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An American MYSTERY! Special
Skinwalkers Coyote Waits A Thief of Time Navajoland Discussion
Making SkinwalkersCast and CrewSkinwalkers CountryNovel to FilmStory SynopsisChat
Making Skinwalkers Transcript

 Read along as you watch or print and peruse later on.
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 real storyteller.

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 start.

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: Rolling.

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.

Crew: 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 villains.

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 out, man.

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 there?

(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.

Larry: Hi.

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.

In this section: Making Skinwalkers | Cast and Crew | Skinwalkers Country
Novel to Film | Story Synopsis | Chat


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