Old West is full up with movie crews shooting westerns


HOLLYWOOD -- Tamra Davis has a problem. The rising 30-year-old director is about to start filming "Bad Girls," a western. "But New Mexico is booked and almost all of Arizona and a lot of Montana," she said. "It's crazy."

Ms. Davis has finally found a town, outside Sacramento, to start shooting her film in June about female gunslingers in the 1860s. Ms. Davis, who directed "Gun Crazy" and "CB4," said: "Props are hard to find and so are clothes."

The successes of Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" and Mr. Costner's "Dances With Wolves" have infected Hollywood with western fever. The fever will probably break as soon as one or two westerns fail, but for the moment the western is back.

Yet the return of the western has, like so much else in Hollywood, a gimmick. Yes, there are traditional big-star westerns planned for Mel Gibson, with a film based on the "Maverick" television show, and for Kevin Costner, to portray Wyatt Earp. But other planned westerns have a 1990s twist.

There's the predominantly black western, "Posse," to be released Friday. And several westerns are focusing, for the first time, on women.

"Women have always been ignored in westerns -- their stories and their roles," said Denise DiNovi, producer of "Outlaws," which is to start filming in September. "What's great about westerns is that you have strong archetypal characters that women can now play."

The movie, being made at Columbia Pictures, deals with a group of women in the Old West who are barred from owning property. After an act of violence against them, they turn into outlaws. As Ms. DiNovi said, virtually every big-name actress under 35 has expressed interest in the movie, including Demi Moore, Winona Ryder and Nicole Kidman.

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