Taylor Sheridan has a history with New Mexico.
The writer penned “Hell or High Water,” “Sicario” and “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” – all of which have filmed in the state.
Sheridan took the director’s seat for “Those Who Wish Me Dead” as it filmed in 2019 on location in Bernalillo, Torrance, Sandoval and Rio Arriba counties, including Santa Clara Pueblo. The film will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, May 14.
Oscar winner Angelina Jolie stars in the film as Hannah, a smokejumper still reeling from the loss of three lives she failed to save from a fire. She takes a sort of comfort in the pain she inflicts on herself, whether it’s a showy stunt that knocks her on her ass or the self-imposed solitary confinement of her watchtower high above the Montana wilderness.
Sheridan, who has worked in New Mexico extensively, was happy to shoot in the state.
“In our story, the setting itself is a character, and once we started scouting our locations – from the Santa Clara Pueblo to the Jemez Mountains and the wooded foothills of the Manzanos – we knew that New Mexico would provide the rugged scope that this story demands,” Sheridan says.
Sheridan knew what he wanted to capture with the film, so he pulled in collaborators – production designer Neil Spisak, costume designer Kari Perkins and cinematographer Ben Richardson, and special effects supervisor Daniel Holt.
Holt’s team was tasked with creating the wildfire scenes – which range from calm to utter rage.
Holt says visual effects took care of the fire in the canopies, because production shot the main scene over four days.
“If we ignited the canopies with real fire, we would have lost our set within just half a day of shooting,” Holt says. “The trunks were treated with a flame retardant so that they would burn for four days of shooting.”
Sheridan says, “The funny thing was once we built our simulated forest in the desert in New Mexico, it wasn’t long before birds started nesting in our staged forest trees, squirrels began running around in our fake forest, and we also found snakes, mice, and these things. At first, we thought it was great, and then we realized we were going to be setting this all on fire, so for about five days we had to shoo animals so that there was nothing left in our fake forest to die. But it was astonishing that in the middle of the desert we had all these animals that arrived, inexplicably, across the desert to go live in our forest.”
According the New Mexico Film Office, the production employed about 675 New Mexico residents in its cast and crew.