The past and present collide with deadly consequences in Valley of Bones, an original crime thriller set in the Badlands of North Dakota. When meth addict oil worker McCoy, played by Steven Molony, stumbles upon a T-rex tooth worth millions he teams up with stigmatized paleontologist Anna, played by Autumn Reeser, to unearth the buried treasure. The abrupt arrival of the cartel causes havoc between the newly formed partners and a desperate fight for survival arises.
How did you come about doing this film?
Rhys Cairo: Dan, the director, knew my work from Entourage. He sent me the script, and the script is not like other scripts that you read. It’s kind of a throw back adventure. It’s an adventure with heart. We don’t see a lot of those.
It’s a bit of a western feel and it also has the paleontology theme as well. Are you into dinosaurs?
Rhys Cairo: Well yeah! Who isn’t into dinosaurs? You’d be a sociopath if you’re not into dinosaurs.
Did that intrigue you?
Rhys Cairo: Absolutely. I’ve been thinking about the idea of authenticity and I think that’s what people are looking for in this day and age. Authenticity some how. I think that’s something that people crave and if you think about an actual fossil of a T-rex you don’t necessarily think about how valuable that cam be.
Or even finding one.
Rhys Cairo: Exactly! it’s a buried treasure. It’s a massively valuable buried treasure and it’s out there in these fields which is also interesting. Where does the fossil fuel come from? It comes from the composition of these fossils. The energy of life that we’re mining and to find this actual preserved skeleton it’s exciting. Treasure hunt.
How were the outdoor scenes set up?
Rhys Cairo: It was not to get there. You see in the movie, we’re on horse back and that was pretty accurate. It was quite inaccessible. The trucks could only get so far in there and it was challenging in that respect.
It was the badlands.
Rhys Cairo: It was the Badlands in North Dakota. We shot it in this working cattle ranch and the horses that we rode were all from that ranch.
Did you have any experience riding horses before hand?
Rhys Cairo: I did, I was in this mini-series in that we shot in Mexico and we were on horseback everyday for like 6-7 months. I love being on the back of a horse, feeling at home there. It was beautiful. I stayed on the ranch instead of out in the town. I rode out with the ranch manager. I got to be a part of the ranch community. I did a round-up with him, that was beautiful. I’m a city guy but i’m also a country boy. We don’t get enough of that in our city lives. Being in nature, when you look back on your memories, those are the things you remember.
What was the challenge of the film? Something memorable?
Rhys Cairo: The introduction of my character. Seeing it come together. I had seen bits and pieces but once I saw it, it was really nicely done. There was many scenes though, not just the ones that I’m in.
How would you describe Nate and Anna’s relationship?
Rhys Cairo: He’s her brother-in-law and it takes a minute in order to figure that out for the audience, who exactly is this guy and what the relationship is. A lot of it goes left unsaid, as far as their back story is but you get the sense that there was some contentions. She and her husband had split up prior to him having died, there was some tension there. Interestingly though, you see Nate be more of a parent to Ezekiel than she is. He talks to him, he plays with him He’s got a great relationship with him and I think that serves as a good counterpoint to her character. You see her sort of struggling to make a connection with her son and it throws her character into focus. She has trouble being a mother and being warm to her son.
How long was the shoot?
Rhys Cairo: Twenty to twenty-five days. Pretty brief. I think we utilized all the footage we had. it was a challenge especially with the weather out there. There was one night when we were out in that valley, of bones, and this storm came in. In fact there’s a couple of shots where you can see the wind blowing and you can see fear in our eyes, there’s not a lot of acting involved. The weather was intense. The rain came down and couldn’t get the trucks out and everyone was stuck and were kind of like an all night affair and we didn’t get to shoot much. Those were the real challenges. Logistically speaking.
Steven, you wore a lot of hats during the production of this film, how did you balance it all?
Steven Molony: It came in 3 neatly packaged stages. Where stage one is we write it and develop it, build a team around it. There we were able to focus on writing the script and getting it to a place where we’re happy with it all.
Dan Glaser: Which is where we started.
Steven Molony: We weren’t sure we were gonna make the film, we hoped we would, but we weren’t sure at the beginning. At first we were like ‘let’s just write it and hope for the best.’ Then we had this whole great production team and this wonderful crew to lift that load so that I was able to focus solely on acting when it was time for me to do so. When production wrapped, then it was post-production and the producer hat was able to come back on and we were able to over see how things were going. Every step of the way we’ve had this great team of people who carried us along the current.
Dan Glaser: Jon Wanzek, it’s his passion project. He’s been wanting to do this for years. We’re all from North Dakota. Steven and I live in Los Angeles now. Jon is still in North Dakota, he wanted to make a film that highlighted our home state, specifically the badlands, where fortunately he has a cattle ranch that we were fortunate to shoot on. Jon has a good friend that is a paleontologist and has gone on digs with humanoid was fascinated by it. I can’t speak for Steven but when he said dinosaurs my 13-year old deal was like ‘Dinosaurs you say?’ I think we can find something to do here. There’s obviously a difference with our film and Jurassic Park, the dinosaur does not come to life.
Steven Molony: Spoiler Alert!! The dinosaur is dead the whole time.
Dan Glaser: It’s not a walking terrifying skeleton walking around.
Steven Molony: That T-rex movie happened like 62 million years ago.
Dan Glaser: Yeah, there’s no flashback sequence, but it is our buried treasure in the film. We met Jon on another film and he offered us this project. We developed the script with him. As interesting as paleontology is, it can also be difficult to make it interesting. It’s a process and you have to be very careful.
Steven Molony: Paleontology happens to make a wonderful documentary in Dinosaur 13.
Dan Glaser: Dinosaur 13 was excellent research actually.
Steven Molony: It’s a great reference point.
Dan Glaser: We watched it back in 2014, it’s about uncovering the largest, to date, T-rex. It’s funny how much research you do and how much ends up in the script.
Steven Molony: There used to be a lot more paleontology in the script that ended up being on the film.
Dan Glaser: Which I’m sure you’ll thank us for that.
Steven Molony: No offence!
Dan Glaser: Anyhow, we’re from Fargo, about 5 hours away from the badlands. I had never really been out in that area before so we did a lot of research. With the boom of the fossil fuel business and having all this money floating around that is when cartels come in and set up this meth business. All this dark underbelly stuff that we had no idea about. We encountered a lot of strange stories, stranger than what takes place in the movie.
McCoy was a drug addict, so how many drugs did you try?
Steven Molony: All of the drugs! I made new ones just to try them. I’m just a drug vacuum. No, I didn’t do any drugs. At the end of the day you gotta be a blank slate so you can go be ‘the next guy,’ If you put something like that in your body you easily become an addict and that’s something you’re carrying over to the next character you play, and the next guy and the next. You don’t want anything that will kill you, but there were ways that I could circumvent taking the drug. Ways that you can simulate the experience and simulate the feeling. Try as hard as you can to pursue an understanding somebody else’s struggle. McCoy isn’t a monster, it’s the drug that makes him a monster. A good man gone wrong sort of thing.
Did you have a chance to go horse back riding?
Dan Glaser: I think Rhys got the most out of that.
Steven Molony: He mounted up any chance he could get.
Dan Glaser: The question ‘Where’s Rhys?’ could always be answered with ‘On a horse somewhere.’
Steven Molony: I remember being jealous, I was being hauled in a truck to set and I see Rhys galloping by and I’m like ‘What a minute we can ride horses to set?’
Dan Glaser: It was a pretty magical experience.
Valley of Bones is now in theaters.