Tunica-Biloxi branching out into movies LBJ to be released soon; Wind River completes filming
Diversification of its economic interests was always the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe’s plan, using the proceeds from its casino to fund other economic development projects. The latest, and perhaps most ambitious, is to make the leap into “show biz.”
With its first full-length movie set to premier at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, a second film in “post-production” after finishing filming and a third in preliminary stages, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe is excited about the prospects of its Acacia Entertainment company.
The Marksville-based tribe's company was a co-producer of LBJ, starring Woody Harrelson as the 36th President of the United States. Jennifer Jason Leigh portrays Lady Bird Johnson.
The movie was directed by Rob Reiner (who played Archie Bunker’s son in law “Meathead” in a 1970s sitcom) and could be in theaters later this year.
The movie will be distributed by Warner Bros. and will be featured at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 8-18.
Tribal Chairman Joey Barbry said Acacia is developing a slate of projects, with the plan being to finance and produce two or three films a year.
He hopes to have a local premiere of LBJ at the Paragon in the near future.
Latest: Wind River
The latest project, entitled Wind River, recently completed filming and is in “post-production” awaiting release next year.
That film features a reunion of Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen -- last teamed in the Avengers movies as Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch. The role Renner is playing -- a Fish & Game Agency hunter trying to cope with the death of his teenage daughter -- initially was offered to Chris Pine, who played Capt. James T. Kirk in the most recent Star Trek movies. Pine dropped out in January, before shooting began. Renner was tagged as his replacement.
Olsen was always the choice to play the rookie female FBI agent who enlists the hunter to help her track down the persons responsible for a brutal crime in the desolate wilderness.
Barbry said Wind River has the second-largest Native American cast in film history -- trailing only Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves.
The screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, making his debut as director, has been anticipated since the project was first teased a year ago. Sheridan is highly regarded as a screenwriter for his 2015 crime thriller Sicario.
Acacia is one of four production companies in the project and is also one of the movie's executive producers.
On May 13, the Weinstein Company obtained the distribution rights during negotiations at the Cannes Film Festival.
NEXT: SHOCK & AWE
The next film for Acacia is Shock and Awe, an anti-Iraq War film directed by Reiner, written by Hartstone and starring Harrelson. Other stars either signed or being courted include Tommy Lee Jones, Alec Baldwin, James Marsden and Milla Jovovich.
“It is in the very early stages at this time,” Barbry said.
The film is expected to begin production later this year or early next. It centers around a group of journalists who ask the tough questions concerning the U.S. justification for invading Iraq in 2003.
The tribe’s move into making movies follows several other business ventures -- including fast food chains, a national loan company and plans for a non-gaming entertainment complex in Georgia.
A local studio
Barbry said the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe will hold a "red carpet event" at the Paragon for the local premiere later this year. Plans are for all three of the cinema screens at the entertainment complex to play the film, with hopefully some special guests in the audience, he added.
“I sincerely hope that ‘red carpet events’ become a common occurrence at the Paragon,” Barbry said. “Our business model seems to have caught the attention of the industry because now filmmakers are reaching out to us.
“I want to put Avoyelles Parish on the map and bring a new revenue stream that the entire parish can reap the benefits of,” he continued. “We look forward to everyone being able to share in the benefits.”
At some point in the not-too-distant future, Barbry said he wants a production studio on the Marksville reservation where documentaries and scenes from feature films can be shot.
“I would also like screenwriters at the studio from this area,” he said. “Instead of writers from California writing stories about Louisiana, we should have Louisiana writers writing stories about Louisiana.”