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Marfa: The Evil Mayberry?

Hollywood Starwhackers and Machetes
by Published on
Twentieth Century Fox
Robert De Niro as Senator McLaughlin in Machete

Lots of Texas/Hollywood related gossip out there this week, which I sometimes delve into if it touches on immigration or the border. Thought I would do an update on some of the things that I’ve blogged about over the last year. First stop, Marfa.

Remember Actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi’s marauding and pillaging through Marfa last year? The couple cut a wide swathe through Big Bend country trailing lawsuits and police affidavits behind them. Turns out the couple is in Canada now hiding out from “the Hollywood Starwhackers” who apparently killed Health Ledger and are now stalking them, according to an interview in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Randy Quaid, a native Houstonian, is a top-rate character actor. It’s startling and a little sad to read about how he and his wife have been reduced to living in a Prius on the streets of Vancouver. The Quaids did not have nice things to say about Marfa. “It was evil Mayberry,” Randy Quaid told the magazine.

On another Texas/Hollywood note, the Texas Film Commission yanked the funding for Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete.” Last summer, I wrote about the dust up over the state granting film incentive money to Rodriguez’s  blood-soaked B movie romp.

Rodriguez, who has long championed the Texas film community, once served as a poster boy for the Texas Film Commission’s film incentive program. The Texas Film Commission even held the bill signing for the program at Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios in Austin.

This month, the Governor’s office, which oversees the commission, issued a brief formal letter saying that Rodriguez won’t be getting the funds – probably as much as $2 million — because of a section in the state code that says film incentives can be denied “because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.”

Back in 2007, our esteemed Texas Legislature passed a law that allows the state to forbid tax incentives to any kind of film, TV or game project that contains “inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.”

As I wrote in an earlier post, a definition of “inappropriate content” is about as wide open as the West Texas prairie. It’s up to the Texas Film Commission to determine what’s hating on Texas and what isn’t. So far, they’ve nixed a movie about the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco. Now, they’ve axed the funding for machete.

Not surprisingly, the Texas Film Commission did not explain in its letter, which sections of the film so offended Texas or Texans.

The question now is what filmmaker in his or her right mind is going to want to gamble on applying for film incentive funds in Texas? What happened to Rodriguez is going to reverberate throug the filmmaking community. The takeaway message: don’t mess with Texas.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.