Chapters One | Two | Three | Four
Chapter One: Out of Hillerman's Head
Robert Redford: So the first thing I got was Thief of Time, and when I
read that I knew this was something that I wanted to do, and then I read
all of his books. And what I was taken with was the fact that he was a
Jamie Redford: My father, Robert Redford, optioned the series from Tony
Hillerman in the late '80s. He asked me, looking over the span of
Hillerman's books up until that time, where I thought a good starting
point was. It seemed obvious to me that Skinwalkers was the place to
Tony Hillerman: We spent quite a bit of time talking about it, and I was
trying to impress on him, and I think he already knew it, long before I
tried to teach him -- I was a teacher, and I couldn't resist teaching
anybody that would listen to me five minutes -- that to make a movie out
of a novel, you had to kind of kill the novel, so to speak, and take
pieces out of it. Jamie already knew that.
Jamie Redford: It's taken a long time. It's not an easy project to
finance. It's an all-Native cast, and you don't have the big Hollywood
names that you can put in front of your project to bring in the
financing, so that... was a difficult issue for many years, as we were
trying to get the movie off the ground. But luckily, someone had some
vision. That would be PBS.
Rebecca Eaton: As new as a lot of this is to all of us, the credentials
that people are bringing to the table are impressive, whether it's
Robert Redford, or Michael Nozik, who produced Quiz Show, or Craig
McNeil from Granada Television, who was the line producer on Prime
Suspect and Brideshead Revisited, or Carlton Television, in England, who
is a financier of this project, who produced the Inspector Morse series,
which did so well on PBS. So in a way, it's a lot of old friends
breaking new ground.
Crew: First scene rehearsal, guys. First scene rehearsal.
Crew: Rehearsal. Clear the road, please.
Roy Wagner: I'm only doing this one camera. This is for the arrow.
Michael Nozik: Chris Eyre was the director we always had hoped would
direct this piece. We at Wildwood know Chris from his... his early days,
when he was at the Sundance Institute, working on the film Smoke
Signals. He was working on a workshop before he even made the film. We
came to know him then and have always been watching his work, and as we
developed these pieces, we thought, you know, Chris would be a good
candidate for this job.
Crew: And roll sound.
Crew: Lights on. Set. And action. Turn around.
Chris Eyre: The difference between a good movie and a great movie...
most of all, for me, it's about positive energy when you're working, and
we have a great group of people here.
Crew: Cut. Save the lights.
Chris Eyre: It's about, you know, this family that's come together, to
make this baby.
Emma Leaphorn: Nettle... really?
Jim Chee: Yeah, you just boil it, put it in a Baggie, and then slip it
over his foot.
Emma Leaphorn: Hmm.. Hear this, Joe? Free medical advice. Hey, maybe you
can help us. Joe has athlete's foot so bad. Sometimes...
Joe Leaphorn: For God's sake, Emma.
Emma Leaphorn: Don't be embarrassed, Joe. Jim here's a...
Joe Leaphorn: Yeah, I know... a medicine man. Let's go.
Jim Chee: Thank you for the coffee, ma'am.
Emma Leaphorn: Maybe next time you'll get to finish it.
Chris Eyre: And cut.
Chapter Two: Not Your Average Cops: Leaphorn & Chee
Crew: Can you see me here, guys? Take.
Rebecca Eaton: The added bonus of Skinwalkers as a first choice of
American MYSTERY! is... besides the mystery that's being solved in it,
there's a whole other story, which is the struggle between the two main
characters and their relationships to being Indian.
Joe Leaphorn: Who called it in?
Robert Redford: The older guy, the detective, who's experienced, on the
edge of retirement, went to Albuquerque, went through the Anglo-oriented
schools and so forth -- training programs -- to be a cop, and then to be
a detective, and he has not much use for the traditional parts of the
culture and so therefore never involved himself in it. His name is
Leaphorn, Joe Leaphorn. The young guy, Jim Chee, is a sort of young,
real novice, who wants to be everything you would imagine Joe Leaphorn
[not] to be. He wants to be the traditionalist; he wants to be a healer.
Officer Gorman: What about Chee?
Joe Leaphorn: He's spiritually exempt.
Robert Redford: They have to do something. They have to solve these
crimes on the reservation, and that's where Tony Hillerman has done kind
of a... in my mind, a magical thing. He's been able to incorporate the
Native American culture in a very realistic way, because you have to
look at the culture the way it is today, not some imagined way, like on
the back of a nickel or through some history book or some bad Hollywood
movie that just always characterized Native Americans as monosyllabic
Crew: And action.
Crew: Action back up.
Doug: Chee! What's up?
Adam Beach: Jim Chee is trying to live up to being the peaceful medicine
man, but also the authoritative, in-your-face cop.
Chris Eyre: And action.
Jim Chee: Hold on a second, all right?
Jim Chee: Where the hell did you get this from?
Ruben Maze: Dead Grandpa Trading Post.
Doug: Chee, get off! Dude, come on! Man, Chee! Get back, man. Chill
Adam Beach: To try to balance that, that's pretty hard, you know. He has
to be, like, this role model to the community, so if he loses his cool,
a lot of people are going to be, like... looking at him in
disappointment, maybe. He just doesn't want to disappoint anybody.
Chapter 3: The Once and Future Indian
Janet Pete: Listen... we need to talk.
Adam Beach: What's nice about Skinwalkers is it's allowing an audience
to see a different Indian perspective. Like, for myself, I don't want it
to always be a Hollywood-romanticism running- in-the-woods kind of
thing. That's slowly dying. Like, I'm hoping to play an Indian in the
future, you know? Star Trek, maybe. Not Star Trek, but... where are we
in the year 2004 you know?
Chris Eyre: Adam is great. I mean Adam has this great personal warmth.
Aside from being an actor, he just has this wonderful, positive,
optimistic energy. And it's contagious. It helps the crew work. And it
comes across on screen. It actually telegraphs on screen that this
guy... he seems very young and vibrant and youthful and childlike, and
it's because he is, to a certain degree.
Crew: All right, guys, here we go.
Michael Nozik: Coming in.
Adam Beach: What's my line, again?
Crew: Set... Action.
Jim Chee: Lieutenant, this is Wilson Sam.
Wilson Sam: Born to the Red House, born to the many goats.
(Sam and Chee converse in Navajo.)
Joe Leaphorn: Mr. Sam, would you be surprised to know that Mr. George's
killer is mimicking a skinwalker?
Wilson Sam: I'm a hard man to surprise, detective.
Chris Eyre: And cut.
Wes Studi: Joe Leaphorn is an urban Indian, for one. And he's also an
urban policeman, and he's come to a rural situation where he's going to
have to make adaptations in his style of police work, as well as
lifestyle. Joe is laboring under the fact that his wife is in a medical
condition that could be fatal at any time in the future, and he is
living with that, but... he is well trained, and he is a professional,
and he continues to do his work as he feels he should.
Wes Studi: Good guy, bad guy, I don't care. You know, I go with it
like... In my own mind, I'm a good guy. You know, I'm doing things that,
for me, there's a reason to be doing.
Crew: A and B, common marker.
Chris Eyre: Action.
Wes Studi: The craft of acting is something that you have to believe,
first of all, in your own mind, that this situation that you're
portraying is real, and you go from there. Hopefully the result is that
the camera sees that you are doing something very real to you.
Joe Leaphorn: I thought I told you to go home.
Jim Chee: It's like I said... it's all at the factory. That's all the
evidence you need.
Joe Leaphorn: Fine... now go home.
Chris Eyre: And cut.
Crew: Cut. Go again, guys, go again. Set. And action!
Chapter Four: Telling a Story with the Camera
Tony Hillerman: If I was in the movie business, then maybe... I tell you
the truth, if I was in my 20s instead of 77, I would be really itching
to tell a story with a camera. If I did get the job of directing a film,
my first rule, if I was basing it on a book, a novel, would be that
neither the author of the novel nor anybody else who's got any ideas
about it is going to be allowed anywhere near this project. Verboten.
Because it's going to be hard enough without people who don't understand
the process interfering. And trying to make a book, you know, with a
camera... ah, well. My interest, of course, would be to maintain the
original notion and the original flavor of the Navajo culture. I hope
this gives people a... a feeling... the same kind of respect I feel for
those people and their value system.
Chris Eyre: And action.
Jamie Redford: One of the Navajo ideas of healing has to do with
harmony. If you look at any given situation, whether it's an emotional
or physical ailment or a problem of some sort, you apply the word
"harmony" to it, it's not necessarily looking at specifically just
physically healing it. How are you going to be with it all, as a person?
When you emerge from a trauma of any sort, how are you going to be with
it all? And what is your outlook on life? And the Navajo culture is more
interested in how the person sort of views their own place in this
universe rather than whether or not they're running a fever, or in their
specifics of medication, prognosis, diagnosis. The singing and the
bringing of an individual to harmony is not necessarily simply about
changing the condition of somebody on a physical level. It's allowing
them to be at peace with what is, and if you're sick, how are you going
to be at peace with that, and how are you going to live forward from
(Man singing traditional Navajo song)
Adam Beach: What I'm hoping, with this film, is that it sends a message
that it's important to have a balance within yourself; it's important to
let people see who we are, how we manage ourselves and to give that
different perspective and, you know, I'm hoping that a lot of the young
Indian kids can kind of look up to us as role models and see that we are
not just corralled on our reservation location; that, you know, we are
part of North America, the world out there, and hopefully, in the next
ten, years, a lot of the kids can pursue being a tribal police, pursue
being a detective, pursue being a traditional medicine man, you know,
pursue keeping their culture alive, pursue being an Indian A.D.
(assistant director), here. Come here, Buddy. This is Larry.
Adam Beach: And Larry here is an A.D., and he looks over the actors and
what's going on. And you know, hopefully a kid can become an A.D. We'll see.
Larry: Some actors make it a little harder than others, but some make it
easier (laughing) By the way, we need to get back to work. Sorry.