The ‘full fishing interview’ with the local ‘Hell on Wheels’ star
By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald
Published Sept. 26, 2012
UPDATED: 5:59 p.m., Sept. 26
Anson Mount, star of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels,” returned home to White Bluff last week for the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Nashville.
Mount, an actor living in New York City, introduced the Zac Brown Band prior to their Friday and Saturday night festival performances.
Mount and friend, Mike Gossett, of White Bluff, fished Turnbull Creek off Craggie Hope Road Thursday morning. Mount granted The Herald an interview and invited this reporter to join the trip.
I met Mount at 8:30 a.m. at Gossett’s home off Pleasant View Road in White Bluff. Then we three headed to Houston’s Restaurant off Highway 47 for some breakfast. Mount treated us.
Mount and Gossett have been friends for a long time, and grew up together on Pinewood Drive in White Bluff.
“He’s just all-around truly a good guy,” Gossett noted. “He can talk to anybody from my 5-year-old to the president of the United States. He can get on anybody’s level.
“And he’s real. He’s just a real guy,” he continued. “I don’t have to worry about putting on my best when he comes down. We can hang out just like we did when we were kids.”
Gossett is a couple years older than Mount, but they were always the “best of friends” growing up.
“He’s a better friend than I am, because ever since he left for college… I’m terrible about staying in contact with people and he’s not let me do that,” Gossett said. “I mean at least once every two months we’ll talk on the phone or he’ll send me a text or something.”
After breakfast we stop at Steve and Rita’s Market on U.S. Highway 70, where Mount and Gossett picked up bait, water and a Sun Drop for Mount.
Market owners Steve and Rita Winters recalled Mount patronizing their former pizza business in town years ago.
With full stomachs and supplies in tow, we set out for Ullrich Landing Park off Craggie Hope Road outside Kingston Springs.
We bait our hooks, cast our lines and cover a variety of topics, ranging from Mount’s parents to his favorite books, details about “Hell on Wheels,” being a Southerner living in the Northeast to visiting the Rat Pack’s old haunt.
The following is my entire interview with Mount:
Me: What’s your favorite music?
Mount: I stopped following current music at the same time I stopped following television. I guess it was around graduate school. I just got so busy.
Music-wise, I listen to everything. Some days I’ll be listening to Bob Dylan, other days I want to listen to Vivaldi, other days I’ll listen to My Morning Jacket.
Me: My Morning Jacket is one of my favorite bands, and hearing “Dondante” live made me a fan.
Mount: I wasn’t sure about (the album) “Z.” It was sort of their Kid A (a Radiohead album), but then it grew on me. But I still like “It Still Moves” more than I think just about any of their albums. It just feels like being in my fraternity house (Lambda Chi Alpha) at 3 in the morning and the last album is echoing in the chapter room. It just feels like the end of a party.
Me: Any memorable college experiences?
Mount: One night my senior year me and a few of my fraternity members decided we wanted to… there’s this other fraternity that we hated and they had a lake behind their house and in that lake they had a this thing that they called a keg raft. It was this 12-by-12 foot raft, in the middle of it was a keg holder and they were so proud of it.
So we decided we were going to steal their raft and put it in our front yard for party weekend. It was like the Thursday night before party weekend, they were having a formal, and we planned it all out.
Me and another guy went in to distract them while another couple guys road out in a canoe and cut the chain with boltcutters and then road the raft over to another part of the lake.
So me and the president went in there. Brought in some beers and were like, ‘Hey how are ya’ll doing?’ Everybody else was in tuxedos drunk, and (we’re) like, ‘Hey yeah, ya’ll don’t want to go out to the balcony, stay out here.’
And then we went out there, I swear to God there was seven of us, it took us nearly four hours to get it out… it was huge… it took us nearly four hours to get it out of the lake and onto the back of a pickup truck. There was one point where I was like, ‘Let’s give up. This is impossible,’ and my best friend Bryan Eklund said, ‘F you. We came out here to do this and we’re going to finish it.’
It sounds silly but it was a big lesson at the time, because we did it. We got that thing up on the back of a pickup truck. I mean it was spilling four feet out of both sides of the pickup. It’s a wonder that the campus police did not stop us.
We got it to the front yard. We put it in the front yard of our house and we partied on it all weekend. We actually cooked a vat of chili and put it in the keg holder. The Chi Psi’s were so pissed off about that. They were so mad.
Me: You said you really enjoy reading. What are your favorite books?
Mount: I’m actually fortunate enough that one of the writers on our staff was a guest English professor when I was at Sewanee. He says we met when I was there. I don’t remember it, but he says I showed up to his gin party with some people and drank all of his gin. His name is Mark Richard, and he is the best living author I know.
He wrote a book of short stories called “The Ice at the Bottom of the World” that I still give to people, and he’s become a heck of a TV writer. Actually his memoirs just came out… a great writer, a great man.
And then the only writer I ever flew anywhere to meet, because I flew back down here after I discovered William Gay. He’s from Hohenwald and he just died back in February. He wrote a book of short stories called “I Hate to See that Evening Sun Go Down;” and then he wrote three novels, “The Long Home,” which is an Old Testament quote, (another) which people think is his masterpiece called “Provinces of Night,” which is a Cormac McCarthy quote; and then he wrote a book that unfortunately came out a couple months before “The Twilight” series hit and it was unfortunately titled “Twilight.” So I refer to it as “The Other Twilight.” It has nothing to do with vampires. And it’s right now in the midst of development as a film and I’m trying like heck to get them to let me play a role in it.
And of course Cormac McCarthy. I’ve read all of his books except for two, which I’m saving. I just bought “Outer Dark.” And then “Cities of the Plain,” I haven’t read that. But I got turned onto McCarthy in my Literature of the American South class at Sewanee my senior year. I read “Child of God,” and then there’s just no going back. That guy’s incredible.
Me: What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Mount: The best book I’ve ever read period I would say is “The Sound and the Fury”… I have not read a better American novel. I haven’t read a better novel period.
(William Faulkner) charts through one family the death of a culture, which is the Old South and then the rebirth of a new one. His last chapter is told from the point of view of the black family maid. It’s just genius. It’s absolutely genius.
Me: Do you champion any political causes, or express an opinion about the upcoming presidential election?
Mount: I’m an actor not a politician. Michael (his fishing partner) and I probably sit on opposite sides of the aisle, but we still fish right?
I don’t like people who achieve a certain level of fame that decide they need to start becoming a politician or a pundit. I think it’s crude.
I do think that there’s another side of the coin. I think that people that have a certain level of fame, I think for some reason because of my job or how my job is treated right now, a microphone is sort of held up to my mouth more often than other people. And I certainly don’t think that I get less of a freedom of speech than other people because of that. But I also don’t think that I need to be telling other people how to think or how to vote.
Me: I was raised in Ashland City, but never felt strongly about my Southern culture till I went to school in the Midwest. When you moved away, did you have a similar experience?
Mount: That’s absolutely my experience. I mean not that I wasn’t proud to be from where I’m from, but when your entire world is Dickson County, Tenn. you don’t think about your identity as much because you’re here.
Then when you go to New York the only similarities is the color of the money. And then you start running into stereotypes. The stereotypes piss me off. I tell people all the time… I get accused of being from a place of rednecks… I’ll tell them, I’ll say, ‘Man, just take a trip out on Long Island. You got plenty of rednecks out there.’
[WE TAKE A BRIEF PAUSE FROM FISHING SO MOUNT CAN BUM ONE OF MY SINKERS]
Me: The cast and plot of “Hell on Wheels” showcases ethnic and cultural diversity. Characters include freedmen, Irish, German, Native Americans, etc.
Mount: That’s what’s really exciting about it for me. (Abraham) Lincoln’s big thing was the Civil War was necessary. Even after he tried to avoid it he felt it was necessary. But his dream for the United States was to unify it through the construction of a transcontinental railroad.
It was like (John F.) Kennedy in 1960 saying he wanted to put a man on the moon. Everybody was like, ‘You’re out of your cotton-pickin’ mind.’
Almost every major engineer on the planet said it’s impossible. You can’t do that. It’s geographically impossible. It’s an engineering impossibility. It’s an economic impossibility. And then after Lincoln’s assassination – Lincoln almost didn’t get re-elected. Lincoln was not a universally popular president. It’s hard for us to conceive of that today. But what ended up happening is after his assassination, as after most assassinations, there was a tremendous amount of sympathy and outpouring and nostalgia for him, and so Congress got behind funding his transcontinental railroad.
Engineers were still saying it’s impossible. Most of the people working on the railroad were former soldiers or former slaves. So you got a big group of people that were trying to kill each other just a few months before, or trying to own each other just a few months before, who suddenly are locked together in this dream to try and make the transcontinental railroad a reality. And they did it.
That’s the most amazing part of the story for me.
Me: “Hell on Wheels” is set during the Reconstruction period, when the South is forging a new identity post-slavery. In personally becoming aware of my culture, I felt apologetic and guilt for the transgressions of our forbearers, especially in light of slavery and the atrocities under Jim Crow? Did your experience include that, and do you channel that for your character?
Mount: No. I’ll tell you why, because I’ve had the opportunity to live in the North, and I’ve learned that we have no monopoly on racism in the South. And anybody who says that we do is either myopic, uneducated or an (expletive).
I think we have a very bad history of racism from the ’50s and the ’60s. That was a bad time; it was a bad time. There really is no excuse for some of the crap that went on in Birmingham, in Memphis, you know. But the fact of the matter is that people forget that the United States of America legalized, taxed, mandated and regulated slavery for much longer than did the South.
I think it’s a very ugly part of our history that we need to share as a nation, not as a region.
Me: On the show, you smoke a cigar. Do you actually smoke it? Has it become addictive?
Mount: I don’t smoke on that that often. What I need to do is stop chewing tobacco. Because I’m a runner and nicotine is nicotine, it’ll affect your heart no matter how it goes in your system.
I set a goal last season to try to smoke a cigar in every episode, and then this season I wasn’t as worried about it. It’s a character trait and I go back to it every now and then when it’s (pertinent) for a scene, but I don’t smoke them in real life.
Me: On the show, you consume a lot of alcohol. Do the flasks, shot glasses and bottles have real alcohol in them?
Mount: No. There’s major laws against using real alcohol on a film or TV set. That is water with caramel color. If you ever see somebody with a beer it’s nonalcoholic beer. I couldn’t get through my day – I mean we’re working 13-15 hours a day – I mean I couldn’t get through my day if I was drinking. That would be a nightmare.
Me: You ride horses on the show. Had you ever ridden a horse before?
Mount: Yeah. Around here we didn’t have any horses, but a lot of my friends had horses. I’d go out to the Vandivorts… (Mount asks Mike: What’s that road the Vandivorts live on?)… Jones Creek Road. I’d go out to the Vandivorts on Jones Creek Road, and they had a little pony called Big Enough, and that thing would buck us off every time.
We’d go camping ever year, and we’d always go to all these exotic places, and then my favorite camping trip every year was just going down to Leatherwood down below Ervin (Upchurch)’s place.
Me: What are the names of the horses you ride on the show?
Mount: Last year I was on about 4-5 different ones because of the change of story line. One died (in the show), that was Smoke’em. And then I was on Badger for most of last season, and he was just lazy.
And then the first episode this year I was on a paint horse called Tatanka that had a really hard mouth, so I was kind of glad that he, in the fiction of the story, got stolen away from me.
And the rest of the year I’ve been on the best horse I’ve ever been on, a horse named Quigley. I love this. He’s the most intelligent, docile, well-behaved horse I’ve ever been on. He learns his marks faster than I do, and he’ll stand stock-still if you want him to, but he will take off like a bullet.
They’re good horses, and the wranglers up there – John Scott Ranch, they’re one of the wranglers that went and did “Lord of the Rings” in New Zealand, so they know what they’re doing. They keep us real, real safe.
Me: The show infuses Native American culture, like the vision quest in the first season. Also, Wes Studi, who’s played a Native American in several roles, portrayed Chief Many Horses in the show. Have you been able to experience any crossover knowledge about real Native American culture?
Mount: Yeah, last year one of our background First Nation brothers – my best friend from Sewanee was visiting – we were shooting at a reservation called Tsuu T’ina, and he’s Blackfoot. They’re all like once or twice removed. It’s a small community whether you’re Blackfoot or Tsuu T’ina or whatever.
So he took us to the Tsuu T’ina powwow, which is a big powwow. I would say it was about the size of a small county fair. And it was one of the only experiences I’ve had where Branan and I, we were the only two white guys there. And totally welcomed with open arms. We got to walk right up to the drum circle.
And I tell you, if you here Native American music on a CD you can’t get it. It just doesn’t work. You got to be there, and then you feel that drum (pounding) against your chest, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK. I get it.’
I can’t imagine a more masculine form of music. I mean there is no counterbeat. It is ‘Doomp! Doomp! Doomp!’
[PAUSE IN INTERVIEW WHILE MOUNT REELS IN A SUN FISH]
Me: I get this all the time because I don’t have a strong Southern accent – ‘You’re not from around here are ya boy?’ You also don’t have a strong accent, but you deliver certain words and phrases with a thick drawl in the show.
Mount: You understand I went through a lot of training to be able to even out my accent whenever I need to, because when you’re new in the business you’ll get typecast real quick if you’re anything other than neutral. So I beat it out of myself for a while, and then I finally got to the point where I’m well-enough known in the business that they know I can do several accents. So I don’t worry about it as much.
But the accent for Cullen (Bohannon) is a little bit different. It’s kind of a guttural drawl. If you listen for it, Tennessee has more of a, some people call it a twang, but in its placement, it’s less in the back of the mouth and involves the nasal resonator more; and the diphthong tends to go into an ‘I’ more than a ‘U.’
I think most people wouldn’t hear a difference in the accent, but sometimes I get asked by friends to coach them in a Southern accent, and I actually have to graph it on a piece of paper, if they want to do specifically Tennessee or they want to do something else.
My mother’s from South Carolina, a totally different accent. It’s also different with generations.
Mount later joked, while coaching a friend from Los Angeles with a Southern accent, he graphed out the word ‘toilet’ on a chart and asked the friend to pronounce the word. The friend said ‘toilet’ in his best Southern accent, and Mount replied, ‘No, tree.’
Me: You have some awesome one-liners in the show, i.e., “The world ain’t comin’ to nothin’ son. It’s the same as it ever was.”
Mount: That’s the Gaytons. The Gaytons are really good at lines like that that have a sense of irony within the sentence. And that’s from the point of view of a man who’s been through, not just a war that he lost, but a loss of his entire culture. That’s the point of view of somebody who’s been through something like that, so that’s why that line works.
Otherwise if you put that line in the mouth of another character it wouldn’t have worked.
Me: Do you have a favorite line from the show?
Mount: Yeah, it’s the second episode of the first season when The Swede locks me up in the rail car and he explains to me about his interment in Andersonville, about how it was a Southern-run concentration camp for Union prisoners. And he talks about how people were resorting to cannibalism.
And right before he leaves, I said, ‘Hey, you know why y’all almost starved to death? Because you Yankees all taste like sh-t.’ That’s my favorite line.
Me: Where’s your favorite place to fish?
Mount: Jones Creek and those red-eye bass. My go-to spot when I was growing up is, my parents would take me after school and just drop me off at Montgomery Bell (State Park). They’d drop me off on Saturday morning. I’d stay there all day. (Mount and Gossett fished at Montgomery Bell the day before.)
[WE TAKE A BREAK FROM THE INTERVIEW TO FISH ON OUR OWN, AND MOUNT WALKS FARTHER DOWNSTREAM TO FISH PAST A SHALLOW CHANNEL. WE THEN PACK UP AND HEAD TO ANOTHER FISHING HOLE ABOUT A MILE DOWN THE ROAD. THE INTERVIEW RESUMES]
Me: You play a character in a new film, “Code Name: Geronimo,” about the killing of Osama bin Laden. What was it like filming that?
Mount explained the role was one of the most physically demanding he’s ever had. He noted you can shoot drama and comedy films on a small budget, but it’s not a good idea to shoot a military action movie on a small budget. He thinks they pulled the movie off, however, and is proud of the film.
Mount: (There’s a perception) in our country that a lot of people join the military instead of going to school… there’s this mindset that most military folks aren’t that educated or aren’t that smart. And let me tell you something, these are some smart dudes. They’re some real smart people.
And I came away with a tremendous amount of respect for the Special Forces and for what they did to kill Osama bin Laden. I considered it an honor to play one of the guys who put a bullet in Osama bin Laden.
Me: You played a character named “Cherry.” Is that a name y’all gave him?
Mount: Oh yeah, you’re not going to know who the actual people were for probably decades… the plot is as accurate as we could make it to what we know about what actually went down.
There’s one moment I was literally sitting in the sniper seat of a helicopter shooting an HK .46 about 200 feet down on the compound, and I was thinking to myself, ‘My job is so effin’ cool.’
Me: Where did you film the movie?
Mount: Santa Fe
Me: Did you produce the film?
Mount: The only film that I produced was “Cook County,” which is one of my better performances, I think. I think because I got to have a hand in it.
Producing is something that I want to do more of. As I get more experience I become less and less content seeing my footage packed up and sent off to an editor I’ve never met before. And I like having a hand in the process.
I don’t think I want to direct though. I like acting too much. I think most people who direct and act at the same time… they’re attention is too split.
Me: During breakfast, you mentioned a potential job offer you’re considering. Is it another acting role?
Mount: I got offered something. I got the official offer on Monday (Sept. 17), and because I haven’t accepted it I don’t think I should talk about it.
It’s another sort of action-y part, which is funny. I never got offered those kinds of parts until “Hell on Wheels.” And now it’s the majority of what I’m getting offered. It’s kind of funny, people are starting to see me as this ‘tough guy.’ Nobody ever saw me like that before.
Me: When we talked last year, you mentioned you were typecast as the good-looking guy, the love interest.
Mount: Yeah, (Mount acknowledged with a chuckle). Now it’s action. And in a couple years I’ll have to re-invent myself again. Do a little bit more comedy I think. I need to lighten things up since “Hell on Wheels” is so serious. I’ve been trying to throw in a little bit of humor for Cullen. People seem to have appreciated it too, as far as I can tell.
[FISH JUMPS OUT OF THE WATER]
Me: What is the tattoo on your left forearm? Does it have a special meaning?
Mount: It’s a branch of orchids. My mother has raised orchids my whole life. A lot of people around here will remember when she ran an orchid business. We had a greenhouse behind our house, and she raised orchids and sold them. And she still has a bunch of orchids.
I just wanted something on my arm that every time I saw it would remind me of her.
Me: During breakfast, you spoke fondly of your mom while recalling a recent golf tournament that you caddied for her. You also remembered skipping school after your dad died and hitting up the antique stores and movieplex with your mom.
Mount: She’s my best friend. My dad died when I was 13 and it was just her and me. So, you know, she became in charge of continuing my education in being a man. Taught me how to stick up for myself, think for myself, work ethic, all of that.
So it’s different when you grow up part of your childhood without a father… Lucky I had a tomboy for a mother.
[BRIEF PAUSE TO TELL MIKE WHERE WE SAW THE FISH JUMP WHILE MOUNT SEARCHES FOR CRAWDADS]
Me: You teach at Columbia University. What classes are you teaching this semester?
(Mount teaches in the Master of Fine Arts acting program, and a few years ago created a position for professional preparation in the third year of the program.)
Mount: I still teach the audition class part of it. And that’s what I get most out of, is teaching kids how to audition. Most of these graduate programs, they bring in a casting director to teach that class, and what they’re really doing is they’re trying to give their students sort of an ‘in.’ And that’s BS, nobody has ever been cast because they got taught by a particular casting director.
So what I do is I try to give them skills to use in the audition room, which it took me 2-3 years to develop on my own. And it’s great. It gives me a lot of perspective. Keeps me honest.
And I’m actually thinking about writing a book, sort of I guess a practical handbook or a practical guide to the entertainment industry from somebody who actually works in it. Because most of these ‘acting as a business books’ are written by casting directors or have been written by people who don’t work.
So I’m thinking about writing a book and that’s sort of helping me to get my head around it.
[MIKE REELS IN A RED-EYE BASS AND WE PAUSE FOR A PHOTO]
Me: In the featurette on the DVD for the “Hell on Wheels” first season, you talked about the script as a poem, and liking the paradox of the story. Which paradox appeals to you?
Mount: I guess like the whole idea behind, everybody in the story is trying to do something that they think of as intrinsically good or progressive, and they’re using not-so-good means. The idea of having to do bad to do good.
But now I don’t see it as like that for Cullen, at least in the first season. For him revenge isn’t about doing good. It’s not about a moral judgment. When you get ticked off and you find yourself walking across the bar to smack a man in the face, you’re not thinking about whether that’s good or not. It’s just the only thing there is in the world at that moment.
So what interests me about Cullen now is less of a concept and more of a character motive. Our show is about one thing, I think and I figured it out this season. This show is about ambition. And every character is ambitious in a different way, and what makes the show work is seeing those ambitions bump up against each other. And Cullen’s no different.
The deep dark secret about Cullen that even he doesn’t realize yet is that he’s ambitious. What’s leading him to continue work on the railroad is the same thing that led him away from his family to fight in the Civil War ya see.
Because he was a landholder, he was wealthy enough to not have to fight in the Civil War. But he did so because he thought he was going to have a place in a free Mississippi, and that’s what led him away from his family and that’s what left his family vulnerable. And so when he’s tracking down those men to kill them he’s actually just beating himself up.
Now he’s back with the railroad in the second season… and the whole question of the second season is, ‘Why are you here? Why are you staying? What is it?’ And that’s a great question, because he hasn’t figured it out. But what I’m working with, what’s going to turn out is Cullen Bohannon thinks he has to be part of something bigger than himself and that ain’t it. He grew up amongst the Southern good ole’ boys society and always rebelled against it. He hated it, and it comes to light in a couple episodes.
He’s from a very aristocratic background. So he rebelled from that and tried to become more a blue-collar guy, but the need to prove himself, the need to be better than other men never left him. So it’s the demon that keeps haunting him is ambition. That’s his major character flaw.
Me: Have you started shooting for next season?
Mount: No, their option on us extends to the end of the year, so we’ll probably find out toward the end of the year whether or not we’ll get a third season. It’s looking good though. The numbers are good.
And then we wouldn’t be able to start shooting till late April at the very earliest. We started late April this year, we were expecting to start with snow on the ground and we were lucky we didn’t get any.
You can’t shoot during the winter. I mean people do, but not with us because we’re all exterior. It’s regularly 30 below Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) there.
Me: Do you enjoy being in a Western?
Mount: I was praying for it for about three years before I got it, you know, just putting it out there every day ‘I want to do a Western. I want to do a Western. I want to do a Western.’ And then it happened.
Now sometimes I feel like God is laughing at me, because I’m out there in the elements. Rolling around in the dirt. Getting my butt kicked. Making a Western, there’s nothing glamorous about it. It’s hard work.
We shoot eight days per episode, and the majority of our episodes are all exterior. I don’t know of any other show… the closest I’ve ever heard is “Lost” would do six days exterior but they were in Hawaii. I don’t know of any other show that does what we do or has ever done what we do.
Me: Do you have a favorite Western or a character that you draw inspiration from?
Mount: I steal from Clint Eastwood all the time; and I don’t mean borrow I mean steal. I don’t think you can do a Western without paying attention to what Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood did, or Budd Boetticher.
Me: Outside of reading, camping and art, do you have any other passions or hobbies?
Mount: I go camping twice a year up in the Catskills. When I’m in New York I try to see theater, try to stay caught up on film. I’ll read. Every couple years I’ll travel, but for me it’s all about work.
Me: Any new films or theater you’d recommend?
Mount: The best movie I’ve seen in the past couple months, well there are a couple… The one that I would love for people here to go out to, and it’s got to be playing somewhere in Nashville, is “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It won Sundance. It did really at Cannes. Filmed in the backwoods of Louisiana. Made for about $200,000. It’s a fantastic film. And I love this guy. He’s staying in Louisiana. He still doesn’t have a cell phone. Everybody in Hollywood is trying to get a meeting with this guy and he doesn’t give a crap.
It’s weird. It’s set in the post-Katrina destruction of bayou Louisiana.
Also “Moonrise Kingdom,” the Wes Anderson movie that’s out right now, beautiful.
One of the best movies I’ve seen in the past couple years… “Bronson.” It’ll show you why British actor, Tom Hardy (played Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises”) is about to be a major star. Off the hook, one of the best performances I’ve seen in the past three years.
Me: Dickson County is attracting more movie and music video projects. Would you ever consider filming anything here?
Mount: Heck yeah. Absolutely. I wouldn’t do a movie just to do it here. It’s all about the material, but I mean I’d love to work back here, but it is about the material.
I would really like to play a Pentecostal preacher. I really would like to do something set in the world of… I find the world of Appalachian snake-handling, Church of God with Signs Following, I really find that world fascinating and misunderstood. And I’d like to do something set in that world, but this area wouldn’t be right for it. It’d have to be in the mountains.
Me: Where’s the coolest location you’ve ever shot a scene or film?
Mount: The old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, which doesn’t exist any more. It’s where they had the Copacabana club and the Rat Pack used to hang out and have drinks.
(Mount filmed scenes for two projects at the hotel: 1. A scene for “Crossroads;” and 2. a scene for the TV show “Line of Fire”)
Just a month or two before they tore it down, one of the locations people took me and showed me Sammy Davis Jr.’s old suite. It still had the old snake skin wallpaper on some of the walls and his wet bar was still there. Didn’t have any bottles in it.
Showed me where they used to tell everybody that Robert Kennedy was shot, and then he showed me where Robert Kennedy was actually shot. The cement on all the walls and floors was rough, and it’s because after Robert Kennedy was shot, the FBI came in and they removed an inch of concrete from all the floors and walls because they took it all to Washington and recreated the shooting scenario with the blood spatters to analyze it.
They walked me through the catacombs that people would go to to get to the cabanas, and (where) certain illicit affairs happened. It’s cool because it doesn’t exist any more.
But also my first movie “Tully” was shot in eastern Nebraska near Omaha. I loved shooting there. That was a beautiful place, really nice people. Very similar to Dickson County, I found the people no different. That was fun.
Me: What would you like to say to the local folks?
Mount: The thing that I always run into when I go back to the (Dickson County) high school – the kids around here always ask me, they’re always in disbelief… ‘You’re from White Bluff? How’d you end up being a movie star from White Bluff?’
And I say it’s real easy, I packed my bags and bought a bus ticket to New York. I mean I did a lot of college too, and I had some help from some very good representatives.
But I think that there’s an idea in smaller places like this that famous people come from cities; or famous people come from rich families; or successful people come from rich families. They come from New York and L.A. and that’s not us, and that’s BS. You can do anything you want. It takes work.
I think the difference is these days, sometimes I think parents teach kids you can do anything you want and they don’t add the qualifier at the end of that sentence, which is ‘if you work for it.’
Look at the president (Barack Obama). He grew up in Hawaii… without a father, a black kid in Hawaii, and he thought, ‘I’m going to be president of the United State.’ I mean it takes that kind of mindset. It’s the same thing for a lot of people. Abraham Lincoln, you know, grew up in a log cabin in Illinois.
You know a lot of people from rural Tennessee, look at Fred Thompson. It didn’t stop him. A heck of a guy… I used his dressing room one time when I was working for Dick Wolf. He had the, I think it was the “Political Science Quarterly” on his desk, and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. That’s a smart dude.
That’s the main thing I want to get across to kids who are growing up here. And also you don’t have to leave here to be happy. That’s the other thing. You shouldn’t go to college just because somebody tells you you should to go to college. You should go to college if there’s something specific you want to learn.
It helped me, but that doesn’t mean it’ll help somebody else… but more than anything I just want kids to understand they can do whatever the heck they want. There’s no limitations. I mean they’ll probably end up coming back here to fish.
I enjoy this so much. I could take a break and go anywhere in the world if I wanted to. I don’t have a family, and I’m making good money. But there’s nothing like this.
“Where else could you find Mike Gossett?” joked Gossett.
CORRECTIONS: The Herald misspelled Ervin Upchurch’s first name; Mount’s friend’s Branan’s name; and incorrectly interpreted the name of the Church of God with Signs Following. The Herald regrets the errors.