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Tags: black | eastwood | marshall | republican

Isaiah Washington's 'Corsicana' an Instant Classic Western

Isaiah Washington's 'Corsicana' an Instant Classic Western

Actor Isaiah Washington as Marshall Bass Reeves (Photo Credit: Rose Dove Entertainment. Used with permission).

Michael Clark By Friday, 26 August 2022 09:55 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Best known for his stints on the TV shows "The 100" and "Grey’s Anatomy," actor Isaiah Washington has worked with some of the most respected filmmakers of this or any generation including Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, Spike Lee, John Sayles, and Steven Soderbergh.

This week sees the release of "Corsicana," a Western starring Washington as Bass Stevens, the first Black U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi River who arrested over 3,000 outlaws during his three decade career as a law-enforcement officer.

This is the first time Washington has been both in front of and behind the camera and the result is one of finest Revisionist Westerns ever produced.


(Actor Isaiah Washington - as director - on the set of: "Corsicana." Photo Credit: Rose Dove Entertainment. Used with permission.)

I recently interviewed Washington, a self-proclaimed "Frederick Douglass" Republican who has discovered that being a Conservative in Hollywood has its drawbacks.

Michael Clark: Did you find this project or did it find you?

Isaiah Washington: It found me.

MC: I have to be honest, I had never heard of Bass Reeves until last year . . . 

IW: I wasn’t aware of him until I was offered the role two years ago.

MC: This is the fourth movie about Reeves to be released in the last nine years. Were you hesitant to make this one?

IW: Not at all. I saw the other films and frankly, I was underwhelmed. Not because of the actors playing Reeves, but rather the narratives of each. I was fortunate to work closely with a historian prior to shooting and everything he told me lined up with what I’d read on the Internet while doing my own research.

MC: You weren’t slated to direct the movie. Tell me how or why that changed.

IW: The original director was shall we say "difficult" and didn’t share the same vision as the producers. I hadn’t planned on this being my directorial debut but, because I had done so much studying in pre-production and we were about to start shooting, I took the gig. I only had 48 hours to get ready for the job.

MC: I was impressed with your treatment of violence, in particular the brutality early in the film when the family’s home is invaded by the villain and his gang. All of the violence was implied and takes place off-screen. Tell me why you did it that way.

IW: I went completely French New Wave there. Because of the ultra-violence in most modern movies and social media, the audience has become desensitized to it. They don’t take it seriously. They seem to think it’s OK to watch on-screen murders yet in turn it’s made them fearful of their own imaginations. I wanted to intentionally deprive the audience of any gratuitous violence. I wanted it to play like Hitchcock.

MC: For me, this is the best Western since "Unforgiven" and it looks a lot like it. Was that your intent or just a coincidence?

IW: I went out of my way not to make a traditional Western; I wanted an "anti-Western" - less John Wayne and more Clint Eastwood. Foremost this movie – written by a career policeman (Robert Johnson) – is a detective story. The term “Western” has become an industry pejorative because millions of dollars have been lost because of too much violence and unimaginative storytelling.

MC: Both you and your producer (Amber McNutt) likened "Corsicana" to "Top Gun: Maverick" which I agree with. They’re both apolitical and tell great American stories. Did I get that right?

IW: Yes. I’ve seen the first "Top Gun" many times and have been a longtime supporter of Tom [Cruise]. I’ve never felt comfortable regarding the persecution he receives because of his beliefs. He’s made this industry billions of dollars and their biggest concern is his jumping on Oprah Winfrey’s couch. Our movie and "Maverick" are about family, brotherhood, Americana. It’s not just about overblown militarism where perfect human beings are going to step in and save the world.

MC: In 2017, you and a scant few other actors joined the #WalkAway movement, which resulted in your being "outed" as a Conservative. In the movie "Trump Card," you mentioned this decision cost you many friends. Is that correct?

IW: I lost friends, [extended] family, and many industry relationships. It’s interesting that my so-called desire for "fairness," balance, the rule of law, and transparency has made me an "ultra-Conservative." I believed what Walter Cronkite was telling me; we don’t have anyone like that anymore. It’s all just another form of propaganda couched as "infotainment."

MC: You acted in four movies directed by [noted leftist] Spike Lee. Have you spoken to him since 2017?

IW: No, we don’t talk - for obvious reasons [laughs].

MC: In 2013, you stared as [Beltway Sniper] serial killer John Allen Muhammad in the movie "Blue Caprice." Describe that experience for me.

IW: I am always attracted to roles that disturb me; those that make me uncomfortable. I’m the kind of guy who runs toward the gunfire, not away from it. Me agreeing to play a man like that challenged me as an artist; that’s why I did it. He was a toxic leader and father figure whom I found to be very complex.

MC: Is there a director you’d work with without knowing the script content beforehand and why?

IW: Yes, Oliver Stone, because he pushes it to the edge. He does his research and gets to the core of human frailty. He’s like Hitchcock; he’s not afraid to go to the heart of the beast. I’d also include [Francis Ford] Coppola, Peter Berg, Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood, and yes, even Spike Lee.

MC: Would you consider directing again?

IW: I’d compare the experience to what my wife said when in labor with our first child: "I’m never going to do this again!" I was that guy on the set. If you had asked me that question a year ago, I would have said no. It’s not just the creative stuff, its administrative details as well – you’re always putting out fires. When I worked for Warren Beatty ("Bulworth") and Eastwood ("True Crime"), they both said "you need to be a director." That didn’t really sink in until recently.

MC: Do you ever see yourself holding elected office?

IW: Oh, man, don’t do that to me [laughs – long pause]. I’ve been told that even though I’m done with politics, politics is not done with me.

MC: I’m taking that as a yes.

Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national film industry media outlets and is based in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a regular contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on floridamanradio.com. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles and is one of the scant few conservative U.S. movie critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.

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This week sees the release of "Corsicana," a Western starring Washington as Bass Stevens, the first Black U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi River who arrested over 3,000 outlaws during his three decade career as a law-enforcement officer.
black, eastwood, marshall, republican
Friday, 26 August 2022 09:55 AM
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