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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gullickson

"Film Noir, That's What It Is." Director and Cast on 'Last Stop in Yuma County'

We chat with the filmmakers of one of the year's best movies about how they used cinema to communicate.

Last Stop in Yuma County Director Cast

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the industry. In this entry, we're conversing with the director and cast about The Last Stop in Yuma County. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.

 

We caught The Last Stop in Yuma County last year at the Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin, Texas. It was the last film we saw at the festival, and it's the film we've been thinking the most about since. It's a potboiler flick. Or, better yet, imagine a bunch of rats in a metal drum sitting on a stove. As the heat increases, they turn on each other and eventually eat each other. Fun times for the sickos watching.

It's the debut feature of Francis Galluppi, the director who was recently tapped by Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures to helm the new Evil Dead. The Last Stop in Yuma County takes place in the late seventies, initially following a Knife Salesman, played by Jim Cummings, as he pulls into a gas station with an empty tank. The attendant (Faizon Love) explains there's no gas to sell, and he'll have to wait in the diner with everyone else until the fuel truck arrives.


Everyone else is two bank robbers (Richard Brake, Nicholas Logan), a kinda-kindly old couple (Gene Jones, Robin Bartlett), and Charlotte (Jocelin Donahue), the waitress who runs the joint. Plus, a few surprises who wander through the door. Tensions amongst the group flare quickly, and guns get drawn sooner rather than later. The delight occurs in the script's clever mechanics and the crackerjack performances.


That, and how you, the viewer, insert yourself into the situation. There's a lot of money to be had, and the temptation is deadly. Could you get away with it? Could you pull off what many on the screen cannot?


When the film premiered at Fantastic Fest, folks were eager to label The Last Stop in Yuma County a Western. That genre dressing is readily apparent, but when we spoke with Francis Galluppi and his cast via Zoom, they were eager to establish its personality in another iconic cinematic mode. 

Last Stop in Yuma County Jim Cummings
Image Credit © 2024 Well Go USA Entertainment

The Many Movies of The Last Stop in Yuma County


"Film Noir," said Galluppi, "that's what it is. It's a tale of morality. I don't know if that was the catalyst going into it. It just kind of became that."


His obsession with cinema doesn't exist only between action and cut, either. It's nonstop. Francis Galluppi's prime desire is to recreate the anxiety his favorite noirs have stirred in him.


"I watched Stanley Kubrick's The Killing the other night," he continued. "The ending of that movie, with the money flying around, I was like, 'Oh my god, did I rip that off?' I don't know. I cannot confirm or deny. It was definitely an inspiration, and subconsciously, probably."


Galluppi is one of those creatives who can't contain his love for the thing he's creating. He's not cool about it. He eats, breathes, dreams movies. And he populated The Last Stop in Yuma County with the like-minded.


"We're all there because we love movies," said Jim Cummings. "Every morning, we would wake up at five or four, before the sun came up, and had coffee and a little breakfast sandwich, and we would just talk about movies, talk about the Criterion Collection movies that inspired us to do great moments in different films, and laugh."


Sometimes, they rambled on so much about other people's movies that cinematographer Mac Fisken had to step in and remind them they were shooting their own. This shared passion, however, frequently came in incredibly handy. Their favorite movies provided a shortcut to finding the scene they were living in with Last Stop in Yuma County.


"We talked about Funny Games," said Jocelin Donahue, "when we were sitting at the table and being threatened. During the shootout, we were referencing other films. It's like you're pulling ingredients from those for the backstory of the character, the tone of the overall piece, and the ecosystem. It all adds up."


Richard Brake, who played the Night King in Game of Thrones and Joe Chill in Batman Begins, has lived within every genre at some point. Like the rest of his cast, he loves movies, but he doesn't quite feed off them like the others do.


"I try not to use other people's performances," he explains. "I try and just make it real within that situation. I do love seventies character actors. The seventies, that's when I grew up. I love Warren Oates. and Bruce Dern; he's one of my all-time favorites. To me, [my character in The Last Stop in Yuma County] was that. I could have seen those guys play this character back then. The whole film has that feel, which appealed to me. It's a gritty seventies Sam Peckinpah-style movie."

Last Stop in Yuma County Interview Hostage
Image Credit © 2024 Well Go USA Entertainment

On Set with The Last Stop in Yuma County


Another critical element helping the filmmakers live inside Galluppi's screenplay was the Four Aces Movie Ranch. Located about an hour northeast of Los Angeles in the Antelope Valley, the famous set has been used countless times in commercials and movies like Palm Springs, The Devil's Rejects, Race to Witch Mountain, and more. The challenge could have been making it look unique, but the writer/director never had the chance to worry about that.


"I didn't know it was an overused set," said Galluppi. "I found it online. I was like, 'Oh, this place looks really cool. I'm going to scout it.' And then I realized, 'This is the opening sequence in House of 1000 Corpses, and this is in Identity, and all these things.' For a while, I was like, "Man, I want to build a location in New Mexico.' But it was pointless because I had written to this location. It was so specific to this location that I had to be like, 'Who gives a fuck.' Right?


Jocelin Donahue recognizes that some movie maniacs might recognize the diner from another movie or TV series, but it's a ridiculous concern. If The Last Stop in Yuma County is doing its job, the thought may enter a viewer's mind for a second, but it'll be gone the next. Working in Four Aces Movie Ranch offers far too many other benefits to ignore.


"The setting adds so much," she said. "You don't even have to think about it as an actor. You immediately feel hot, dusty, sweaty, and stressed when you're in that space. And as more people enter, it gets more and more stressful."


Having a tangible, lived-in location is not something actors can take for granted. Familiarizing herself with the set allowed a reality to form for Donahue. The diner is a second home for her character. That gives her an advantage over the others, and spending so much time on location allowed Donahue to play Charlotte properly.


"And since this is Charlotte's space," she continued, "and a place that she knows every inch of, just from walking into every morning and doing her routine, these are things where everything's automatic. So, when she's forced to come up with new ways to escape, I think you can see her wheels turning -- about what she can do and when she needs to do it. I think she's waiting as long as she can, but she's the first one to know when the guns will come out. She's the first to choose, 'I need to get ready to defend myself.'"

Last Stop in Yuma County Interview Rhubarb Pie
Image Credit © 2024 Well Go USA Entertainment

The Last Stop in Yuma County Takes The Money and Runs


The Last Stop in Yuma County looks familiar at first glance. The genre it wears is well-used but still warm. It's what it does with its movie garments that lured its actors and will ultimately jolt its audience. You might even think Richard Brake is playing a very Richard Brake character, but you'd be wrong, and that sent pure pleasure into his brain when he first read the screenplay.


"You'd be surprised how many genre scripts I read a year," he said. "It's very rare to have [a surprising] experience. I had it with Barbarian, and I had it with this."


The actor is always searching for that feeling, the "Wow." Usually, he picks up the pages sent his way and his body doesn't react. His face carries the same expression on the last word as on the first. When a smile twitches, that's a moment to celebrate.


"Initially," continued Brake, "what really struck me was how original it was. It didn't seem like it at first. You start out, it's one location, a bunch of people, and then you think, 'What's going to happen?' Then, ten pages later, 'Oh, wow. I didn't see that coming.' Then, ten pages later, 'Oh, I didn't see that happening.' And that continues, and then, of course, I'm not going to give anything away, but let's say that the last twenty or thirty minutes, I didn't see that coming."


For Jim Cummings, The Last Stop in Yuma County gave him a movie he never thought he'd make. While, yes, there is another sequence in this film where he's screaming in a parking lot like he's done before in Thunder Road and The Beta Test, his Knife Salesman recalls an era and a character that he thought would be denied from his filmography.


"This is really one of those seventies bag of money running in the desert thrillers," he said. "I never thought of acting in something like this. And I love those kinds of movies. I love those Paul Newman and Jimmy Stewart morality tale films, which are so rare these days."

The Knife Salesman was a gift for Cummings. It, once again, encouraged him to embrace the philosophy of one of his idols. The character both attracts and repels, and that tension creates a powerful intrigue.


"There's a great Phillip Seymour Hoffman line," he said. "When talking about acting, he said, 'The first thing I do when working on a role is say, "This person isn't me. How is this person different from me, and how is he similar, and how do I work to show off that character?" I try that with all my movies."


The Last Stop in Yuma County has been every day of Francis Galluppi's life for the last four and half years. And now, you can go watch it. That fact is more than odd for its director. Fancis Galluppi doesn't know how to let go. His only option is to pick up another flick.


"As soon as I finished a cut of the movie," he said, "I wrote a script. I constantly have this voice in my head just telling me, 'You're not doing enough, you lazy piece of shit.'"

Hey, whatever gets us another Evil Dead movie, Francis. Hop to it. And while you're making your next one, we'll be playing The Last Stop in Yuma County on repeat.

 

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