• Built in 1932-33, the old Hwy 380 bridge is true to the era of the gang.

Historic bridge brings Netflix to town

Living history is popping up south of Newcastle once again, however this time it isn’t Fort Belknap drawing a crowd, but rather the old Highway 380 bridge. Construction of the 850-foot bridge was finished in 1933 and has seen more coyotes than cars in three decades now. The bridge was bypassed and closed in 1988, but its era-specific appeal caught the attention of director and Archer City native John Lee Hancock for his upcoming Netflix film, “The Highwaymen”. 

Netflix has begun to make a name for itself in film creation with smash hits and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars flocking to projects for the streaming giant, but their latest film is aimed for theaters, and is a recounting of the Bonnie and Clyde manhunt of the 1930s highlighting two retired Texas Rangers starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. 

The film was confirmed on Monday during Young County Commissioners Court as a representative for the production requested the use of the bridge. The bridge is in the care of Young County, so authorizing the use of the abandoned bridge falls to the commissioners.

The production has committed to hiring a certified arborist to trim the trees which have invaded the roadway as well as to tidy up both entrances of the bridge. 

To prevent cars from crossing the 85-year-old bridge, blocking the entrance on one side are several yards of bricks and at the other, mounds of excavated dirt. After shooting, commissioners requested the production hire the county to install a more aesthetically appealing obstruction, like a swinging arm gate, instead of returning the piles of brick and dirt. 

Simply preparing to shoot the film, the production will have assisted in preserving one of Young County’s historical treasures which was at risk of being swallowed up by time. The film production is also donating $1,000 to the YCHC.

Robbie Friedmann, the location manager for the film, hired a bridge engineer to examine the Brazos River bridge for safety and was given the green light to drive 1930s era vehicles back and forth across the bridge.

“We’ll probably just do a loop of cars,”  Friedmann told the commissioners, “and I’ll enlist the deputies, a couple of deputies to help us with that and we will pay them off-duty to help with intermittent traffic control on the main bridge.”

“The way I see us filming this is probably with a drone,” said Friedmann. “As the cars drive across, we’ll have a drone up high kind of tracking them across the river, and we’ll probably have another camera on the new bridge, just on a tripod, and something called a Russian arm. It’s on a car and...it’s basically an arm that goes around the car 360 degrees. It’s funny looking but it takes beautiful photographs,” said Friedmann. “It will basically take us a day of being out there.”

The use of the bridge to film this one scene brings to light the number of jobs the film industry could potentially bring to local towns in Texas. For just one day of shooting, Netflix will have helped Young County in a noticeable way and benefited a handful of workers.

However, Friedmann stated the latest Texas Legislature has cut funding for movie productions incentives in the Lone Star state while Louisiana offers significant benefits to the film industry to do business in the bayou state. In the 85th Legislative session, Texas lawmakers rebounded from a near all-out abandonment of film industry incentives to a compromise of $22 million compared to Louisiana’s $180 million in incentives.

About the Film

Unfortunately for local residents, Costner and Harrelson are not expected to be in Newcastle for the scene.

According to Deadline, Costner is slated to play Frank Hamer, and Harrelson as B.M. “Manny” Gault, two retired Texas Rangers who were asked to hunt down the murderous and bank robbing Barrow Gang who grew up during the Great Depression and met in the slums of West Dallas. The posse of four Texas officers finally outsmarted the gang on May 23, 1934, when they set up an ambush at one of Barrow’s rendezvous points on Louisiana State Highway 154 just south of Gibsland, near Sailes. 

According to Variety, set to star with Costner and Harrelson are Kathy Bates, Kim Dickens from “Fear the Walking Dead”, Thomas Mann, John Carroll Lynch, and William Sadler from “The Shawshank Redemption”.

The script for “The Highwaymen” has reportedly been kicked around for at least a decade, originally looking to Robert Redford and Paul Newman as the Ranger duo before Newman’s death.

Written by John Fusco, Scott Frank and John Lee Hancock, the movie pulls all the right cinematic strings. Fusco, who spent years trying to track down Frank Hammer, also wrote the 1988 movie “Young Guns” which told the story of outlaw Billy the Kid. 

Frank wrote the 2017 screenplay for Marvel’s blockbuster “Logan”, which brought in $616 million at the box office. The film was a first for Marvel movies with the cinematic feel of a dark western complete with a leathery skinned Wolverine and the haunting voice of Johnny Cash in the soundtrack.

Hancock, who grew up on a ranch outside of Archer City, is best known for directing the retelling of numerous true stories, most notably “The Blind Side”, but he also directed “The Founder”, “Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Alamo”.

With this triumvirate, Coster and Harrelson, a piece of Young County history could be seen by millions later this year and could even become a part of cinematic gold.

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