Rick Groat is one of the stars of The Groat Family Western Show and the owner of,Groat Family Productions which produced the film Copperhead Creek; here is a link to his website:
Q: Why westerns?
A: I was born in 1949, and grew up loving westerns, and wanting to be in western films as an actor. The first time I knew this was when I saw High Noon with Garry Cooper, I was 8 years old and knew what I wanted to do, After that I watched every western film, and played them out with my brother as kids. Having the west in our blood with my family history starting with my grandfather Cliff Groat in 1923 who worked his way up from an extra to being a western film director for the old Pathe Pictures in the late 20’s and 30’s. My Mom was a child actor for MGM in the late 30’s and 40’s. My Mom’s father had a ranch where I would spend all my summers on a horse and around the western life, and my love for being a western’er grew strong, and so it was just natural. I and my family created our family wild west show in 1962, with my mentor the 3’rd son of Jesse James, who taught me my craft as a stuntman, the use of a bullwhip, and much more. We still perform our show, with over 5,459 performances, and we are the longest family owned wild west show in US history. I became an actor doing all the westerns I could do first as an extra, then worked my way into writing, producing, and directing my first western film in 1983 with our own production. It was a classic black and white western that won 12 awards in 1984 from the Southern CA Motion Picture association. Over the years we made many films, and I also worked as an actor on many films for other productions.
The most important reasons why I do westerns are, they are just good story telling, with a direct plot. The best ones are the traditional classics by Ford and the like. This is what I try to make, as it is the best way to tell a story about the human effort of the American west, and can be a great example for our young people, and if told right, can inspire and entertain at the same time, and I also think they should be family friendly, as I can feel safe letting my family watch.
Q: What will we see at the Groat family Wild West Show?
A: The show will take you back to a simple time, and one filled with comedy, stunts, and family fun. It is real western action including gun tricks, fist fights, and bullwhip tricks, with lots of participation with the crowd. It is about 45 min long, and is for kids of all ages, and will have you wanting to go home a watch a good western movie. We do everything from small birthday parties to large company events lasting an entire weekend. But most of our shows are one to two performances in a day at one event. We do only family friendly material, that is filled with thrills and fun. We are not history re-in-actors, but are western actors, and stuntmen, western film makers, and all family members.
Q: Why do you think Hollywood cut way back on the number of westerns it once produced?
A: The reasons are many, but the most important ones are, Hollywood is concerned with making what they think sells the most, and what is the flavor of the month, if it happens to be action drama, then that’s what they do, and westerns are not as easy to produce if they are made well, as they deal with “real” film making, and not CGI, so, they are last to make. The other big reason is, there are not many real western film makers left, and most of the talent are working what pays the bills, and that is mostly other types of films. Another big reason is, after the hay day of western films, and through the 80’s and 90’s, some films were made by film makers that did not know how to make a traditional western, and even as there were a few great films made by Eastwood, and a few others, most film in that time were to far away from what fans wanted to see, and so they fell out of favor, and Hollywood backed away from the western. When the big budget Lone Ranger re-make came out, it was so far away from the real western that it lost money, and this is not what Hollywood wants. I think that the way of making the western film a thing that Hollywood will support, is to get back to the basics, and make good films with true action and a good simple story that make you feel good, and also important, the actors must be the real thing, and know how to ride and shoot, as well as be a good actor. The last reason I can list is, Much of the film makers have gone out of the country, as it is just to costly for an independent to make a film here, as there are other locations and talent to allow a film maker to produce a film at a low budget, and this is something that we can change by supporting and Hollywood and CA can try to offer an easier path to allow first time film makers to accomplish their films, But, on the pos side of it all, the internet and the digital areas have made it now much easier for all actors, and film makers to accomplish a film, and more so a western.
Q: What is Copperhead Creek about?
A: Without giving away too much of the story, it is about two men who have gone through a war together, and have become friends, and they become lawmen in a small town. They both have a family, and find themselves in a fight to save family members from a man who want revenge, and forces the two lawmen to face him and his outlaw bunch in an attempt to wipe them out. It is a family friendly story, but with real western action, and with actors who are seasoned western actors who know and understand the western. I take a traditional approach to direction and production. I do not want to let out more of the story at this time, but I can say, it will have you wanting to ride along with us.
Q: How is it different from other westerns?
A: It is a real western movie, with traditional photography, action, and direction. We have characters that people can relate with, and who are exciting and real. It is as I said, family friendly, but full of good story and lots of action, and performances that are true and strong. It is not a big budget Hollywood film, but an honest beautiful and exciting look at the old west of 1899 CA. Plus, we are mentoring student actors and film makers who bring a fresh energy and love of work to the film.
Q: Why do you think vigilante films are so popular?
A: The reason is most people want to see justice, and want to feel that good is stronger than bad, and the vigilante brings this kind of justice. People are tired of news of bad events, and the good deeds of people are not made headlines, and so, our news and TV screens are filled with the bad news. Most folks want to see the bad guys get what they have coming, and a vigilante film in a way, helps fill the void. My film has some of these in the subtext, and we make sure the good guys and bad guys are defined. My lead character say…”Bad men and killers will not be heard in the courtroom, they will be shot”. This is the basic ideal for all good westerns.
Q: What are some challenges you face as a cowboy in Hollywood?
A: I have always been type cast as a cowboy, as this is who I am. Back in the early years of my acting career it bothered me, but when I embraced it, all changed, and I became known for it, and proud of it. The other challenges are, I, like most cowboys, am very honest, I don’t lie or play games, and I say it like it is, and most in Hollywood do not understand my simple way of doing things, and so, it can make folk uneasy, and there were months at a time of no work, from both a lack of western films to work on, or just the nonsense of the auditions going to the actor with the known name or someone’s friend, and it had little to do with talent. I became frustrated at this, and started ny own production company, so I could do the thing I loved doing, be a cowboy in films.
Q: What is your strangest on set story?
A: There are many, but the one that stands out is, about 20 years ago we made a modern day western horror film that was about a Native American Zombie “Terror on Shadow Mtn”. We made the film fast all on location in the mountains in 10 days. I wrote, directed, and acted in it along with about 10 other people. One night after we finished shooting, we sat down by the campfire to rest. I told the PA to get more fire wood for the fire. We all started talking about Zombies and how the story we were telling was creepy. The PA came back with an arm full of wood and brush and tossed it onto the fire. The smoke grew thick and we could not see, and we joked about Zombies walking in the smoke. We went to bed. The next day we all got up with poison oak all over us. It was tossed into our fire, and we all got a bad case of it. We finished the shoot with no make up, as we all looked like Zombies…We have not made another film like that since.
Q: What kinds of day jobs have you and your family have had?
A: I have had many to support myself and family, and to ad to my income as an actor/film maker. My family members also have had many over the years. We have been everything from an art model to a teacher, a tractor driver, a mountain guide, a security guard, an photographer, and many more things. I have been a special needs teacher now for 18 years as my day job, and do my acting and film making in all my free time, or take time off to do a film. I have found that all things I have done help with acting, and story telling.
Q: If you could put on your western show at the Democrats National Convention or the Church of Scientology which would you pick and why?
A: Well, I would pick the Democrats National Convention. As, I think I would enjoy doing some real western gun tricks, and gun safety talk for them, as I always talk gun safety with every show for the kids in the crowd, as well as for the adults. I would enjoy showing the folks that you can be entertaining and educational at the same time, and also be a good example to the young people. I love this country, the USA, and I am proud of our history, and like to share it. Plus, I think people in office need to get back to the basics of a good old time of fun, and beauty of what this country has to offer, and sometimes a good show is just what the doctor orders.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)