The offices of Denver’s alt weekly, AAN member Westword, are about to make it to the big screen. Acclaimed indie director John Sayles’ upcoming movie, Silver City, is now filming in Denver and will feature a newspaper called the Denver Defender. Sayles is using Westword’s office to house the fictional daily. Westword’s editor, Patty Calhoun, will even play a small role in the film. “In an amazing piece of casting, I was cast as a reporter,” she says.
Like most of Sayles’s films (which include Matewan, Lianna and Sunshine State), Silver City won’t aim merely to entertain: Sayles chose Denver for its particular political and cultural issues. Starring Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss and Kris Kristofferson, the movie, says Calhoun, is about a “George W. Bush- like” character (Cooper) who’s running for governor and whose father is a U.S. Senator. Kristofferson is the corporate mogul who finances the Cooper character’s campaign and buys the Defender, the local conservative paper. (Calhoun will play a reporter who asks the Bush-like gubernatorial candidate a question during a press conference.) Sayles delves into regional politics with Silver City, addressing mining, environmental, immigration and Hispanic issues.
Calhoun and Sayles and Sayles’s longtime partner and producer, Maggie Renzi, met through Louis Black, editor of AAN member Austin Chronicle and an old friend of Renzi and Sayles’s. “(Maggie) called to tell me they were going to do a movie in Colorado,” says Black, also co-founder of Austin’s music, movie and digital-culture festival South by Southwest and a former film student who’s been a part of Austin’s tight-knit film community, including directors like Richard Linklater (School of Rock) and Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico), for years. “I said, the first person you have to talk to is Patty Calhoun. I knew that Patty would have all the information that John loves to devour — he loves lots of local stories and backstories, and Patty knows that stuff better than anybody. Plus,” he adds, “I knew Patty and Maggie would get along, just from the kind of people they are, so it was the most logical thing in the world to hook them up.”
Her part as the Silver City reporter is Calhoun’s only professional acting job, but even though she only had one line, she was given a trailer right next to Chris Cooper and Richard Dreyfuss. It was very low- budget, she says, with “little cubbyholes for almost each person with a speaking part,” and hardly enough room for a couch. And while Calhoun loved Sayles’s Lone Star and Return of the Secaucus 7, she says that she’s not yet well-versed in his other work, although there’s a ready-made Denver organization that could school her: “We have a John Sayles club in town,” she says. “All women in their ‘50s, very early feminists. They have a fan club that just happens to exist here, so they’re much more on it than I am.”
Casa de Los Babys, Sayles’ latest movie about women waiting to adopt children in a South American hotel, stars Rita Moreno, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Lili Taylor and Mary Steenburgen and is in theaters now.