About the Story
The quest to bring Walking Tall to today's audiences began with eventual producer Jim Burke and executive producer Keith Samples, producing partners who acquired the rights to the story several years before production. They admired the spirit of the original films and their hero, Sheriff Buford Pusser, and they thought studios would be attracted to a modern film with the same thematic elements at its core.
"The first films really struck a chord with audiences in the 1970s," says Burke. "Walking Tall asserted that one man could stand up against corruption and make a big difference. It was inspiring, and we felt the time was right for such a story to be told again."
Burke and Samples joined forces with producers Ashok Amritraj, David Hoberman, Lucas Foster, Paul Schiff, and executive producer Vince McMahon to create an updated version of a story that still reverberates with filmgoers thirty years later.
"This movie is very much inspired by the original," explains producer Schiff. "It's loosely based on that storyline, but we didn't want a literal remake of that film. We wanted to create a contemporary take on the original film, which many people remember for its intensity and raw power."
Key to outlining a new version was creating its main character, the fictional Chris Vaughn. Whereas Sheriff Buford Pusser was a real Tennessee county lawman who battled crime in his southern hometown, Chris Vaughn encountered similar obstacles but in his own story, set in the faux Northwest hamlet of Ferguson, Washington.
Central to remaking the story was keeping the main idea that a lone steadfast person amid tyranny can overcome any obstacles. Also retained was the weapon of choice from the original films: a big wooden stick fashioned into a powerfully destructive club. As U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was fond of quoting: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
But who would be physically imposing enough to convincingly wield such a formidable truncheon - basically an enormous 4x4 - and still be able to handle a complex acting role? The filmmakers quickly turned to film superstar The Rock, a man known as much for his strength and kind personality as he is for his quickly growing movie stardom. Luckily for the filmmakers, The Rock was a longtime admirer of the original films and their hero.
"Walking Tall appealed to me because I was a huge fan of the original film and of Buford Pusser," says The Rock, who has grown from his position as champion of World Wrestling Entertainment into his new role as star of such films as The Scorpion King and The Rundown. "The theme behind Walking Tall always made a connection with me, the simple story of a guy standing up for himself. It transcends time and it is a story everyone can relate to."
The Rock, born Dwayne Johnson into a family of wrestlers and fight promoters, also thought the climate was right to bring to the screen a story of one man succeeding against the odds. After all, The Rock fought his way up through the ranks of the wrestling world in record time, becoming one of its youngest champions at age 24.
"It was the right time for this movie to be made, and it was the perfect time for me to take part in it. I also wanted the legacy of Buford Pusser and what he stood for to be treated with the respect it deserves," explained The Rock.
When a working script had been completed, the search began for the right director to guide the material. The filmmaker chosen proved to be another fan of the Walking Tall series, Detroit-born helmer Kevin Bray. A graduate of the New York University film school, he initially became an award-winning music video and commercial director before making his feature directorial debut in 2002 with the popular caper film All About the Benjamins, starring Ice Cube, Mike Epps and Eva Mendes.
When asked about Walking Tall, dire
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