Walker


1h 42m 1987

Brief Synopsis

A dramatization of the life of nineteenth-century American William Walker who embarked on a series of careers including politics, journalism, law, and medicine. Eventually Walker left all of these and became a soldier of fortune, and in 1855, declared himself the president of Nicaragua and remained

Film Details

Also Known As
Una historia verdadera
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1987
Production Company
Pedro Alfonso Mejia
Distribution Company
UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES (UIP)/UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Location
Tucson, Arizona, USA; Mexico; Managua, Nicaragua; Los Angeles, California, USA; Granada, Nicaragua

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m

Synopsis

A dramatization of the life of nineteenth-century American William Walker who embarked on a series of careers including politics, journalism, law, and medicine. Eventually Walker left all of these and became a soldier of fortune, and in 1855, declared himself the president of Nicaragua and remained in power there for two years.

Crew

Michael Ahearn

Assistant

Jesus Almontes

Props

Fernando Altschul

Assistant Director

Carlos Alvarez

Line Producer

Carlos Araiza

Accountant

Maricarmen Araiza

Accountant

Luis Espinoza Arce

Special Effects Assistant

Geoff Axtell

Other

Jorge Azcarrate

Other

Rick Barker

Stunt Coordinator

David Batchelor

Sound

Claudia Becker

Casting

Richard Beggs

Sound Design

Richard Beggs

Sound

Miri Ben-shlomo

Hairdresser

Claudia Bermudez

Other

Blaise Bonpane

Assistant

Gloria S Borders

Sound Editor

Tomas Borges

Assistant

Steve Bowen

Accountant

Art Brewer

Special Effects

David Brides

Director Of Photography

Dick Bright

Original Music

Lynda Burbank

Researcher

Lynda Burbank

Property Master

Bradford Burns

Assistant

Joe Calk

Production Manager

Joe Calk

Other

Joe Calk

Post-Production Coordinator

Jennifer Cammarano

Accountant

Victor Canafru

Location Manager

Margarita Cano

Other

Rosalia Cano

Electrician

Ernesto Cardenal

Assistant

David Carroll

Sound

Jeff Cassel

Assistant Set Dresser

Federico Castillo

Wardrobe Supervisor

Maritza Castillo

Production Coordinator

Joe Celeste

Key Grip

Mario Cisneros

Script Supervisor

Steve Clockfiem

Sound Editor

Tom Collins

Photography

Alex Cox

Editor

Denis Crossan

Cinematographer

Miguel Morales Cruz

Medic

Todd Darling

Editor

Robert Dawson

Titles

Robert Dawson

Other

Crispulo De La Torre

Electrician

Patricia Steven Dellano

Wardrobe Assistant

Theda Deramus

Costume Designer

Debbie Diaz

Associate Producer

Melissa Dietz

Sound Editor

Crystal Dowd

Production Coordinator

Ron Downing

Property Master

Joannah Elder

Other

Bob Elliot

Assistant Director

Bruce Feldman

Other

Eric Fellner

Assistant

Silvia Fernandez

Hair Assistant

Abbie Fields

Assistant

Steven Fierberg

Cinematographer

Billy Flick

Boom Operator

Geraldo Moreno Flores

Stunts

Michael Flynn

Production Supervisor

Carlos Fonseca

Assistant

J Rae Fox

Production Designer

J Rae Fox

Researcher

Clare Freeman

Sound Editor

Tracey Freeman

Production Assistant

Suzie Frishette

Set Decorator

Luco Fuentes

Sound

Tanya Gabriel

Assistant Editor

Manuel Garcia

Grip

Greg Gardiner

Gaffer

Joseph Geisinger

Sound

Ricardo Gil

Property Master Assistant

Gary Gillingham

Production Associate

Rocco Gioffre

Matte Painter

Julie Glantz

Assistant

Peter Glossop

Sound

Celeste Gonzales

Casting

Julian Gonzales

Production Assistant

Noemi Gonzales

Other

Dolores Gonzalez

Other

Javier Gunther

Transportation Coordinator

Carlos Gutierrez

On-Set Dresser

Heriberto Gutierrez

Assistant Camera Operator

Roberto Gutierrez

Electrician

Salvador Gutierrez

Best Boy

Marcelino Pacheco Guzman

Special Effects

Karen Harding

Sound Editor

Elsa Hermoso

Production Accountant

Fermin Lara Hernandez

Production Assistant

Kris Hockemeyer

Assistant Director

Tim Holland

Sound Editor

Carlos Horcasitas

Other

Amy Leigh Hunter

Post-Production Assistant

Jack Jason

Other

Sandra Maria Jiron

Wardrobe Assistant

Teri Kane

Other

Juliette King

Assistant Camera Operator

Justin Krish

Assistant Editor

Jesus Labastida

Grip

Ramiro Lacayo

Assistant

John Ladd

Production Assistant

Donald Lanuza

Apprentice

Piedad Largaespada

Transportation

William Largaespada

Transportation Captain

Marie Laseen

Other

Samuel Lehmer

Music

Dan Levin

Assistant

Hertig Lewites

Assistant

Miguel Lima

Assistant Director

Federico Lopez

Assistant

Juan Jose Luna

Props

Kate Mackenzie

Assistant Editor

Sean Madigan

Gaffer

Paul Mailman

Assistant Camera Operator

Stephanie Mann

Assistant

Angel Flores Marini

Producer

Alberto Marquez

Props

Luis Antonio Martinez

Wardrobe Assistant

David Mastron

Production Assistant

Claudia Mayer

Assistant

Susan Meiselas

Assistant

Pedro Alfonso Mejia

Cable Operator

Eddy Melendez

Boom Operator

Nestor Mendez

Casting

Renee Milliken

Production Coordinator

Susan Mills

Makeup

Susan Mills

Hairdresser

Francisco Molina

Accountant

Cecilia Montiel

Art Director

Anibal Morales

Assistant

Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Sound Designer

Rosario Murillo

Assistant

Steven Nash

Assistant

Manuel Navarro

Makeup Assistant

Marcos Neumann

Props

Miguel Nicochea

Assistant

James O'brien

Assistant Director

Lorenzo O'brien

Producer

Patrick O'sullivan

Music Editor

Carlos Puente Ortega

Editor

Marcelino Pacheco

Special Effects Assistant

Alfonso Pacheco Garcia

Special Effects Assistant

Cruz H Paredes

Grip

Cruz H Paredes

Driver

Ismael Paredes Ramirez

Grip

Dino Parks

Gaffer

Lindsley Parsons

Assistant

Bryce Perrin

Set Decorator

Martha Pike

Sound Editor

Frank Pineda

Cinematographer

Michelle Pinelli

Assistant Director

Mark Pogachefsky

Other

Pascualina Porcu

Assistant Set Dresser

Edward Pressman

Executive Producer

John Patrick Pritchett

Sound

Antonio Ramirez

Dolly Grip

Sergio Ramirez

Assistant

Dr. Roberto Reyna

Medic

Clare Reynolds

Other

Tom Richmond

Cinematographer

Dennis Rivera

Driver

Moises Rodriguez

Location Manager

Maria Dejesus Rodriguez Luna

Wardrobe Assistant

Rose Maria Roffiel

Production Coordinator

Jorge Palomino Rojas

Boom Operator

Arturo Rosas

Animal Trainer

Morag Ross

Makeup

Tim Ross

Assistant Camera Operator

Bruno Rubeo

Production Designer

Rafael Ruiz

Cinematographer

Jorge Sainz

Art Director

Manuel Zuniga Sanchez

Electrician

Mercedes Sanchez

Driver

Miguel Sandoval

Casting

Paige Sartorius

Sound Editor

Zander Schloss

Music Arranger

Zander Schloss

Original Music

Christopher Schmid-maybach

Assistant Editor

Joel Shyrack

Boom Operator

J D Silvester

Stunts

Mike Slack

Assistant Editor

Susan Smith

Assistant

Francis Solano

Production Coordinator

Rene Solis

Props

Gabriel Gonzales Souza

Assistant Set Dresser

Susan Streitfeld

Assistant

Joe Strummer

Music

Edgar Suarez

Production Assistant

Pam Tait

Costume Designer

Scott Tatum

Property Master

Vickie Thomas

Casting

Dennie Thorpe

Foley Artist

Jules Tippett

Post-Production Supervisor

Marina Torpin

Hairdresser

Marina Torpin

Makeup

Film Details

Also Known As
Una historia verdadera
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1987
Production Company
Pedro Alfonso Mejia
Distribution Company
UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES (UIP)/UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Location
Tucson, Arizona, USA; Mexico; Managua, Nicaragua; Los Angeles, California, USA; Granada, Nicaragua

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m

Articles

Walker - Ed Harris & Peter Boyle in Alex Cox's WALKER on DVD


Hollywood occasionally accommodates film projects with a strong political bent, if it feels that the attendant controversy might secure good box office -- the town went nuts over JFK in 1991. Universal supported Alex Cox's flagrant insult to the Reagan administration Walker only until the hate mail started coming in. Filmed in Nicaragua during the Contra war and supporting the leftist Sandinista government, Walker had but a brief life on the big screen.

The argument that politics doesn't make for good entertainment is usually aimed at films critical to the status quo. Englishman Alex Cox takes the side of the Sandinistas, plain and simple. The audacious, often wickedly funny Walker looks at the Contra incursion as only the latest chapter in an ugly history of Yankee adventurism south of the border. Long before the U.S. Marines got involved, the freebooting soldier of fortune William Walker repeatedly invaded Central American countries, and in 1855 succeeded in taking over Nicaragua as his personal fiefdom.

Alex Cox's bloody black comedy channels motifs from left-leaning spaghetti westerns and imagery from Sam Peckinpah epics. His filming style is a weird mixture of period authenticity and witty anachronisms. When an issue of Newsweek appears in 1856, with a color picture of William Walker smiling on the cover, it's clear that Cox is really talking about the here and now. Walker lectures that it is America's duty to use force to bring Democracy to barbaric lands, and then checks his digital watch to see what time it is. Manifest Destiny lives, and it isn't pretty.

Synopsis: 1853. Adventurer and would-be conqueror William Walker (Ed Harris) flees Mexico after a failed attempt to incite an armed insurrection. Due to popular support for his beliefs about spreading Americanism to other countries, Walker is acquitted of legal wrongdoing. His plans to marry and start a newspaper end when his sweetheart Ellen Martin (Marlee Matlin) dies of cholera. Walker then accepts an offer from millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle). "Commodore" Vanderbilt sends Walker with sixty mercenaries to overthrow Nicaragua, to secure Vanderbilt's exclusive overland shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific (there is yet no Panama Canal). Walker's ragtag brigade sails to Nicaragua and blunders its way into a battle, which is declared a victory only after the fact. When the capital falls, Walker allows the president to stay in charge, but takes his mistress, Yrena (Blanca Guerra). Incompetent policies and widespread looting inspire a rebellion, so Walker orders the president shot and assumes his place. Becoming delusional about his role in history, Walker revokes Vanderbilt's license to the overland trade route. Nicaragua and its neighbors unite to rid themselves of the unwelcome gringo dictator.

Alex Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer's Walker directly attacks U.S. policy through broad comedy and absurdist visuals, a cinematic combination that has always played to a select audience. We're told that many of Walker's dozens of whimsical anachronisms (a favorite: a modern Zippo lighter) weren't even noticed. Some audiences were only mildly confused when a helicopter suddenly appears in the last scene.

A fan of violent westerns, Cox has a field day with gory battles and slow motion blood spurts a la Sam Peckinpah. Over-the-top gunplay had long before lapsed into self-parody, and Walker's unending series of assassinations and executions eventually lead to authentic news film of Nicaraguan victims of the Contras being washed for burial. Walker sees the Nicaraguan war as a sick joke that Americans don't want to hear.

Star Ed Harris was a sterling John Glenn in The Right Stuff, his best-remembered role. He's equally convincing as the psychotic William Walker, an American Who Would Be King. Too obsessed with his destiny to formulate a strategy, Walker attacks blindly, drifting through his battles incapable of giving a coherent order. He spouts idealistic rhetoric while his men rape and pillage. He metes out draconian punishments like a good Puritan: "One must act with severity, or perish." But Walker is easily seduced by the beautiful Yrena, who insults him in tender Spanish and dominates him in bed. Living in a delusional state of mind, Walker appoints himself President, betrays his corrupt American sponsor and decides to introduce slavery to Nicaragua. Although the real William Walker escaped to attempt yet another mercenary invasion, Alex Cox's mad conqueror ends his tale with a stylized mini-apocalypse. Upset that his plans have gone astray, Walker burns his capitol city Granada, simply out of spite.

Cox and Wurlitzer populate their political farce with a gallery of oddball performances. William Walker's mercenary 'Immortals' are given funny costumes and quirky personalities, like the bounty hunters of The Wild Bunch crossed with Captain Hook's pirate crew. Joe Strummer of The Clash plays a small part in addition to composing the film's score. Extras were recruited from pro-Sandinista Americans found in Managua, while key roles are filled by actors willing to work in a war zone. Rene Auberjonois is a goofy German sea captain ("I studied strategy under Lubitsch!"). Richard Masur and Peter Boyle have only a couple of scenes as the power-mad Vanderbilt and his key henchman. The under-used Marlee Matlin is Walker's deaf-mute fiancée. Her scenes with Harris are a wonderful parody of movies about Great Men dealing with domestic issues: Matlin's Ellen gestures at the guns and gear strewn about her New Orleans house and tells her sweetheart to clear it all out. Do all aspiring empire-builders have this problem?

Cornelius Vanderbilt offered free steamship passage for anyone seeking a future in the new Nicaragua, clearly wishing to transform the country into an American colony. This brings Walker's no-account brothers (Gerrit Graham and William O'Leary) looking for a free ride. One volunteers to head the treasury while the other imitates Walker's dress and becomes his loyal bodyguard.

The movie abounds with freaked-out details. One shot reveals Walker and his Immortals as the subjects of a parody of the painting The Last Supper. Serving as a surgeon, Walker pauses during an operation to laugh, and taste a piece of something he cuts out of his patient. Pitched battles are scored with Latin Jazz, and the Immortals perform Shakespeare on the steps of Walker's half-built opera house. A surreal C.I. A. agent arrives to evacuate Walker's men, but only accepts those with American passports. Walker's Gonzo approach to its subject found few friends among critics. The film was labeled as propaganda and largely ignored by an America satisfied with the version of reality presented on the network news. Seen in today's political climate, William Walker's rhetoric about America's duty to spread Freedom through force sounds like contemporary speechmaking -- an anachronism in reverse.

Criterion's DVD of Walker is a bright and colorful enhanced transfer that flatters this handsome production filmed on beautiful Nicaraguan locations. Alex Cox and Rudy Wurlitzer share a commentary track. They start by stating that the illegal war against the Sandinistas was actually initiated by President Jimmy Carter.

Dispatches from Nicaragua is a lengthy making-of piece newly edited from thirty hours of videotape shot by Terry Schwartz. Schwarz's camera watches Cox haranguing his cast to march properly and witnesses demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in Managua. The film employed 400 Nicaraguans and was a boost to the economy. A Sandinista general visiting the set coaches an extra on the right way to bash a gringo's skull with a rock. Nicaraguan school kids lack writing pens but have big smiles -- they've been taught that William Walker was an American who tried to bring slavery to their country. But they also want to visit the U.S. -- because it's pretty and it has snow!

An impressive photo gallery is included, in addition to a trailer. On Moviemaking and the Revolution is an entertaining, somewhat profane monologue about the filming. The voice is male but the menu says 'by Linda Sandoval', who also authors an essay in the insert booklet. Film critic Graham Fuller contributes another essay, and Rudy Wurlitzer provides notes on the historical background of William Walker.

Hitting the 'A' on Walker on the main menu cues up a short video of director Cox going over the almost exclusively negative reviews for Walker. When one critic finally praises the film, Cox doesn't seem to believe it.

For more information about Walker, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Walker, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Walker - Ed Harris & Peter Boyle In Alex Cox's Walker On Dvd

Walker - Ed Harris & Peter Boyle in Alex Cox's WALKER on DVD

Hollywood occasionally accommodates film projects with a strong political bent, if it feels that the attendant controversy might secure good box office -- the town went nuts over JFK in 1991. Universal supported Alex Cox's flagrant insult to the Reagan administration Walker only until the hate mail started coming in. Filmed in Nicaragua during the Contra war and supporting the leftist Sandinista government, Walker had but a brief life on the big screen. The argument that politics doesn't make for good entertainment is usually aimed at films critical to the status quo. Englishman Alex Cox takes the side of the Sandinistas, plain and simple. The audacious, often wickedly funny Walker looks at the Contra incursion as only the latest chapter in an ugly history of Yankee adventurism south of the border. Long before the U.S. Marines got involved, the freebooting soldier of fortune William Walker repeatedly invaded Central American countries, and in 1855 succeeded in taking over Nicaragua as his personal fiefdom. Alex Cox's bloody black comedy channels motifs from left-leaning spaghetti westerns and imagery from Sam Peckinpah epics. His filming style is a weird mixture of period authenticity and witty anachronisms. When an issue of Newsweek appears in 1856, with a color picture of William Walker smiling on the cover, it's clear that Cox is really talking about the here and now. Walker lectures that it is America's duty to use force to bring Democracy to barbaric lands, and then checks his digital watch to see what time it is. Manifest Destiny lives, and it isn't pretty. Synopsis: 1853. Adventurer and would-be conqueror William Walker (Ed Harris) flees Mexico after a failed attempt to incite an armed insurrection. Due to popular support for his beliefs about spreading Americanism to other countries, Walker is acquitted of legal wrongdoing. His plans to marry and start a newspaper end when his sweetheart Ellen Martin (Marlee Matlin) dies of cholera. Walker then accepts an offer from millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle). "Commodore" Vanderbilt sends Walker with sixty mercenaries to overthrow Nicaragua, to secure Vanderbilt's exclusive overland shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific (there is yet no Panama Canal). Walker's ragtag brigade sails to Nicaragua and blunders its way into a battle, which is declared a victory only after the fact. When the capital falls, Walker allows the president to stay in charge, but takes his mistress, Yrena (Blanca Guerra). Incompetent policies and widespread looting inspire a rebellion, so Walker orders the president shot and assumes his place. Becoming delusional about his role in history, Walker revokes Vanderbilt's license to the overland trade route. Nicaragua and its neighbors unite to rid themselves of the unwelcome gringo dictator. Alex Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer's Walker directly attacks U.S. policy through broad comedy and absurdist visuals, a cinematic combination that has always played to a select audience. We're told that many of Walker's dozens of whimsical anachronisms (a favorite: a modern Zippo lighter) weren't even noticed. Some audiences were only mildly confused when a helicopter suddenly appears in the last scene. A fan of violent westerns, Cox has a field day with gory battles and slow motion blood spurts a la Sam Peckinpah. Over-the-top gunplay had long before lapsed into self-parody, and Walker's unending series of assassinations and executions eventually lead to authentic news film of Nicaraguan victims of the Contras being washed for burial. Walker sees the Nicaraguan war as a sick joke that Americans don't want to hear. Star Ed Harris was a sterling John Glenn in The Right Stuff, his best-remembered role. He's equally convincing as the psychotic William Walker, an American Who Would Be King. Too obsessed with his destiny to formulate a strategy, Walker attacks blindly, drifting through his battles incapable of giving a coherent order. He spouts idealistic rhetoric while his men rape and pillage. He metes out draconian punishments like a good Puritan: "One must act with severity, or perish." But Walker is easily seduced by the beautiful Yrena, who insults him in tender Spanish and dominates him in bed. Living in a delusional state of mind, Walker appoints himself President, betrays his corrupt American sponsor and decides to introduce slavery to Nicaragua. Although the real William Walker escaped to attempt yet another mercenary invasion, Alex Cox's mad conqueror ends his tale with a stylized mini-apocalypse. Upset that his plans have gone astray, Walker burns his capitol city Granada, simply out of spite. Cox and Wurlitzer populate their political farce with a gallery of oddball performances. William Walker's mercenary 'Immortals' are given funny costumes and quirky personalities, like the bounty hunters of The Wild Bunch crossed with Captain Hook's pirate crew. Joe Strummer of The Clash plays a small part in addition to composing the film's score. Extras were recruited from pro-Sandinista Americans found in Managua, while key roles are filled by actors willing to work in a war zone. Rene Auberjonois is a goofy German sea captain ("I studied strategy under Lubitsch!"). Richard Masur and Peter Boyle have only a couple of scenes as the power-mad Vanderbilt and his key henchman. The under-used Marlee Matlin is Walker's deaf-mute fiancée. Her scenes with Harris are a wonderful parody of movies about Great Men dealing with domestic issues: Matlin's Ellen gestures at the guns and gear strewn about her New Orleans house and tells her sweetheart to clear it all out. Do all aspiring empire-builders have this problem? Cornelius Vanderbilt offered free steamship passage for anyone seeking a future in the new Nicaragua, clearly wishing to transform the country into an American colony. This brings Walker's no-account brothers (Gerrit Graham and William O'Leary) looking for a free ride. One volunteers to head the treasury while the other imitates Walker's dress and becomes his loyal bodyguard. The movie abounds with freaked-out details. One shot reveals Walker and his Immortals as the subjects of a parody of the painting The Last Supper. Serving as a surgeon, Walker pauses during an operation to laugh, and taste a piece of something he cuts out of his patient. Pitched battles are scored with Latin Jazz, and the Immortals perform Shakespeare on the steps of Walker's half-built opera house. A surreal C.I. A. agent arrives to evacuate Walker's men, but only accepts those with American passports. Walker's Gonzo approach to its subject found few friends among critics. The film was labeled as propaganda and largely ignored by an America satisfied with the version of reality presented on the network news. Seen in today's political climate, William Walker's rhetoric about America's duty to spread Freedom through force sounds like contemporary speechmaking -- an anachronism in reverse. Criterion's DVD of Walker is a bright and colorful enhanced transfer that flatters this handsome production filmed on beautiful Nicaraguan locations. Alex Cox and Rudy Wurlitzer share a commentary track. They start by stating that the illegal war against the Sandinistas was actually initiated by President Jimmy Carter. Dispatches from Nicaragua is a lengthy making-of piece newly edited from thirty hours of videotape shot by Terry Schwartz. Schwarz's camera watches Cox haranguing his cast to march properly and witnesses demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in Managua. The film employed 400 Nicaraguans and was a boost to the economy. A Sandinista general visiting the set coaches an extra on the right way to bash a gringo's skull with a rock. Nicaraguan school kids lack writing pens but have big smiles -- they've been taught that William Walker was an American who tried to bring slavery to their country. But they also want to visit the U.S. -- because it's pretty and it has snow! An impressive photo gallery is included, in addition to a trailer. On Moviemaking and the Revolution is an entertaining, somewhat profane monologue about the filming. The voice is male but the menu says 'by Linda Sandoval', who also authors an essay in the insert booklet. Film critic Graham Fuller contributes another essay, and Rudy Wurlitzer provides notes on the historical background of William Walker. Hitting the 'A' on Walker on the main menu cues up a short video of director Cox going over the almost exclusively negative reviews for Walker. When one critic finally praises the film, Cox doesn't seem to believe it. For more information about Walker, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Walker, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States February 1988

Released in United States on Video July 14, 1988

Released in United States Winter December 4, 1987

Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1988.

Began shooting March 12, 1987.

Completed shooting May 1987.

Film had the complete cooperation from the Sandanista Government, and the Nicaraguan Cinema Institute.

Released in United States on Video July 14, 1988

Released in United States Winter December 4, 1987

Released in United States February 1988 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1988.)