The film adaptation of Blackfeet/Gros Ventre author James Welch’s “Winter in the Blood” is the vision of Andrew and Alex Smith, the writers, directors and co-producers. They grew up in Missoula.
“The author is a native of Montana and one of the state’s most prominent writers,” Andrew Smith said.
“The story is set specifically in a place that could only be that region of Montana. So many of the people involved — including major investors and partners — are Montanans or at least have a deep love for Montana,” he said. “We’re casting a number of actors who are either from here or have a strong connection to this place.”
When the Smiths focused on Chaske Spencer — alpha werewolf Sam Uley in the “Twilight” Saga and a Lakota Sioux in real life — for lead character Virgil First Raise, they knew him as a New York actor and only later learned he’s from Poplar.
They met casting director Rene Haynes, who also worked on “Twilight” movies, in Burbank, Calif., and later discovered she graduated from C.M. Russell High School and went to the University of Montana. Production designer David Storm hails from Havre.
Lily Gladstone, cast as Marlene, is from the Blackfeet and Nez Perce nations and attended UM.
“We’ve just encountered this critical mass of ‘oro y plata’ all the way down the line,” Smith said.
Others came from Oklahoma, California and New Mexico. Some had been part of the Smiths’ 2002 film “The Slaughter Rule,” starring Ryan Gosling, David Morse and Amy Adams and filmed in and around Great Falls.
Another cast member with “Twilight” ties is Julia Jones, who will play Agnes. She was Leah Clearwater in the “Twilight” Saga and is of Choctaw and Chickasaw descent.
“There’s a quality in Chaske and Julia that’s very powerful,” Smith said. “We’re excited we get them at this point in their career where they’re still willing to be in a low-budget film. It will be interesting to see them in a completely different realm. They’re going to have fun playing off each other.”
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