Richard Gray is bringing back Westerns with ‘Murder At Yellowstone City’

Nat Wolff as Young Jimin the Western film, MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.

Murder at Yellowstone City, directed by Richard Gray (Robert The Bruce, The Lookalike), is a well crafted mix of murder mystery and classic Western, complete with a star-studded cast.

The once peaceful and booming Yellowstone City has fallen on hard times, but when a local prospector strikes gold, things seem to be turning around. Any hope is soon shattered when the prospector is found dead and the Sheriff quickly arrests a mysterious newcomer. But nothing is so simple in this sleepy Western town, and more than a few of the locals have secrets to keep and reasons to kill. As the brutal murders continue, pitting neighbor against neighbor, Yellowstone City goes down a bloody path to a final showdown that not all will survive.

Murder at Yellowstone City was written by Eric Belgau (Robert The Bruce) and stars Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary, The Usual Suspects), Thomas Jane (The Expanse, “Hung,” Boogie Nights), Isaiah Mustafa (It Chapter Two, “Shadowhunters”), Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect franchise, “True Blood”), Aimee Garcia (“Woke,” “Lucifer,” “Dexter”), Emma Kenney (“The Conners,” “Shameless”), Zach McGowan (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Black Sails”) with Nat Wolff (The Fault In Our Stars, “The Stand”), and Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Mr. Holland’s Opus).

Check out our interview with Richard!

First off, are you a fan of Westerns?

Richard: Oh, man, we built a town for this Western. I’m Australian, but as I grew up, it’s still my favorite genre. My dad used to take me to Westerns, back when they were more like the fun style Westerns like Silverado, The Quick and the Dead, and then when I was going through film school, we had “Deadwood” come out, but also things like “The Proposition” and “Jesse James” and these more darker mood pieces. Of course, Unforgiven was one of the first films I saw growing up. So yes, I loved Westerns. And we built the Yellowstone Film Ranch here in Montana, which I moved to Montana with my family. We built it for the movie. So over the years, we got to kind of think and dream of the different scenes and the different locations. So it’s a bit of a dream come true.

(L-R) Isaiah Mustafa as Cicero and Richard Dreyfuss as Edgarin the Western film, MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
What is it about Westerns that you love so much?

Richard: I think I love the history of it. It’s wonderful for a director or writer to be able to look back and research and think. And it’s fascinating to learn things that you didn’t know about, like what was happening here in Montana in 1881, you know, post Civil War and post railroad coming through and post slavery. It’s just, it’s awesome to be able to look back in the history books and at a lot of different written history books. I think I like the history of it. Oh, and it’s fun because I grew up wanting to be a cowboy.

So in your research, what was something that you learned that was surprising?

Richard: So much. It was such a time of diversity and people from everywhere, from all walks of life, were coming west. And I’d really love the TV show “Hell on Wheels,” the race to build the railroads, and of course, “Deadwood” and so it was fascinating to do our research. We found that we could have Aimee Garcia playing a Spanish madame of a brothel. We were told, ‘you couldn’t have that. That wouldn’t have happened,’ and we totally said, ‘yes, you could.’ And we just went along to each character- Tanaya Beatty plays a phenomenal Native American character, and there were so many displaced native children at the time, so we grasped onto that. And then just the idea that you could have a wrongfully arrested black man and, and how easy it would seemingly be to throw the blame on him when he’s innocent, that rang, obviously true. And so, bit by bit, we just picked our way through and tried to find characters that would exist, but also give everybody, from the leads to the supporting roles, Eric (Belgau) did a great job of giving them all something really important to do.

Anna Camp as Alice in the Western film, MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
You’re a co-founder of the Yellowstone Film Ranch, how did you become involved in that?

Richard: So I made a little film called Robert the Bruce, which has got nothing to do with Braveheart, but it’s the same character, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland. We shot half of it in Montana and half of it in Scotland. And my business partner executive producer Carter Boehm is from Montana and used to run the drive in theater here. He’s very passionate about bringing films back to Montana, and so we scattered all the Western towns. A lot of these Montana stories or Wyoming stories are usually shot in Canada, either Calgary or Vancouver, and the desert ones are shot in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So, with the introduction of a tax credit here, we decided we should just build our own town, as one does. So we’re only 30 minutes from Yellowstone, and actually, where we built the town was called Yellowstone City in the 1860s. So we decided that if we’re going to tell a Montana story, we want to tell it in Montana and we built the town’s 28 buildings and a hell of a lot more. And we built the town to last. The Yellowstone Film Ranch has had back to back Westerns after ours. We’re just happy to be the first one.

How does it feel to kind of kick off the studio?

Richard: It’s a dream come true. I have to pinch myself like you walk around that place just like ‘oh!’ It’s really something special. We were in LA for eleven years, my family, we’re from Australia but then we moved here to build the ranch, and we didn’t go back. We’re pretty comfortable here.

Thomas Jane as Thaddeus in the Western film, MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
The name of the film was originally Murder at Emigrant Gulch. Why did the title change?

Richard: So the mountain behind the church, you know, in the gulch there, that’s Emigrant Gulch, but nobody spells Emigrant with an “E” and nobody around the world knows what gulch is. So they’re like, ‘this place was called Yellowstone City, you’re 30 minutes from Yellowstone, let’s call it Yellowstone City.’ It’s something that people will probably find easier to find. These days. I just want to try to get the film to the maximum people. And if people want to have a problem with Emigrant with an “E,” then they’ll have less of a problem remembering Yellowstone.

Do you think Westerns are making a comeback?

Richard: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I mean, you know, “Deadwood” is actually a long time ago now, but what Taylor Sheridan has done has shown that there’s a huge appetite for this type of content. And even though “Yellowstone” is modern day, and of course “1883,” what it’s doing is showing that people want to know American history and people want to see the heritage and where they came from, and it’s just such a fun genre. Westerns are back. I mean, you’re gonna be seeing the Yellowstone Film Ranch in a lot more reviews this year because we just had Nicolas Cage, and then two Paramount films, and then Mario Van Peebles is coming back to make a sequel to Posse, so you’re gonna keep seeing that church a lot. So yes, I definitely can see the comeback because we see films coming here every month now, which is really exciting.

Zach McGowan as Dunniganin the Western film, MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
Murder At Yellowstone City will arrive in theaters, on Digital and On Demand beginning June 24.