James Marsters: Plains Invaders puts a new spin on Old West

James Marsters, who stars in the SCI FI Channel original movie High Plains Invaders, told SCI FI Wire that adding aliens is the only way to reinvent the western. Marsters plays a reluctant cowboy hero who leads a town against invading alien bugs.

"This one really kind of caught my imagination, because the problem in Hollywood with the western is that you have to have certain elements in a western or the audience doesn't recognize it as a western," Marsters said in an interview on Monday in Beverly Hills, Calif., while promoting Dragonball: Evolution. "It's not enough just to put on hats and boots. You have to have stuff like the drunken sheriff, the kindly shopkeeper, the train robber who feels bad about it, stuff like that. There are probably 25 or 40 of these elements, but you have to include some of them or people don't think of it as a western. The thing is, that forces Hollywood to make the same movie over and over again. The quest is always 'How can we tell a western but turn something on its head so that it's fresh?' It occurred to me as I read the script they found a way. Let's just tell a western and dump a bunch of alien bugs on the town and see what happens."

Another trick to making it work, Marsters said, is to play it straight. "The same [tone] I always try [to strike], bare realism," he said. "Especially when there's a lot of special effects flying around, it's your job to ground it in reality, to give the dirt, the little hesitant looks, the little motions that you don't think about so that it does seem like organic life, so that when the computer effects come on the screen, people buy it."

So far, Marsters has only seen maquettes of the big ticks who shoot radioactive projectiles from their claws. The visual-effects artists are still adding them to the movie. He did recall firsthand the western garb he wore in the film.

"A lot of clothes, man" Marsters said. "We just had layers and layers and layers of stuff, so we all look pretty large in this film, actually. I saw some of the footage, and I was like, 'Wait a minute.' We were layering. They did that back then. They didn't have any insulation for coats, so they just put a bunch of coats on. We also shot in Romania in almost December. It was very, very cold, and I was thankful for all the clothes, but I look a little like Frosty the Snowman."

Vocally, the actor who has played everything from British vampires to anime warlords did a familiar American cowboy accent for the film. "I did a full cowboy accent for that one," he said. "I'd never done a cowboy accent for a movie before. The whole thing is you don't want to sound like George Bush. You gotta stay right away from that one. I used to play cowboy when I was a kid."

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