As the once-prosperous town of La Coste, Texas descends further into corruption, Travis Delmore (George Hardy), is the last of a dying breed who believes in the difference between right and wrong, and aims to do everything he can to enforce that difference.
Directed by Tyler Russell, from a script he co-wrote with Jameel Khaja, Texas Cotton is a sparse, west Texas-set crime story that delves deep into the heart of small-town corruption, while critically examining its characters’ morality.
Ahead of its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival, we sat down with star George Hardy, perhaps best known for his role in Troll 2, or the documentary about it, Best Worst Movie, and co-writer/director Tyler Russell to talk about how Texas Cotton came together.
George, you seem pretty integral to the existence of this film. Is that the case?
George Hardy: Tyler had another film going out in 2014 called Here Comes Rusty and he saw Best Worst Movie and Troll 2 of course. But when he saw Best Worst Movie, he said that he said that’s my guy, that he wanted to do a have play the lead in this film and he started writing the script a couple of years ago. I said in Best Worst Movie, I always wanted to be an actor, but you know, to be given the chance and opportunity to play the lead was a real honor. So I went right in there, I went for it. Just jumped on it.
Was there any appeal to the character itself? The reverent archetype of the true-north Texas lawman, or was it 100% about working with Tyler?
Hardy: More than anything was working with Tyler. It really was, to be honest with you. With Here Comes Rusty, I just saw what he could do his work as far as he’s such a connector with people and I just said, this is the next best thing coming along from Texas as far as direction.
Tyler Russell: I wanted to show police in a fun cinematic way and just not worry about politics and just make a fun story. Let’s do old school cinema, good versus evil. And make you think, give you some emotion, and take you away from real life. That was kind of the goal and then make it authentic. And I wanted to shoot in Texas. I didn’t want to keep traveling and working out of state a lot and shot film in Alabama. I really wanted to be home and the, everything was against us as far as the [tax] incentive.
But the people are so damn good here and they believe in everything and the support from the locals and the film commissions are top notch. I don’t understand why there’s not a bajillion films shooting here, but at the same time I’m pretty happy about it, because we get to shoot wherever we want and we have this crew that is here. I only wish that our crew had more work. But, yeah. It was kind of putting the foot down and saying we’re gonna shoot in Texas no matter what. The investors and the team, they all said, you know, what, let’s do it. Business wise doesn’t make any sense, but film wise, absolutely shooting the town, get the places. Make it real.
Texas Cotton is really like a dusty, sepia-toned noir film. What films were going through your mind when you were putting it together?
Russell: A lot of my favorite films helped cause it’s right down my alley but like a Hell or High Water I think is a great film. Chinatown, one of the best films, [and] Fargo. So it kind of combined those. The way they shot it and the way the characters acted and the tone and the of the movie.
I like Chinatown so much because it takes his time and you’re on a journey with Jack Nicholson and the whole time and you’re just, you enjoy the mystery and what’s going on and it doesn’t really matter what’s going on. It’s just fun. You’re just having a good time. Like, it’s totally off the wall. It’s a crazy movie, really. When you dig into Chinatown, the script is so good, and the characters that are so compelling, that’s what makes that movie so like to me that people for it. And so I wanted that and this and then I was like, George can totally do this character. And George worked his butt off and he’s the Jack Nicholson of our film.
Hardy: I think there’s about 250 speaking parts in the film, and so I had everything from one line to several paragraphs. I started about six weeks early with crop composition writing. probably wrote the script, the full script, four or five times down in a notebook and because it’s about 90 to 120 pages, I forget. Then I think there are 57 sayings and so I have to memorize that on amount of lines, of course, but their are lines as well. So, pretty much didn’t memorize the script.
Then I recorded myself. My sister does so play acting, so she was telling me I would record our record the other person’s line and then hit a bell and then I’d say my line. Then I read the other line again, record it, and then I’d hit a bell and then I’d say my line. So it was a lot of different methods and you know, and would say the line up down that all kind of acting but it. But then honestly when it really got down to it, it was just truly an ownership of, of the character and then you just, you really do become that character. And then it happened to me, it finally happened that.
You do seem to lose yourself in the role.
Hardy: Last night when I saw it on screen for the first time, it was really weird, but I’m sitting in the audience last night and I did not feel like that was me. It was like, “I’m watching somebody else.” I wasn’t watching myself. It was so weird. It was almost like my spirit was pulled away from…. I can’t, I can’t even put it in words.
For information on where Texas Cotton is playing next, check out their website here.