Friday, July 31, 2009

Linda Hamilton films "Refuge" in LC

About “Refuge”
When: Shooting ends in August
Director: Mark Medoff
Writers: Phil Treon & Mark Medoff
Producers: Mark Medoff and Ginger Perkins
Stars: Linda Hamilton, Chris Payne Gilbert, Chris McDonald, Lena Georgas
Plot: After accidentally killing her abusive husband Jack (Chris McDonald), hospice nurse Amelia Philips (Linda Hamilton) heads on the run in the family RV, with Jack’s body in the back and an unwanted passenger at the wheel: sardonic high school English teacher and self-defined failed novelist Darryl Tripp (Chris Payne Gilbert), who on the way to dump his novel in a landfill, takes refuge from a sandstorm in what he mistakes for an empty RV. As Amelia and Darryl cross the state together, into the evening of Darryl’s engagement party — which he misses — romance blossoms as Jack decomposes.”
Locations: Las Cruces, Southern New Mexico

Learn more about the movie and share director Mark Medoff’s blog about the filmmaking process at

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — As Sarah Connor in the “Terminator” films, she was responsible for nothing less than saving the human race. As Catherine in the popular TV series “Beauty and the Beast,” she was a dauntless New York district attorney who befriended a “mythic, noble man-beast.”
As herself, Linda Hamilton has led a unique and spectacular life, too, with a successful career that has spanned three decades and included numerous awards, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and lesser-known honors, like the Grammy-Award-winning “The Children’s Shakespeare” and her selection for studies with famed acting teacher Lee Strasberg.
She’s costarred with the actor who is the current governor of California. Her ex-husband, James Cameron, directed “Titanic,” the biggest grossing film of all time. She made People magazine’s list as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world. She hosted Saturday Night Live. She’s one of four siblings, including an identical twin (her sister Leslie Hamilton Gearren is a registered nurse and has served as her double). She’s raising two kids, Dalton, 19, by her first husband, Bruce Abbott, and daughter Josephine Archer, 16, with Cameron.
Perhaps most remarkable in a cutthroat business, she’s continued to work, appearing in top sitcoms, TV movies, and stage productions and done animation voice-overs and starred in blockbusters and critically acclaimed films that include “Dante’s Peak” and “Missing in America.”
Her recent projects include “Holy Water,” an indy comedy now in post-production. This week, she’s wrapping up the action-adventure comedy, “Refuge,” at locations in Southern New Mexico that include acreage crammed with battered cars and disembodied auto parts at Luchini’s Towing on Picacho Avenue.
“I remember her from the ‘Terminator’ movies. She’s still hot,” said John Nicholls, adding that the guys in the front office at Luchini’s agree with his assessment.
She’s also “a very naturally generous person,” said second assistant director Marissa Macias, among students from New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute working on the film.
“Working with her has been a great experience. She really is much nicer that you would expect someone with her level of fame to be,” Macias said, noting that Hamilton has worked “without complaints.” through weeks of triple-digit weather.
“The heat doesn’t bother me. After August in New Orleans, this is nothing,” Hamilton said, sitting down for an interview under a shady tarp during “Refuge “ filming breaks.
Though she’s visited New Mexico, this is the first film she’s made here, and she’s taking advantage of harvest time in the green chile capital of the world.
“I went to Andele’s and it felt like it was the first time I ever had a green chile enchilada. On my day off, I went over to get some more,” Hamilton said.
Asked to choose a personal favorite of all the movies she’s appeared in, she had a ready answer: “This one!”
Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff, who directs the film, also shares writing credits with Phil Treon, who wrote the story that inspired the tale.
“I got the script. I loved it. I read it and I took it,” said Hamilton.
She said she has enjoyed working with a creative, collaborative mix of seasoned pros and students.
“I’m a fan of learning and gaining experience,” she said.
Reflecting on the reasons for the longevity of her career, she said, “It’s not always about talent. I’ve definitely grown as an actress. I think you get better at your craft. I never set out myself to be a movie star. They don’t have lasting careers, if it’s all about beauty and outside. You have to pull from something deeper.”
She likes the challenges of working in a variety of projects.
“It’s what I live for. I would always go where the fear is. My idea of living is to tackle fear.”
In recent years, she has returned to the stage, tackling Tennessee Williams characters and parts like Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
She would be happy to spend a large percentage of the rest of her life “solely on stage, playing the great parts.”
Born in Salisbury, Maryland, on Sept. 26, 1956, she got her start in hometown theater groups, attended Washington College in Chesterville, Md., and began her career with TV appearances, a role in a prime time soap, “Secrets of Midland Heights,” and a lead in the hit horror film, “Children of the Corn.”
Did she suspect her “Terminator” costar Arnold Schwarzenegger would grow up to be governor of California?
“No way! But I remember he was on the phone with George Bush,” during filming of the iconic blockbusters, she reports.
Acting remains her primary focus, along with her two teenage kids, who have no show business aspirations.
“They’ve seen fame and they aren’t interested,” and are exploring other options. Her daughter is considering becoming a therapist and her son has interests ranging from real estate to museums, after a recent trip to Europe, she said.
She’s been candid and open about living with bipolar disorder and her struggles during what she called her “lost years” from age 20 to 40, before diagnosis and treatment dramatically improved the quality of her life.
“There is a definite correlation between the mind and the body. Being physically fit doesn’t mean anything if the mind isn’t fit and being fit in the mind is not worth much if the body is suffering. I recommend balance between the therapies that are available, the medicines that are available, but not to give up on the body as a result,” she said in 2004 Associated Press interview.
She “continues to thrive” these days and ponders what might have been done to help her physician father, who shared the condition.
“He died when I was five. That was back in the days when it was called ‘manic-depressive’ instead of bipolar disorder,” she said.
She devotes time to a variety of causes, including fundraisers for Cystic Fibrosis, Physicians Without Borders and the Starlight Foundation.
On Monday, she joined other cast and crew members to volunteer as a celebrity bartender at a Meson de Mesilla benefit for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary and the Tough Enough to Wear Pink breast cancer research campaign.
Then it was back to regional locations that range from towing yards to a luxurious home, Stahmann’s orchards and Mesilla’s old Cotton Gin.
On his blog about the making of “Refuge,” Medoff terms Hamilton’s performance, “Funny and wonderful.”
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Sorting your stuff requires small gear in a big state

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — For someone who’s been in staycation mode this year, sticking to travels within New Mexico, it seems like I’ve done an awful lot of packing.
I’ve had several out-of state-visitors and we’ve been making lots of side trips.
Of course, we live in a really big state (if you’ve forgotten, we’re the fifth biggest in territory, after Alaska, Texas, California and Montana). And travels in several elevations during summer monsoon season could involve a 50-degree temperature drop from, say, late afternoon in Las Cruces to nighttime in Cloudcroft, plus weather fronts that could include thunderstorms, blazing sun, blustery winds and maybe even some hail.
All this means it’s necessary, prudent even, to prepare for all contingencies, even though it seems silly to pack a raincoat and sweaters or a coat or jacket when you’re driving an hour or two from a place with cloudless skies where the mercury’s hovering above 100 degrees. Of course, the umbrellas are no problem for my tribe. When you spend a couple of decades in Oregon, you always have at least three umbrellas in the car at all times: one dry, one soggy and drying out, and another that may have a few broken ribs from high wind reversals, but that’s better than nothing in a pinch.
Then there are the shoe decisions: sandals, flip-flops, boots for hiking, comfy sneakers or joggers and maybe a dressy pair for nice dinners.
And there are other issues when you’re traveling with travelers, which always puts me in mind of the late great George Carlin’s “stuff” routine. He noted that when you go on vacation, you have to take a smaller version of your usual stuff, and when you arrive at your destination, you might plan a side trip that requires an even smaller version of that stuff.
Luckily, we’ve had some help on that front, I thought, as I prepared for a working getaway with grandson Alex the Great, who came to my adobe abode with a smaller version of the stuff he’d brought with him from Oregon and left at his Las Cruces cousins’ house.
As I recharged the battery in my tiny Nikon, it occurred to me it would have once required a back-breaking duffle bag full of lenses, cameras, batteries, film, tripods and assorted audio and video equipment ... and all that gear still wouldn’t have been able to do the things my teensy new camera can do.
Of course, there are problems with miniaturization, too. The case for my Nikon is so small, I can’t even squeeze in my business cards, so I need to find a compartment in my purse, already jammed with things like cell phones and chargers. And phones are in a big category that includes all sorts of things we would never have considered vital to take on a vacation, or even a business trip, a decade or so ago: Laptops, Blackberries, iPhones, assorted game systems and MP3 and DVD players.
In fact, I still sometimes prefer to travel light, with nothing but a few pens and an old-fangled reporter’s notebook. (And my access codes, so I can check my e-mail at the resort’s business center, though I confess there are vacation days when I’d just as soon skip that.)
I tried to talk Alex into roughing it, especially since I knew from experience that we would be heading through some rustic “no service” terrain.
He valiantly left PCs and game systems at his cousins’ house. The slightly-larger-but-still-tiny case for my last digital camera turned out to be big enough to hold his videocameraphone, earbuds, chargers and wallet, with room left over for his brand new MP3 player, which he has recently managed to download with 3 million songs or so, enough to hold him for the weekend.
I thought we might leave all that behind for a day or two, but Alex thought we might need it all, and maybe he was right. When we arrived a half hour early at our destination, an isolated ghost town, our host was nowhere to be found and my cell phone was reading “no service.” But somehow, Alex got his phone to work.
So were able to drag our host out of the shower and avoid wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes on a beautiful, sunny day, pondering the great mysteries of life. Like: do we really need all this stuff?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moon landing memories

NASA Courtesy photos
Buzz Aldrin salutes the flag during the July 20, 1969 moon landing ... and commemorates the 40th anniversary with an MTV rap about the experience.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — The date was July 20, 1969.
I rushed home from my job in the communications office at Michigan State University, turned on the TV and listened to Walter Cronkite talking with the “right stuff” guys.
I kept the volume low.
We had just coaxed our baby son Ryan into taking regular naps and were working to curb his night owl tendencies.
I should let sleeping babes lie, I thought. He’s 14 months old and there’s no chance he’ll remember this historic occasion.
But I couldn’t resist. And a couple of years ago, I came upon a scrap of paper on which I had written a little poem commemorating the occasion:
I woke you up
to tell you,
“Men are walking on the moon.”
You opened up your pool-blue eyes
and seemed delighted
but not surprised.
For Boomers, and our elders, it was a big surprise. While touring the space museums for this week’s “2009 Space Odyssey” feature, I thought back to my earliest memories of the space program.
When I was a little kid, we were bombarded with space race paranoia when the-then USSR beat us into orbit with the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Through my elementary-through-high school years, there was a lot of public anguish about too much art and not enough science in our public school systems. Luckily, my district already had great music and visual and performing arts teachers and programs in place, so we artistic types didn’t suffer too much while education theory was catching up to the reality: Music and visual arts programs actually enhanced cognitive skills necessary for achievement in math and science.
A little memorial at the New Mexico Museum of Space History reminded me how excited we were as tots when cute little primates became the first living beings launched into space ... and our horror when our parents had to explain that those first intrepid little critters were getting a guaranteed one-way ticket and would die out there, where no one could hear their poor little monkey screams. It would be a while before astronaut monkeys and dogs managed to make it back alive.
My son entered the planet in a more hopeful and triumphant time.
That moonwalk ushered in a whole generation of kids who would never know a time when there were not, “footsteps overhead in the clouds,” as a Hopi prophet I know once put it.
And maybe those early footsteps registered subconsciously, too, as a kind of symbol of watershed changes.
The first images shown on MTV were a montage of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the logo most of us still most associate with MTV is a slightly altered version of the iconic shot of Buzz Aldrin saluting an American Flag during that first landing. (While they were staking their video territory on Aug. 1, 1981, an MTV flag was superimposed on the scene.)
According to various Web sites I consulted, over a billion people were watching as astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar landing module Eagle and spoke those now famous, if someone stilted, words: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
That was great, but I remember longing for something a bit more expressive and wishing we’d sent some poets and musicians up there, along with the original intrepid trio of Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins.
As it turns out, maybe we did. Aldrin, the second man on the moon, has released “Rocket Experience,” recorded with Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli and back-up singers, and featuring space scenes and rappin’ rocket man Aldrin.
For a good time, check it out at
In a summer filled with sad video clips of Michael Jack’s moonwalk moves, it’s transcendently inspirational to see one of the veterans of the original moonwalk still walking — let along rockin’ and rappin’ — at age 79.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Adios to Ed, Farrah & Michael

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Whatever happens the rest of this summer, June ‘09 will be remembered as the time when icons of three generations passed away in a couple of days.
Some of us wondered, at first, what (in order of their departure) Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson would have to talk about in heaven.
My guess is: quite a lot. They all had multigenerational impact and appeal, and were a part of our lives for several decades.
Though I never met any of the three, with a week’s pondering, I came up with a one degree of separation link with each. Like many Las Crucens who witnessed his 2007 farewell performance with Mariachi Cobre and the Las Cruces Symphony, I’ve spent quality time with Ed’s “Tonight Show” colleague and friend Doc Severinsen. I also promoted Doc’s concerts when I worked with the Palm Beach County Council for the Arts.
Though the “Tonight Show” trio were closer to my parents’ age, most Baby Boomers may have logged more hours with Ed than with many of our own friends and relatives, as we grew up watching Ed bantering with Johnny and Doc and later as host of “Star Search” and those ubiquitous commercials.
The one degree with Farrah came when Ryan O’Neal jogged past me when I was visiting Jess Stearn in the Malibu Colony, where they all lived. Though we entered the planet just a few days apart, (I’m younger, something I used to cheer myself up by noting), Farrah was actually the coming-of-age pinup of boys my son’s age. I admired my fellow Aquarian’s uppity and sometimes eccentric choices in life. We both tackled the cause of domestic violence, she on film, at a time when I was reporting that there were more laws on the books to protect animals than women and kids.
Strangely enough, Michael, a decade younger than Farrah (and me) seemed more like a contemporary ... maybe because we’ve all known him since he was a little kid. I noticed in recent weeks that there was a Baby Boomer upper limit on this. Friends just a few years older didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about.
I remembered trying to make sense of Michael’s one-time Oscar date Madonna, during her “Truth or Dare” period, finally coming to the conclusion that she entertainingly articulated societal confusion.
Michael was tougher to peg. Fame on such a scale at such an early age was like subjecting a small child to repeated rape and electrocution. Expecting anything close to a normal life to ensue would be as insane as his childhood.
Somehow, he still managed to produce art that was innovative, entertaining and healing.
I thought about his work that moved me the most: “Ben,” his sadly wistful childhood love song to a rat amigo. And I remembered listening to his “Thriller” and “Bad” album tracks during one of the most difficult periods of my life, when I was working with people addicted to power, cocaine and other toxic substances in some of the world’s darkest capitals of arrogance and greed. I found that retreating with Michael’s music on my Walkman helped me cope with the impossible, something Michael had been doing for a lifetime. He knew the dangerous territory, the worst war zones of the Me Generation.
It may be too soon to try to make sense of their lives, but if their triad of departures could be summarized in one-liners, it could be argued that they died as they lived. Ed set the stage and made the announcement. Farrah brought glamour and then (surprising-to-some) depth and meaning as she showed courage and innovation in her choice of roles and the way she played them. And Michael, poignantly, had some surprising and innovative moves and timing, even in his last act. To the end, he was still trying to cope and heal himself enough for one last comeback, one last message from a maimed insomniac sentinel in a spiritually narcoleptic world.
Maybe his ultimate legacy will be to compel us to reflect on the way we treat our most talented children. I hope so.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at