to get Faye Dunaway to play the mom. That was so tempting. It would have been perfect because I quote BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) in the script. 

How did you come to cast Renee Zellweger? 
My big idea was to cast all unknowns and to discover new people, which we did. I really wanted to cast a real Texan for Starlene, as I thought only a real Texan would get the role. Trimark was making the film. They were a small company distributing their own films, and was like New Line when they started out. They let me cast the film the way I wanted but we had to agree on everything. We were allowed to fly to Austin and start pre-production on the condition that we cast Cathy Ireland in the role of Starlene – unless we found someone better. Cathy was a successful model at the time, and a super nice girl, but she wasn't right for the part. 

How did Renee find out about the film? 
Rene found out about LOVE AND A .45 from Matthew McConaughey! They had acted together in THE RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1994). She read it and thought she could nail the part. She figured out how to get an audition tape to me. It wasn't that great, to be honest - it was just her and her dog in her backyard in Texas -but she had something. We set a time to meet, and the way she was dressed, she WAS Starlene. Five minutes into the meeting I looked over to the producer, Darin, and I could tell we were both thinking ''Holy shit!'' After she left, we started high fiving each other. It was so obvious she was perfect for the role. We sent the tape to Trimark and they just couldn't see why she was so good. They still wanted to go with Cathy Ireland. We ended up telling Trimark that we would leave if they didn't cast Renee. We felt that strongly. And we were right. She is amazing in the film. Trimark would later say they discovered Rene ... which they did - at gunpoint! 

Did you stay in touch with Renee after the film? 
She struggled really hard after the movie. She used to call me and she'd be beaten down from all the rejection. I'd tell her ''Rene, I see it so clearly. You're going to win an Academy Award someday. You hang in there.'' One time she called me and she told me she had auditioned for JERRY MAGUIRE (1996) and that she thought she hadn't gotten the part. She was so crushed. But she called me a few days later and told me she had gotten it. 

Did you ever audition McConaughey for the role of Watty? 
Yes, he was one of four actors in consideration for the role. The other actors were Gil Bellows, who got the part, Stephen Baldwin, and maybe Jason Gedrick. I wasn't sure if Matthew was quite right for the role, but it was very clear to me that this guy was a movie star. DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) hadn't even come out yet. Trimark told us ''This guy can't act his way out of a paper bag. You can have Renee but there's no way you're using him.'' It's hilarious to think about now. 

How did you cast Rory Cochrane? 
I got hooked up with Rory Cochrane and Matthew McConaughey because of a casting director named Don Phillips. He had actually discovered Sean Penn for FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982). He had a really good eye. Rick Linklater had also hired him to cast DAZED AND CONFUSED. I just loved Rory once I met him. He is one of the best actors I have ever worked with. He just took that part and went with it. I was worried about him because he stopped eating and sleeping and really wanted to get out there. He drove to Huntsville Prison and visited an inmate he had started a pen-pal friendship with. He based his character on what they talked about. I loved his performance. 

It was quite a coup getting Peter Fonda to play Renee's dad. 
My cinematographer Tom Richmond was shooting Roger Avary's film KILLING ZOE (1993), and Eric Stoltz was the star. Eric was going out with Bridget Fonda. I asked Tom if he could get the script to Peter Fonda via Eric and Bridget. Peter read it and agreed to do it for SAG minimum. When Peter arrived at the hotel, he called my room and wanted to come and chat with me. At one point he said ''You wanna share a joint?'' Totally surreal. I'm sitting there sharing a joint with the guy from EASY RIDER (1969). After a little while I looked over at where he was sitting on the bed and I noticed there was a gun underneath his pillow. I said ''Peter, why do you have a Glock 9mm under your pillow?'' He said ''Oh, I always sleep with it under my pillow. I never go anywhere without it. '' I immediately asked ''Why?'' and he responded with ''Hopper. Hopper.'' 

What was he like to work with? 
Peter was such a hard-working actor and so kind to everyone on the set. He was a really good energy on the set. We had a horrible tragedy happen. David Whitley, the make-up effects guy on the film, died in an accident driving home from the set one night. I dedicated the film to him. We were all incredibly shaken and Peter was so good to everybody with his time. He was a pleasure to have on the movie. 

Did he ever break up a take and laugh? His scenes are hysterically funny. 
No, he was the consummate professional. He took it so seriously, even though it's the ultimate lampooning of his persona. I was so thrilled when he asked me if he could say ''I'm hip about time'' as a special homage to EASY RIDER. I think his scene is my favourite in the whole movie. 

How did you get Tom Verlaine to do the music? 
I was a big fan of Television and I wanted someone interesting and cool to do the music. One of the music people on the movie knew him and told us he was interested in scoring movies. Tom came over every day to my sister's loft on the East Side of New York where I was staying and we worked on the music for the film. He did a really subtle, atmospheric score that I really liked. There was zero money in the budget for music, but I met a guy named Happy Walters who owned a label called Immortal Records. He also represented Cypress Hill. We made a deal where he paid for the music himself and he got to release the soundtrack album. We got Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire, which I had told Happy was very important for the movie. Happy told me it would normally cost something like $500, 000, but it just so happened that Johnny was his next door neighbor in Jamaica. Happy was indispensable. He taught me everything I know about putting together a movie soundtrack. We'd never have gotten such a cool soundtrack without him. 

How do you feel about the film now? 
I was in heaven making it, even though it was a tough shoot. I was 27 years old making my first film. It's not perfect, but I think it's a pretty good first film. Some of the violence and language makes me uncomfortable now, but I was trying to channel the genre and give it some new mojo. I'm proud of it. The film is more alive now than it's ever been. I think that the film would be gone if it weren't for the internet. 

How do you feel about Tarantino calling you his favorite imitator? 
We're close to the same age. I know we like a lot of the same movies because I spent a week with him at the Stockholm Film Festival in 1994, and we talked a lot. Later he invited me to the set of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996) and we had fun. So I think there are some similarities between LOVE AND A .45 and his stuff. But I also think there are some core differences. I finally saw RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) after I finished the script, and there were several things in it that were similar to mine. I seriously thought about taking those things out because I knew I would get raked over the coals, but ultimately I decided to just keep it the way I wrote it. I think he believes that I imitated his style but if you look at the timeline of when we wrote our screenplays, we were writing them at the same time. Maybe I'm Quentin's favorite imitator because I didn't imitate him? I just take it as a great compliment that he remembers my film and likes it. He's been more supportive of the film than anyone else. He's kept it alive by talking about it in interviews. I'm gonna give him a big hug if I ever see him again. 

I spoke to Carty by telephone on 3rd November 2015, and by email during April 2016, and would like to thank him for his time.  

LOVE AND A .45 on Facebook.   

Featurette on the making of the film, directed by Carty's sister, Amy Talkington.  

Photographs are the property of CM Talkington and cannot be reproduced without his permission. Photos by (1) Danny Rothenberg, (2, 10) Zachary Mortensen, (3, 4, 5) Unknown, (6) Trimark, (7) Toni Scott, wife of producer Darin Scott, (8) C.M. Talkington, (9) Created by Nathan Thomas Milliner, (11) Quentin Tarantino. 

Interview by Paul Rowlands. Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2016. All rights reserved. 

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