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Creator Of New Bio Discusses

The Infamous Jack Durant

Image courtesy of Travis Mills.

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The Phoenix Metro Filmmaker And His Production Company, Running Wild Films, Have Been Working On The Production For The Past Two Years And Are About To Begin Filming In Arizona’s Capitol With Hollywood Talent

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Dec. 5, 2014 — Jack Durant’s legacy is so much more than just being a restaurateur and business man in the Phoenix metro: he is a certified cultural icon. The tall tales that beget his life are the stuff of urban legend, which is why local filmmaker Travis Mills of Running Wild Films decided to tell the man’s life story on the big screen.

But unlike a vast majority of locally produced and directed films, Mills has successfully cast a group of Hollywood veterans including Tom Sizemore, Michael Richards, Pam Grier, Dina Meyer, Jon Don Baker, and Peter Bogdanovich.

“The character fascinated me,” said Mills who is the film’s director, producer, and writer. “Like  most people in Phoenix, I passed Durant’s all the time and it’s an interesting place. You hear stories about him and about the mob, and the more I learned about him the more I felt like he was somebody wanted to make a movie about. Nothing is really confirmed about Durant, because no one can know exactly what’s true about him and what’s made up. Even in the books that I based the film off of, it’s all guess work. Some people say this, some people say that, some people say he wasn't involved with the mafia at all, some people say he was. Even when he was alive no one knew where he came from. Some people say Chicago some people Kentucky. He’s like a man of myth.”

Mills and his team at Running Wild have been working together for more than four years in the Phoenix metro and have been responsible for a wide variety interesting projects. In 2013 Running Wild Films produced 52 short films in 52 weeks, in 2016 they are planning on making 12 western features in 12 months, and their most recent release — a baseball movie called Duel at the Mound came out in October and is getting “decent reviews” according to Mills.

Mills also has a bun in the oven for the months leading up to his intended March start date on Durant’s Never Closes. The ambitious director plans on shooting the bare knuckle boxing feature Recession Road in January and February.

But even with Mill’s extensive resume, Durant’s Never Closes will still be the first time he and Running Wild will work with Hollywood level talent. In the past, they have always put a focus on working with actors who were based in Arizona. He said that he didn’t feel like a director needed to look outside of their area for talent, that there are great actors everywhere, and films can be made anywhere. But that it was time for him to take the next step with his craft.

“I thought this was the right one to make that step. In the past I was really focused on local talent and then when I approached this project I thought, ‘you know we have grown over the last four years we’ve been around. But we need to get to the next level, and this felt like the right one,” said Mills.

He talked about people’s interest in shady characters, and the idea of a gritty underworld going on behind life’s everyday workings. He said that people enjoy films about “dangerous figures” but also made sure to point out that Durant’s is more universal than just a mafia story. It’s the story of a charismatic businessman and his associations, relationships, and they way he ran his business.

“You’ve got a character in Jack Durant, I think, who if someone even does a decent job of playing they’re going to get a lot of attention, even if they don't hit it out of the park they are going to get a lot of attention. It's a great character and the people so far who read the script, the actors attached really see that. Sizemore is really crazy about the role, super excited, super passionate, Pam Grier is the same way. Michael Richards can’t wait to play Dizzy Dean to show people another side of Michael Richards, so I knew it was the right project to do this with.”

Even though this is Running Wild’s first project not working with Arizona-based actors they are not giving up their focus on telling Arizona stories. The stories they tell may not always be true but they are always specific to the Grand Canyon State. Mills has been a resident since 1997 and in that time has grown quite a bit of affinity with the Copper State, and Phoenix in particular.

“A lot of people don't appreciate what they have in Phoenix, people say we need to be California. It’s like, open your eyes there are so many stories around. I want to do Durant’s, Durant’s leads to the Don Bolles killing story, then I want to do Winnie Ruth Judd. Did you know this was one of the biggest POW camps during World War II and there was a escape, and 40 nazi prisoners were running loose all over the Valley. People aren't taking advantage of those stories,” said Mills. “This really is an exciting project not just for us but for Phoenix too.”

It’s exciting for Phoenix partially because a great Phoenix story will be coming to the big screen, but also because if Mills has his way it will also be filmed in Phoenix. Right now, they are looking at Roosevelt Row art gallery Monorchid as where they are going to be filming, all of the actors besides the six big names will be Phoenix-based, and Phoenix based Retro Ranch will be providing the production with costuming. He admitted that other places offered him the chance to shoot with them but that he would like to keep as much of the production as possible with the Phoenix community.

“I intend on staying here, I don’t have any intentions of moving to L.A.,” said Mills. “I hope there is a whole movement of us here at some point.”

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jmoses@moderntimesmagazine.com.
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