Editor's note: Toby Keith's latest feature film, Beer for My Horses, airs Sunday (Nov. 9) at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CMT and will be released on DVD on Tuesday (Nov. 11).
Listening to Toby Keith talk, it's clear that there's little danger of him "going Hollywood," although his involvement in the film industry has heightened his profile among the movers and shakers on the West Coast. Even if they don't know much about country music, there's one thing they understand -- and that's money.
The Oklahoma native's 2006 film, Broken Bridges, has sold more than 1 million copies on DVD. And after the theatrical release of his second feature film, Beer for My Horses, and its recent premiere on CMT, the comedy is being released Tuesday (Nov. 11) on DVD.
Of course, those in Hollywood are also well aware of Keith as a result of his patriotism and his support of U.S. troops through several USO tours of military installations in the Persian Gulf. That connection has prompted several well-known celebrities to introduce themselves to him.
"What's amazing is how many people come up to me in Hollywood, who are huge stars, and will single me out at an event and say, 'Thanks for what you do. I support you. I support the troops,'" Keith said during a visit to CMT's offices in Nashville. "So I tell them, 'Why don't you go overseas? Why don't you come out of the closet, so to speak, and say that you support it?'"
He adds, "I've probably met 15 or 20 people that are on the A-list in Hollywood that have come up to me and thanked me for going overseas and doing all of that. They support it all, but every one of them gives the same answer when I say, 'Why do you not just speak out and support it instead of allowing Hollywood to have such a bad rap?' And they go, 'Hey, we've got to work.' It's amazing who would shock you that are not really liberals at all."
Beer for My Horses, produced jointly by CMT Films and Keith's Show Dog Productions, also stars comedian Rodney Carrington, Willie Nelson, Claire Forlani (CSI: NY), guitar legend Ted Nugent and veteran actors Barry Corbin and Tom Skerritt. Written by Keith and Carrington, the film centers around small-town deputies and best friends who set out on a road trip to save Keith's girlfriend from drug lord kidnappers.
Keith, whose new album, That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy, debuts at No. 1 this week on Billboard's country albums chart, talked about Beer for My Horses and his filmmaking experience during this CMT.com interview.
CMT: Would you rather see Beer for My Horses on DVD or in the theater?
Keith: I've seen both, but I'm so close to that project that I've seen every single cut that they ever made. We'd shoot a scene. When we'd get done, everybody would be laughing, and we'd go watch it on the monitor. I've seen these things dissected all the way down. I've seen it edited three or four different ways. I've seen it with music, without. I've seen it with color, without. I've seen it so many times. Obviously, sitting in the movie theater and watching on a big screen is exciting, but in the end, the economics of the thing is to get it to DVD.
I've always heard that working on a movie set can involve some long, tedious days.
They are long. I bit off way more than I wanted to. It was 16-hour days. I'd get up at 5, have a call for the makeup chair at 6, wardrobe at 6:30, on the set at 7, and sometimes we'd shoot until 10 or 11 at night. Sometimes we'd shoot till 2 or 3 in the morning. They were 12 to 20-hour days, every day.
There's a lot of time spent waiting around for something to happen.
There is a lot of that. But when you're going, you're going, and when you're not, you're not, but they need you on the set. You're spending a lot of money, and I put my own money where my mouth was on this one. It was a project where you just got in and went, "Oh, hell," but you couldn't quit.
In light of the DVD sales of Broken Bridges, how much clout do you think it has given you with the Hollywood crowd?
I don't know. I haven't dealt with them. The first movie we did with Paramount was a disaster. ... The movie had so many chefs stirring the soup that all couldn't get along. ... But I don't really know how to answer that question as far as the infrastructure of Hollywood. I probably wouldn't be a first call if they needed a big redneck in their movie or a big country boy. But I might be.
What did you learn from doing the latest movie?
Just that you can do it yourself.
If you've got enough money.
Yeah, you've gotta have that first. (laughs) But I do, dog. I've earned it. But it's just like the record label business. I watched people do it in a way that I didn't think was right for years. So finally, I got the opportunity to do it myself, and here we are three years later. Every three months, there's a rumor that we're shutting our label, and all we do is keep growing and getting bigger -- every year. But that's just the scoop around town -- to try to keep tearing you down. But that's moving forward.
So we did the same thing in the movie business. When we'd seen these people hiring that guy and that guy and that casting director and this and that, I thought, "What if we go hire those guys and get my attorney to cut the deal and we bring [producer] Jeff Yapp back in from MTV Films." Jeff said, "I'm in," so we did it. Nobody involved in this movie was on the outside looking in. Everybody was either involved in it, looking out, trying to make this a better project. On Broken Bridges, we had Paramount saying, "You're not getting any theater play. You're not getting this. You're not getting that. We don't want this. We don't want that." ... All that bickering and fighting ... I mean, they had knock-down, drag-outs on that first one. It was just crazy. We didn't have this on this one, and we won't have that anymore.
Are you planning to do another feature film?
It's going to take a little while. I was doing the [Beer for My Horses] concept for three or four years. I got my characters and my story. Then it took me and Rodney Carrington 10 months to write the screenplay. Then it took three of four months to prep and get it going ... the infrastructure built. And then it took three months to shoot it. It took two or three months to do the music and the post editing to get it to the theater. Then you've got to do all the press junkets and touring to get the thing out there. It was just a huge bite. We'll just wait and see. We'll see how it goes. If it's pretty successful -- which it has been in the theaters -- if that translates to selling to DVDs, we'll consider it.
Have you gotten many bad ideas for movies?
To be honest with you, they're usually not too wacky because if they're coming to get me, it's some kind of tough idea. I haven't ever had anything too bizarre come in. There's been a couple that they didn't end up shooting that I really wanted to do. There was a project where they said they had Nicolas Cage and a couple of other cats like that in this one about big, tough black-market truckers hauling equipment to militants in Afghanistan. If this is successful, I'll probably end up trying at some point to do the sequel to Beer for My Horses. If it isn't successful, there are two or three things on the table right now that we're probably going to go shoot.