THE LAST MANHUNT
Studio: On the Roam
Director: Christian Camargo
Producer: Eric Laciste
Executive Producer: Jason Momoa
Written by: TBA
Jason Momoa plays: TBA
Other stars: Martin Sensmeier, Mojean Aria, Zahn McClarnon, Mainei Kinimaka, Lily Gladstone, Raoul Max Trujillo
Official sites: TBA
At the turn of the twentieth century, a reputed double murder and suicide spawns a Shakespearean Tragedy born of desert dust and gun smoke. Willie boy is a Native American love story spun into a tale of “Savage Indian murder” by fear mongering publications of the day.
According to Production Weekly:
This spring Jason Momoa plans to produce and direct the indie feature THE LAST MANHUNT, the saga of Willie Boy, who apparently shot and killed the father of a 16-year-old girl he loved and then led lawmen on a deadly desert pursuit, was a love story gone awry.
THE LAST MANHUNT STORYLINE: At the turn of the twentieth century, a reputed double murder and suicide spawns a Shakespearean Tragedy born of desert dust and gun smoke. Willie boy is a Native American love story spun into a tale of “Savage Indian murder” by fear mongering publications of the day.
This film will be shot in the Banning, Twenty-Nine Palms, Joshua Tree and greater Coachella Valley areas
LETTER FROM ON THE ROAM PRODUCTIONS AND JASON MOMOA
“These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumphs die, like fire and powder.”
– William Shakespeare
This is the true story of the “Last Great Manhunt” of the old west.
The Last Manhunt
Logline – At the turn of the twentieth century, a reputed double murder and suicide spawns a Shakespearean Tragedy born of desert dust and gun smoke. Willie boy is a Native American love story spun into a tale of “Savage Indian murder” by fear mongering publications of the day.
On the Roam is extremely proud to present The Last Manhunt. Authentically crafting a story true to history and Jason’s creative vision is our ultimate goal. Being of native Hawaiian decent, Jason’s passion and commitment to the cultural integrity of The Last Manhunt is of the upmost importance. This can only be accomplished with most accurate representation of the local native tribes in the Southern California area.
More from PE.com:
Momoa is part of the On the Roam creative production company, which is producing the film. Several locations throughout local deserts have been used for filming, including the Gilman Ranch, where Willie Boy worked as a cowboy.
As much as possible, local tribes have been recruited to appear in the movie as extras or stand-ins. Levi Herrera, from the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians near San Jacinto, was on the Banning set in mid-September. The 11-year-old’s mom, Monica Herrera, serves on its tribal council and his father, Gabriel, is a fire captain with the Soboba Fire Department.
“Levi loved it and he got to meet a lot of the other actors,” Monica Herrera said. “His role was playing with some other kids. He had two scenes.”
The film is set to depict the mounted posse “seeking justice for their ‘murdered’ tribal leader.”
“Willie Boy and Carlota evade capture, outlasting the men and their horses,” the synopsis reads. “However, fake news stories meant to sell papers adds to the mounting pressure to capture Willie Boy.”
In real life, Willie Boy was accused of murdering the father of the girl he loved and then fleeing with her through the Morongo Valley/Twentynine Palms area as two sheriff’s posses followed.
Momoa, an indigenous Hawaiian native, wanted to tell the story as remembered by those who were involved: the Chemehuevi band of the Southern Paiute.
Producer Eric Laciste said Momoa fell in love with the tale and was adamant about getting the input of tribal members. The Chemehuevi band is mostly from around the areas of Lake Havasu and Parker at the California/Arizona border.
Sheridan Silversmith, her two sons and more than 20 of their family members from the Chemehuevi Valley waited on set last month to be called during one of the first full days of filming.
“It was about a three-hour drive for us,” Silversmith said. “My two boys got a part and will be filming next week – but we might be extras today.”
Leivas is one of the leading Salt Song Singers among the Southern Paiute people and led several tribal members in a Salt Song for an audio recording done that day.
“I’m glad this is happening; this will tell our story,” said Leivas, who co-founded the Salt Song Project in 1998 so all 14 different bands from Arizona to Northern California could revive the spiritual songs.
Laciste called the film a passion project for the producers.
“They have put a lot of importance on having this story told correctly and respectfully,” he said. “Jason and the entire cast and crew are honored and grateful to be telling this story.”
Momoa was originally set to direct the film but is now executive producer because he had other commitments. He felt it was critical to have a Native American, such as Martin Sensmeier, in the lead role. Sensmeier is of Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan and was raised in Alaska, where he learned and participated in the traditions of his tribes.
The crew has been working up to 18 hours a day to get the film completed as soon as possible in hopes it can be screened at January’s Sundance Film Festival, which has been managed by Robert Redford’s nonprofit Sundance Institute since 1985.
Redford starred in the 1969 Willie Boy film, that was based on the book by The Press-Enterprise writer Harry Lawton in the 1950s. Momoa and writers of “The Last Manhunt” met with Redford to let him know the film is not just a remake of theirs.
“It’s a beautiful love story, but it’s also about people being divided and we saw a chance to make it contemporary and hopefully it will offer some healing to the people that were affected by it all,” Laciste said. “As much as we want to tell a truthful story, at the end of the day it’s art so we realize not everyone is going to be completely satisfied.”
Today we can reveal first images of the completed movie, which tells “the true story of the last great American manhunt of the old west,” based on the oral history of the Chemehuevi tribe in Joshua Tree, California. Aquaman and Dune star Momoa is co-writer, executive producer and among cast.
Set in 1909 when a reputed murder spawns a tragedy reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, the film follows Willie Boy and his love Carlota who go on the run after he accidentally shoots her father in a confrontation gone terribly wrong. With President Taft coming to the area, the local sheriff leads two Native American trackers seeking justice for their “murdered” tribal leader.
The film features a largely Native American ensemble cast, including Martin Sensmeier (The Magnificent Seven) as Willie Boy; Mainei Kinimaka (See) as Carlota; Zahn McClarnon (Reservation Dogs) as Carlota’s father; Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon) as Carlota’s mother; Raoul Trujillo (Apocalypto); Brandon Oakes (Togo) and Tantoo Cardinal (Dances with Wolves).
Also starring are Christian Camargo (See), Wade Williams (The Dark Knight Rises), Jamie Sives (Chernobyl), Justin Campbell (The Hurt Locker), Mojean Aria (Reminiscence), Charlie Brumbly (Baywatch), Amy Seimetz (Pet Sematary) and Momoa (Aquaman).
Actor-filmmaker Christian Camargo directs the movie and portrays Sheriff Frank Wilson, a role that was previously played by Robert Redford in the 1969 film about the story, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here.
Producers are Martin Kistler and Jason Eric Laciste from a screenplay by Pa’a Sibbett and a story by Jason Momoa and Sibbett. Executive producers are LA Lakers president Jeanie Buss, Michael Acierno, Momoa and Brian Andrew Mendoza.
According to producers, Willie Boy’s fate was spun into a tale of “Savage Indian murder” by fear-mongering publications of the day. “To this day, most available research only provides slanted news publications that have kept Willie Boy a hardened criminal for many years”, the producers tell us.
Jason Momoa heard the story of Chemehuevi Desert Runner, Willie Boy, while in Joshua Tree and became fascinated by it. He called fellow Indigenous writer, Pa’a Sibbett, and both immediately warmed to the idea of a script.
Momoa and Sibbett spoke with tribal leaders of the 29 Palms band of Chemehuevi, some of which are direct descendants of Willie Boy’s story. In that meeting the tribes were given the script and told that if there was any reason they didn’t feel comfortable with the production of such a beloved story, then production would stop and no movie would be filmed. The tribal leaders agreed to production and filming began with a tribal ceremony with members of the Chemehuevi, Serrano and Cahuilla tribes participating.
The production included Dr. Cliff Traftzer, a long-time researcher and scholar of California’s desert tribes, as well as Matt Leivas, one of the last keepers of the sacred Chemehuevi Salt Songs and respected elder, to consult on the script. Matt Leivas agreed to chant the sacred songs and assist with the Chemehuevi language spoken in the film.
According to the team, while filming in Banning, California, Momoa also met with the people of Morongo. Shortly after, the Cahuilla band of Indians donated their land at Agua Caliente with no charge to the production
Jason Momoa told us: “I love Joshua Tree and the community out there. I remember hearing about Willie Boy, the Desert Runner, and was fascinated by the story surrounding him. What should be a universal story of a relationship gone bad, quickly became a muddy, complex story about the power of crooked media and how Native Americans are portrayed to the public. The true story of Willie Boy has never been told, and it’s a beautiful one. I developed the story with my team because I wanted to set the record straight, and set the spirits of this story free.”
Producer Martin Kistler commented: “The truth of Willie Boy’s story lies in the overlooked voices of the desert: the Chemehuevi people who have inhabited the desert for many generations. If you listen to them, Willie Boy wasn’t a savage murderer, he was simply a man who fell in love with a woman that wasn’t meant for him. With underrepresented cultures coming to the forefront in film and tv, we were committed to approach this Native tale with the utmost respect to the cultures represented by it, hoping to set a precedent for how Hollywood could approach stories of diversity like this.”
Executive producer Jeanie Buss added: “I vividly remember the iconic moment in Oscar history when Sacheen Littlefeather represented Marlon Brando to raise awareness of Native American issues at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973, accepting the Best Actor Award for his performance of The Godfather. I was only 12 years old, but it left such a profound and lasting impact on me, and this is why The Last Manhunt is important to me. I am very proud that we honored the true story of Willie Boy.”