Based on the book & true story of Clyde Thompson. In 1928, Cisco, Texas, a young Clyde finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Charged with murder, he is sentenced to death. Hours before execution, he is spared, and sentenced to life in prison at a Texas Prison Farm. Here he loses all faith, and is labeled “The Meanest Man in Texas.” After several escape attempts and two murders, and blamed for a 3rd, he is locked away in solitary confinement for the duration of the entire second World War. Alone with no hope, he uses a bible, a dictionary and books to educate himself. He earns two degrees and becomes a writer. Touched by his writing, Julia Perryman, who suffers from Scoliosis, reaches out to him and they fall in love through their letters. Through their faith, love, and acceptance, they find freedom.
Justin Ward, Director; Casey Bond, Producer; Brad Wilson, Producer; Mateus Ward, Cast; Alexandra Bard, Cast
QUESTIONS FOR MATEUS ALEXANDRA:
(Alexandra Bard) How did this role come about? When did you first hear about?
My journey was a little different from Mateus. I became aware of the role the old fashioned way… my agent called me with an audition. Initially my agent thought I wouldn’t be interested in playing a character that was handicapped to which I said “Are you crazy. This is the best audition you’ve sent me yet!”. I booked the job by auditioning for it when casting for the production commenced.
(Mateus Ward) What did you have to do to prepare for this role?
After I read the book, and researched the era, I started to learn the accent. I worked with an accent coach and listened to old audio tapes of Clyde Thompson to pick up his cadence. Knowing the second act of the movie is in isolation, with limited food for a long period of time, I began a strict diet and training to lose 20 pounds. I spoke with Don Umphrey, the writer of the book, and Clyde’s daughter Shirley Roberts, to learn everything I could about Clyde, his personality, and to understand the effect he had on people.
(Alexandra Bard) What about this film made you agree to sign on?
Alexandra Bard: The role of Julia Perryman was a dream role for me and the screenplay that Don Umphrey and Justin Ward wrote is so powerful. I was in love at first site with this project so the decision to sign on was a very easy one. I felt privileged to have been trusted with portraying this character. The more I learn about Julia, the more she inspires me. As an artist, the opportunity to portray such a dynamic woman over a 20 year period, who’s from Texas, has a physical handicap and has one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever come across, was incredibly exciting. I was also already a fan of Mateus Ward and Jamie McShane’s work after watching them together on the series Murder in the First and Jamie’s performance in Netflix’s Bloodline. It was wonderful to sign on to a film with two actors that I already had such a deep respect for.
(Mateus Ward) What do you think the message is of this film?
To me this film is about acceptance and redemption. A young man who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, paid a horrible price and had to become something he wasn’t to survive. Based on this, society view him only in that image. When he hits rock bottom, I think it is a lesson for all of us that no matter how bad your circumstances are, we can always be redeemed. It is then that he meets the one person who sees him for who he really is, and accepts him, with unconditional love.
(Alexandra Bard) What did you have to do to prepare for this role as an actress?
Alexandra Bard: Breathe, dive in and under no circumstances think about what I was actually doing! That was crucial for me as I had one week to prepare for the film after being cast. I am fortunate to have the amazing Bob Corff as my dialect coach and he was essential in my preparation. I began with finding Julia’s voice and from there I was able to discover her physicality, her world and the time period. I also spoke for many hours with her daughter Shirley McDonald as well as speaking with Don Umphrey, who wrote the book on which the film is based. They had such different perceptions of who Julia was. My conversations with the two of them allowed me to connect the dots and discover her journey. A great deal of my research regarding Julia’s physicality came from watching videos of young women in third world countries that suffer from scoliosis and are unable to have treatment. It was almost impossible to find any photographic or video footage of a case as severe as Julia’s today due to the advancements in Western medicine. The only place I could find the information needed was via video footage from nonprofit organizations that provide treatment to people in countries with limited medical resources.
(Alexandra Bard) What does this film mean to you?
One of my favorite quotes is something I read by the conceptual artist Barbara Bloom. She said “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful”. This film epitomizes this quote for me and the fact that it is a true story makes it all the more powerful.
(Mateus Ward) How long did it take to film the movie?
We shot this film in 11 days! Which would have been an impossible task, had we not had the talented cast and dedicated crew that we did. This was a true team effort. We had crew members sweating in the 120 plus beating sun, actors making sure to be completley ready for anything and on their A game to keep the production moving! I will never forget the moment Jaime McShane who plays Capt. Colt walked up a hill to set with two large cases of water and handed them out to the whole crew on our hottest day! That is the environment of this set, that our director created.
(Mateus Ward and Alexandra Bard) What was it like seeing the final movie?
It was incredible to watch the audience react to the film. I was surprised to see how everyone took away from the film something different. Some people thought it was the most fun they’ve had im a movie in awhile, others said they were so moved they couldn’t stop crying and others just sat and watched, totally captivated by this incredible story. I loved that people identified with different characters in the film, and a few people approached me and told me it actually changed their life. But the most powerful moment for me, was when Clyde’s daughter Shirley came up to Alexandra and I, with tears in her eyes, and told us for an hour and 45 minutes, we brought her parents back to life. That was important to me.
I’m so proud of the work everyone did on this film and the accolades it has received so far are testament to this. This really was a passion project for everyone involved and it was an incredibly special moment to see it all come together. Like Mateus, making sure that Clyde and Julia’s family were happy with the film has been the most important part of this journey for me. I am so humbled by their response and grateful for their support. Being a part of this production has been a truly special experience and seeing the finished film was a special moment to honor everyone involved.
(Mateus Ward) Where can we see the movie?
Right now it is on the film festival circuit, and the next two festivals are in Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida. Our LA Premier is at the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival (IFSFilm.com) on May 5th at 10pm at the Beverly Hills Music Hall. And Orlando, Florida is May 8th and you can get more info at @TheMeanestManInTexas Facebook and @TheMeanestManInTX on Twitter.
(Mateus Ward) Where is the best place our readers can go to follow the journey of this movie?
You can follow our film on social media: @mateusward on FB, IG and Twitter and @TheMeanestManInTexas on Facebook & IG, and @TheMeanestManInTX on Twitter.