Growing up, Stuart Townsend was a big fan of Westerns following the likes of the films of Sergio Leone and stars Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, and John Wayne, but the opportunities weren't always there in the current era. Having worked in the industry for almost three decades, the actor finally got his chance to shine as Jericho Ford in the Justin Lee film Apache Junction. I spoke to the actor about the dream role, working with Lee and co-stars Thomas Jane and Scout Taylor-Compton.
"What actor doesn't want to be in a Western?" Townsend said. "So for decades, I'd always secretly harbored this ambition to be in a Western, but it just never happened. A producer I worked with a few years back, Daemon Hillin called me up. He said, 'Look, I got this Western, and I read the logline.' I didn't read the script. As soon as I saw the name Jericho Ford, I just was like, 'Sign me up. I want to do this.' So it's kind of a childhood dream to play a Western."
Apache Junction is an Old West outpost of lawlessness, a haven for thieves and cold-blooded killers. When big-city reporter Annabelle Angel (Taylor-Compton) arrives in town and becomes a target, notorious gunslinger Jericho Ford comes to her aid. Now, Annabelle must entrust her future to a man with a deadly past as Jericho heads toward a tense showdown.
The Queen of the Damned star appreciated Lee's meticulous nature. "The great thing about Justin is he's a big Western fan and aficionado, and he knows his stuff," he said. "He's very detail-oriented. For example, the gun that I had was a long pistol that was quite long, and I wanted to change it up because it was difficult to do a quickdraw on it. He's like, 'Yeah, no, you've got to have that pistol. That's the kind of pistol that your character would have.' I really appreciated that. He knew his stuff, and I felt like I was in good hands. Someone who knows the genre, loves the genre, and he had written the script himself. It's always nice when you work with the director and his characters. I just liked the story. I thought it was it felt like an old-fashioned Western, and yet it had a bit of a modern twist that it was a female protagonist going in search of the truth of what was going on in this sort of badlands outlaw town. I thought that was a good story, and I read the script, and I just loved that. I was like, 'Sign me up.'"
The actor described the camaraderie on set, having to deal with production suspending due to the industry-wide pandemic lockdown and protocols put in place once they resumed. "[Thomas Jane] is awesome and a great actor. Look, all the actors were really super talented, like Scout [Taylor-Compton]," he said. "It was just a great time. We were having a blast, and then COVID came along, and we had to shut down and actually restart nine months later trying and finish it, which was pretty strange because the whole world had changed, and we were kind of coming back to this place where we were having so much fun. For the first couple of days, it was kind of weird and with masks and testing and not much fun at all. By the end of the week, we were having a blast again. It was a really nice crew, really great actors."
Despite Townsend's prior experience on horseback, he had to deal with a bit of rust. "It had been a while, and so I did a lot of practicing on horses, but we had to gallop away, and I hadn't galloped a horse for years," he recalled. "Not that it was challenging, it was just fun. It was like something to learn and try and get, like that was maybe slightly out of my comfort zone. I also just got to spend a lot of time with horses, which is just it's a great privilege to be able to spend hours riding horses and getting proficient on it. It was just a lot of fun, to be honest. It's a fun movie in general. Like it's a fun movie with the bar brawls, duels, gunfights, and damsels in distress like it's that kind of film. We just had a lot of fun shooting. There wasn't a lot of tension in the film, just having a good time. I think that comes through in the movie." Saban Films' Apache Junction, which also stars Trace Adkins, Ed Morrone, and Victoria Pratt, is currently in theaters, on-demand and digital. You can check out our interview with Lee here.