Outlaw Posse: Interview with Writer/Director Mario Van Peebles and Actor Mandela Van Peebles

Outlaw Posse: Interview with Writer/Director Mario Van Peebles and Actor Mandela Van Peebles

Culture is meant to continuously evolve and support citizens’ ever-progressing ideals and beliefs. But some of society’s values have been decelerating in recent years, from widespread censorship to legislative obstruction and rights being under renewed attacks. The new Western film, Outlaw Posse, is emphasizing the fact that when the laws are just, the just become outlaws.

The drama was written and directed by Mario Van Peebles, who was inspired to chronicle a grounded father-son relationship that’s set within a Western story. Surrounded by diverse characters who are all divided by their beliefs, the father and son protagonists strive to reunite everyone in a society that has reverted to keeping them apart.

Besides penning and helming Outlaw Posse, Van Peebles also stars in the feature. He’s joined on screen by his real-life son, Mandela Van Peebles. The movie’s ensemble cast also features William Mapother, John Carroll Lynch, DC Young Fly, Amber Reign Smith, Jake Manly, Neil McDonough, Allen Payne, Madison Calley, Edward James Olmo, Cedric the Entertainer and Whoopi Goldberg

Set in 1908, Outlaw Posse follows Chief (Mario Van Peebles) as he returns from years of hiding in Mexico to claim stolen gold hidden in the hills of Montana. In his quest, he reunites an ensemble of new and familiar faces to fight off Angel (Mapother), whose rationale to the gold leaves a trail of deception and dead bodies.

Quiver Distribution will release Outlaw Posse in theaters on Friday, March 1. In honor of the Western’s distribution, Mario Van Peebles and Mandela Van Peebles generously took the time recently to talk about scribing, directing and starring in the film during an interview over Zoom.

Q: Mario, you wrote and directed the new Western film, Outlaw Posse. What was your inspiration in penning the script for, and helming, the drama?

Mario Van Peebles: I just felt it was time. I had done a Western 30 years ago called Posse with my dad (Melvin Van Peeble). When I made that movie, I wasn’t a father yet, so this this guy next to me (turns to Mandela) wasn’t here.

Now years later, people keep saying, “America is so divided right now.” I thought yes, we are maybe, but we’ve crossed these bridges before. There was a time when slavery was legal, when not allowing women to vote was legal and when Jim Pro was legal. When the laws are unjust, sometimes there just has to be outlaws who make some changes.

So 30 years later, I wanted to do Outlaw Posse. This one was written a little bit more with inspiration from the Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue thing. Who better and more qualified to play my on-screen son than the actor who can ride and is my son? (Mario laughs.) That way we could jump right into it as father and son, with all the colors and textures we bring to that

So I wanted to make something that would allow Americans, who are watching different news and hearing different facts, come together and laugh. They could go, “Look, you got Bush and Sundance robbing a bank, but one’s Black and one’s white. You’ve got Stagecoach Mary played by Whoopi Goldberg, and yet, it looks like Stagecoach Mary!”

I want people to have a lot of fun with it, and have a conversation that right now Americans need to have that will bring us together. That’s what I wanted to do.

Q: Speaking about working together on the movie, what was your experience like acting together to create your characters’ arc as father and son throughout the production?

Mario Van Peebles: Part of what I understand as the filmmaker is that my best ideas aren’t always my ideas. My best acting is my reacting. So you’ve got to have good, smart people with you who you can really let inhabit those roles, and then let them do their thing. Would you say so, son?

Mandela Van Peebles: Yes, I think it’s definitely a collaborative effort. I think a lot of what makes an independent film work is everybody treating it like it’s everybody’s idea. If you’re not willing to accept others’ help, there’s no way to get it done.

So really working together and sharing the end goal of getting this movie not only finished, but also promoted, distributed and seen by an audience, is really important. So we’re really excited that it’s coming out on March 1. It was a lot of fun to shoot.

Mario Van Peebles: Yes. We hope that that fun comes across. You’ll see things in this Western that you don’t typically see. At the end, you see the real historical characters who were really there. Like Dr. King said, “We’ll learn to live in harmony as brothers and sisters, or we perish together as fools.” We, as a species, have some work to do.

But part of what Mandela and I get to do in Outlaw Posse is entertain and do a Western, and be cowboys and Indians and be big boys. I’m still a big boy at heart. So we get the fun of that and share it with people.

Hopefully we show it in a more realistic way than what was shared in the early ‘50s. There’s a great line that one of the sheriffs says when he tries to catch the diverse posse of the outlaws. He says, “Black and white working in cahoots together, who could have seen that coming?”

Our diversity is a beautiful strength. Our father and son connection is another thing. (Mario laughs.)

Q: How did you your stunts and physicality for your roles of Decker and Chief?

Mandela Van Peebles: Going back to working on an indie film together, as far as the effects, stunts and things of that nature, we relied more so on practical effects and stunts. So a lot of the time was spent getting familiar riding the horses, spinning the gun and doing all of these different things that you really have to put those extra hours into perfecting.

But in the end, watching it back, you see it pays off. We look great riding, and you see we had a lot of fun. The stunts were great.

Mario Van Peebles: We really do look like father and son. (Mario and Mandela laugh.)

The other thing is that there were scenes where the camera doesn’t cut. There’s a whole bank robbery scene where the camera doesn’t cut. My character runs out and he comes around.

Then Mandela’s character has to come up on his horse. He has to be able to ride up and do that. There aren’t any cuts. So you can tell we’re running out and Queenie comes running out. So it all has to work like one piece of music.

When you’re doing a rough and tumble in an indie film with action, you need to do your homework and be one with the horse, don’t you agree? (Turns to Mandela.)

Mandela Van Peebles: Yes, your horse has to like you.

Mario Van Peebles: Not only does your cast have to like you, your horse has to like you! (Marion laughs.)

Outlaw Posse

Photo by Robert Paver – © Paver2023(c)

Here’s the trailer of the film.

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