Forty-five years may have passed since Kris Kristofferson first made his brief silver-screen debut singing "Me & Bobby McGee" in Dennis Hopper’s tumultuous anti-Western, The Last Movie, but miraculously, Kristofferson is still gracing on-screen frontier towns with his cowboy wisdom and Western soul. Most recently, he can be found bartending in the frontier town of Timothy Woodward Jr.’s Traded, which hit theaters and VOD last Friday.
Gone are the days when Kristofferson was helming vigilante roles such as the sharp-shooting Billy The Kid, but they are far from forgotten. In Traded, Kristofferson plays Billy, a hardened barkeep with a strict moral compass, living in Dodge City in the 1800s. When a stranger comes to town in search of his daughter, Billy is at first guarded, but when he learns of the gross injustice done to the poor girl, he puts his life on the line to help the underdog father.
Not only does Traded offer Kristofferson the opportunity to return to the West, but far more exciting for the country legend, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday in one week’s time, he is able to share the screen with his own daughter, Kelly Kristofferson, who makes her theatrical debut as Claire.
Like his character, Billy, Kristofferson is a man of few words these days. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to ask the man a few burning questions.
ScreenAnarchy: What was it about the TRADED screenplay or the Billy character that drew you towards the project?
Kris Kristofferson: I like to work in Westerns, period. I saw that the director Timothy Woodward had recently worked with Mickey Rourke, so my wife texted him and Mickey said that he was a good kid, level-headed, so I accepted.
Where do you think you would actually fit into the wild West of Wichita in the 1880s?
Either an outlaw or a lawman.
Your daughter is very good in this film! What was the most rewarding part of watching her enter into both the frontier universe and the world of filmmaking?
Kelly has never been anything but pure joy. I have been watching her act in community plays since she was 7 and she is exceptional in musical theatre, which she certainly didn’t get from me.
You’ve played many different characters within the Western genre - hero and anti-hero alike. Did you enjoy becoming the frontier town's old timer?
Yes, I think that was a first for me, and it was better than not being in it at all.
As a child, what first got you into the Western genre? What was it about Westerns that you responded to?
I had my own horse from the age of 5 and related to Westerns, Hank Williams, and the Ranchero music of Brownsville, Texas.
Your onscreen debut was far from a normal Hollywood production. What are your memories of being involved with THE LAST MOVIE?
I was hired as a horse wrangler. Dennis Hopper had me sing “Me & Bobby McGee” in the film because he liked it so much.
In addition to your unique introduction to film with Dennis Hopper as director, you’ve worked with some of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century - Peckinpah, Mazursky, Scorsese, Cimino, Sayles… While I’m sure all were invaluable experiences, does one of your film experiences stand out as the most rewarding?
No, that would be like comparing and choosing my children.
My personal favourite of all your films is PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID. What was the vibe of a Peckinpah set and how did you enjoy the rare opportunity to share a Western scene with Dylan?
Sam was wild and unpredictable and had a huge heart. I loved working with Bob, I had great respect for him and I still do.
Country music has always felt like a cousin of the Western film, and vice versa. What role would you say the Western myth has played into your approach to music?
Courage and honesty.
Visit the official site for more information about Traded.