At Alamo Village in Bracketteville, Texas
My writing partner, Dave Cass, and I, flew to Odessa, Texas to meet our friend, Frank Dobbs, way back in 1974. After the flight, we drove all the way down to the Lone Star State’s Big Bend National Park. Our objective: to write a script we could take to country-western singer, Johnny Rodriguez’s manager, Happy Shahan. Happy had told us he could raise the money to make a movie starring Johnny, and we believed him.
The three of us holed up in a stone cabin, located in a deer hunting compound -- owned by a friend of ours -- called Villa de la Mina (Village of the Mine), and cranked out our first draft in four sleepless days and nights.
On our way to our meeting with Happy, we stopped for the night in Del Rio, Texas and knocked out another “polished” draft of the script.
The next day we arrived at Happy’s place – a movie ranch called Alamo Village, in Bracketteville, Texas, made famous by John Wayne when he shot his movie, "The Alamo," there.
We gave Shahan the script, then waited around while he read it. Happy loved it. Rio Diablo was a go. Shahan lead us on down the road to San Antonio, where we stayed at the Menger Hotel while he met with the moneymen. Frank, Dave, and I, tried to relax.
Happy did raise some money that night – three hundred thousand, to be exact. Excited, Frank drove on to Houston, while Dave and I flew back to Los Angeles. Then we all waited while Happy tried to raise the rest of the money.
Within a month, everything had fallen through. Rio Diablo was about to spend the next eighteen years in Hollywood purgatory -- as an “everybody loves it, almost-made screenplay.” Almost, that is, until Kenny Rogers’ producer got a good look at it in 1992.
Rogers’ producer loved Rio Diablo, too. He loved it so much he immediately gave it to Kenny to read. Rio Diablo wasn’t Kenny Roger’s usual fare -- the lead character is a hardened, grizzled bounty hunter who lets a young newlywed go with him on the hunt for the outlaws who kidnapped the younger man’s bride during a muddled bank robbery. Kenny's character dies in the end, which most stars don't want to do. But Rogers loved it. Loved it so much, he wanted to do it as his next television special.
The Rio Diablo project didn’t take long to go into pre-production once CBS had given their approval. By the end of the year, cast and crew were on location in Brackettville shooting.
Since I had moved to the Palm Springs area ten years earlier, and my health hadn’t been that good, I wasn’t able to work on Rio Diablo. My wife, Beth, and I did fly to the location. We stayed a week and, almost like tourists, watched from the sidelines while Dave and Frank, and the rest of the cast and crew, worked their rear ends off in the September Texas heat on the Western Street at Alamo Village.
It’s quite unusual when a movie is shot on the exact locations the script was written for. But Rio Diablo has that distinction. The town was always to be the Alamo Village Western Town, and the badlands were places we three writers had all walked together in the Big Bend those eighteen years earlier when the script was being written.
Frank Dobbs worked as one of the producers on Rio Diablo, and Dave Cass directed the second-unit.