The infamous Battle of the Alamo in 1836, where a couple of hundred freedom fighters, including such legendary heroes as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, lost their lives combating approximately 1,500 Mexicans led by General Santa Anna, was just the beginning in Texas’ fight for independence.
The History Channel’s new 10-hour miniseries Texas Rising, which premieres on May 25th, chronicles the Texas Revolution and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers.
Two-time Oscar nominated director Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields, The Mission) directs an all-star cast including Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jeff Fahey.
Bill Paxton portrays the legendary General Sam Houston who, with his rag-tag army, faces General Santa Anna after the fall of the Alamo. The actor came to the TV Critics tour to talk about the series which is dear to his heart, being a native Texan.
I believe the miniseries starts with the fall of the Alamo, is that right?
Everyone’s heard of the Alamo. They know the Alamo fell. They don’t really know what happened after that. It’s a remarkable story that after the Alamo fell in Goliad, that here was Sam Houston with an army of less than 1,000 men. That weren’t regular army. They were all volunteers.
He is facing Santa Anna, who is basically the Death Star. He’s got 5,000 veteran troops, and [Houston’s] trying to find the right place to confront Santa Anna to where he might have a snowball’s chance in hell. And that battle only lasted 20 minutes.
It’s a little known fact, but this battle (the Battle of San Jacinto) changed the course of American history. So this whole story, even though it is historical fiction, it has been dramatized and lifted, I think the viewer will find very fascinating.
It is a significant piece of American history that I think most Americans don’t really know much about, besides the Alamo, [and the rallying cry,] ‘Remember the Alamo.’
You’re a native Texan, growing up were these historical figures, including Sam Houston, big archetypes for you?
You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy. We are pretty heavily indoctrinated. Texas has great pride because it was a republic. After the fall of San Jacinto and the treaty that was made with Mexico early 1837, Texas became its own country. And for seven years until it got statehood, it was its own country, and that spirit has remained a great source of pride for all Texans.
One of my first trips, my father took me and my older brother to the Alamo. It’s amazing to think that I would end up being in a saga about the birth of Texas.
And I’m related to Sam Houston, interestingly enough. His mother’s name was Elizabeth Paxton. She was my great, great, great aunt. So he was my second cousin three times removed.
How accurate has the history been about this period of time?
We all grew up seeing John Wayne and Richard Widmark in The Alamo, and I think we had a false reality of what that world was and what the history was. It’s always been brought up as an Anglo versus a Mexican story.
Whereas, you have to remember, when Santa Anna became President, one of the first things he did was he threw out the Mexican constitution in 1824, then he made himself dictator. A lot of Mexican people were not very happy about this.
So the Anglos and the Mexicans formed a coalition against Santa Anna. There was a lot of civil war when Santa Anna decided to throw out that constitution. This story shows that Mexicans and Anglos all come together to fight a common enemy.
Did you do your own stunts in this?
I was a little intimidated by all the horsemanship that was going to be required. I figured my stunt double would be doing some of these things. Next thing I know, I look over at Jeff Fahey. We’re going to do a charge with all these horsemen behind us, and I said, ‘Are we really doing this?; And I hear [Roland Joffe say] ‘Action!’ ‘Oh god, here we go!’
Full saber charge. They’re aluminum swords, but, still, it would do the same trick if you fell on it off your horse. It was a real physical challenge. That was my biggest apprehension as far as doing the movie.
Texas Rising star Bill Paxton Soundbyte
After the press conference, I spoke with Bill about playing Sam Houston. Play the two tracks below to hear what he had to say.
FOOTNOTE: Big on my ‘bucket list’ was to visit the Alamo, and in a strange coincidence, being so close to the premiere of Texas Rising, just last week my dream came true.
My brother Michael treated me to a trip to San Antonio, Texas, to see the mission that became a shrine.