Coming to theaters Friday from director Timothy Woodward Jr. and Cinedigm Entertainment Group is the Western that takes no guff when it comes to being “Traded.”
In 1880s Kansas, sharpshooter-turned rancher Clay Travis (Michael Paré) goes from a satisfied, married rancher and father to a man on a mission after the disappearance of his 17-year-old daughter, Lily.
Determined to protect what little family he has left, Clay leaves his quiet ranch and heads to Wichita where, after confronting the ruthless Ty Stover (Trace Adkins), he discovers that Lily’s been traded away into an underground sex ring in Dodge City.
And it’s there, with the help of an unlikely companion — hardened old barkeep Billy (Kris Kristofferson) — that Clay makes a stand to bring his daughter home, leaving a trail of gun smoke and bodies in his wake.
I had the thrilling opportunity to speak with Michael Paré who plays the role of Clay Travis in the film “Traded.” We spoke of Westerns, the human experience and his thoughts on playing one of the most iconic characters in film.
Jeri Jacquin: Thank you Michael for taking the time to talk with me today.
Michael Paré: Hi Jeri, it’s so nice to talk to you too.
JJ: I’m excited to talk to you for several reasons. I feel sort of like I’ve grown up along with you and the progression of your film career.
MP: That’s really nice of you to say.
JJ: Now, your latest release “Traded” is here and it looks so good.
MP: Thank you, we had a really great time making the film. It is a great story, great direction and cinematography along with a great cast.
JJ: What drew you to the film?
MP: I always wanted to do a full-blown Western. It is so hard to make them, but there is resurgence towards making a Western. It’s one of the classic American genres, and I like that. I like making a movie that delves into the American mythology of Westerns.
JJ: Your character, to me, is so amazing because he is that quiet cowboy, but you can feel that there is something underneath his history and the film has the potential to go in so many different directions.
MP: He is a retired gunfighter, marries a retired prostitute and adopts her daughter moving out to this little ranch trying to get away from all of that to just live a quiet life on the ranch. The defecation hits the oscillation and he goes back to his old ways.
JJ: Having the opportunity to work with Kris Kristofferson, how was that? I think I’d be dumbstruck for weeks.
MP: I had worked with him on another film called “Red Maple Leaf,” so I had met him already. He was playing the president and I was an ambassador, so we were introduced and had a day together. But on this film, he blossoms in the Westerns! Just the way he is, I mean he’s close to 80-years-old and he hops up on a horse saying “I’d rather be riding a horse than walking down the street.” He was more comfortable on the horse than just standing around.
He is very open, you ask him a simple question and he gives a direct answer. I asked him if he writes with a piano and he said, “No, the songs just come to me all at once. It’s not like I have a technique or format. I strum a guitar and its there.”
JJ: For a moment there Michael, you sounded exactly like him!
MP: <laughing> He’s a very friendly guy, and his daughter is in the film also. She plays the young lady who sings the song.
JJ: Kelly Kristofferson, who plays Claire.
MP: Yes, she plays the piano singing. He is just a sweetheart of the guy.
JJ: Then you have the other side of country with Trace Adkins as Ty Stover.
MP: Yes, I met Trace when we did the movie “Lincoln Lawyer,” where Trace plays the biker and I play the cop. Trace is an enormous guy; I mean he’s 6-feet-5-inches and also a sweetheart. He used to work on the off shore oil rigs and a real country guy. He does the Wounded Warrior project and I did a few things with him there as well.
JJ: I love the fact that the costuming and set design really add itself like another character. It gives it such a Western richness.
MP: Well, if you are going to do a Western, you have to surrender to it, embrace it. We took a few days finding the wardrobe and it took a few days to find the hat. The hat is important because it’s symbolic. We did all of that very carefully. We shot in all the western towns where they have been shooting television series and Westerns for a long time now. We were at the Disney ranch and Paramount ranch. It was so great to walk down the streets of where they shot “Gunsmoke” and the John Wayne movies. You get into wardrobe putting on your boots, hat and gun and you are there. It is so easy to play make believe in that environment.
JJ: I have a thing for Westerns, that’s kind of my era when I was a kid. I still love them now. Westerns don’t need cgi to be awesome.
MP: It’s a good time to tell these kind of stories right? There are a lot of films that rely on computer generated stuff to tell a story. That’s OK, but the human experience doesn’t involve all that stuff. If someone kidnaps your daughter, a greater majority of people can sympathize with my character.
JJ: That’s what makes your character so relatable, having harm come to a child. It is clear what drives him to do what he does.
MP: What happens to his daughter makes his journey clear.
JJ: You draw on the audience’s emotion and us wanting your character to succeed.
MP: It sure was fun doing the shoot outs in the middle of the street, I have to tell you. It was late in the day so we were losing the light so we had to get the shot. That really only works in the wild to see the two men on the street. I draw my gun and it’s a single action revolver and it was perfect timing and was an amazing moment — along with all that great cowboy dialogue.
JJ: That’s the other amazing thing about some Westerns — it’s not loaded with a lot of useless dialogue. You say what you mean and mean what you say.
MP: Exactly, I think people will always be attracted to that character that simplifies life. When you see something and know it’s the right thing to do — you do it. There isn’t a lot of talking about it or trying to convince other people you are doing the right thing. Everybody already knows. If a man’s daughter is kidnapped, he has got to go after her otherwise there is something wrong with the guy!
JJ: That’s what makes this film so relatable, your character doesn’t sit back saying “Hh well, she’s 17, she can do what she wants.”
MP: Right? I didn’t even tell my wife what I was doing! I go, get my gun and I’m gone.
JJ: ’Nuff said!
MP: That’s it.
JJ: OK Michael, I would be remiss and friends would shoot me if we didn’t talk about it.
MP: Let’s do it.
JJ: It has been a while since you made “Eddie and the Cruisers.” Do you get stopped still to this day to talk about that film?
MP: Yes, I do.
JJ: How does that sit with you knowing you’ve touched so many people with a character that has become iconic?
MP: It feels good. It feels really good to know that I made the movie. A big reason you go into show business is that you want to appeal to the broadest amount of people possible. If you can touch people, even for a moment, it is a tremendous accomplishment. It is very rewarding. It was a little movie and nobody got paid anything.
MP: No, no one got paid anything really and we all went off to this little dive hotel in Cherryville, New Jersey for a month and then we shot it. It just worked and was a very artsy endeavor and very rewarding.
JJ: Did you think then that it would become what it became?
MP: Honestly I didn’t know. I had a small supporting role in a show then called “Greatest American Hero” (to which I uttered “yes!” with a fist pump) and we were on hiatus and I did the movie. Right after that I went back to “Greatest American Hero” for the next season. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was just a little movie about a rock n’ roll band in the ’60s. Really, I get stopped at the supermarket or when I’m out and about and they ask, “Are you that guy from ‘Eddie and the Cruisers?’” And I say, “Yes, I am.” What’s funnier is when they say, “Hey, you look like that guy from ‘Eddie and the Cruisers.’” <laughing>
JJ: I think I would laugh myself silly. You read every once in a while about an actor who makes a film that becomes a classic over time or is known for a character and they aren’t happy about it. So when I knew I was going to speak with you I had to ask, how do feel now playing the role of Eddie?
MP: I loved it, absolutely loved it. After we did that first concert at the college, after that first day it became one fun experience for me. Up until that moment they were thinking about firing me. They had real rock n’ roll people who wanted to play the role. I mean if you are doing this kind of movie do you want an actor playing a rocker or rocker who might be able to act? If you are the producer you think about what the safest way is to go. If I hadn’t done well after the first concert I would have been gone.
JJ: “Eddie and the Cruisers” is on my channel flicking list — if it comes on I will stop and watch it entirely. So excuse me but I had a slight Eddie crush back then, thought I should come clean on that. <Both of us laugh> You have had a string of films; you are always working aren’t you?
MP: I make a couple of movies a year.
JJ: Is there any one that you’ve done that is your favorite?
MP: Yes, “Eddie and the Cruisers.”
JJ: No way, we just spent ten minutes talking about it <laughing>. Any other?
MP: “Streets of Fire” was a lot of fun also. Diane Lane, Willem DaFoe, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan and Deborah Van Valkenburgh. That was an amazing experience also. I think I was a little to young to take advantage of it. It was an enormous budget for its day. I wasn’t use to being around that much money. I think we shot for 60 days and that’s a long time considering they shoot movies in 15 days now. We actually shot 20 days on “Traded.”
JJ: How long was the shooting on “Eddie and the Cruisers?”
MP: It took 40 shooting days and it was wonderful. It was eight weeks in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Most of it was in Jersey at the Jersey shore.
JJ: I am so happy to have talked with you today. I understand this is my job but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
MP: I feel like that too. I’m so lucky to be working in the entertainment industry and it’s a blessing.
JJ: Thanks Michael, it has been such a pleasure and honestly a thrill!
I certainly wasn’t exaggerating telling Michael today didn’t feel like a job. Instead, I had the opportunity to step into a time machine a bit and speak to someone who starred in a film that I love to this day. Speaking on his latest film “Traded,” I heard in his voice the excitement of doing a Western and the joy of working with Kristofferson and Adkins.
The story is rugged and relatable, the cinematography is beautiful and every element draws the viewer in. The costuming is killer (pun intended) also but not just for the guys and their hats and spurs but the women in the full skirts and bonnets as well. I truly enjoyed the feel of it all.
When planning your weekend movie going experience, saddle up and go on a journey through the west with “Traded.” This is a film with heart and a clear deep respect for the American Western on film. The cast makes this story believable as each actor grabs on to their character and immerses it in the old west.
In the end — revenge is a bitter deal!