July 21, 2009

Catching up with Chris Eyre

Director Chris Eyre: 10 years after Smoke Signals

By David Hofstede

How Eyre got started:"When I read Sherman Alexie's story 'This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,' I knew that was the movie I wanted to make," Eyre says. "His writing hit upon something that I related to in a very deep way."

Approaching the sometimes-prickly Alexie with that request, armed only with a thin resumé and nonexistent track record, was his first challenge. But Eyre has always been one to visualize his goals before setting out to achieve them.

"I remember after high school traveling to the University of Arizona and a woman asking me what I want to do, and I said that I was a director," Eyre recalls. "Then she asked what I had directed, and I said, 'Well, nothing yet.' My thing is you have to say it before it comes to pass."
Eyre's next moves: Being a go-to director for Native American projects has been a boon to Eyre's career, but he's also gratified when he's invited to take on a project that does not have an Indian component. After making Smoke Signals, he was offered the director's chair on the Rob Schneider comedy Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo. He turned it down. Even though the film was nobody's idea of a classic, the chance to do it still qualifies as progress for Eyre and for Hollywood.

"I'm happy to make films I'm passionate about, and that's what I've done," he says. "If the subject is Native American, I think I can go to a place that's richer than other filmmakers, but it's not the driving force for me. It's more important to try and transcend even that."

Currently Eyre is developing A Year in Mooring, a supernatural drama that is not related to the Indian experience, but he also hopes to film the story of the controversial Native American activist Leonard Peltier.
Comment:  For more on Eyre, see Recreations in We Shall Remain and Eyre Directs Friday Night Lights. For more on the subject in general, see The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  "Chris Eyre on the set of We Shall Remain: Tecumseh's Vision (2009)." (Larry Gus)

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