The life of one of America’s greatest explorers came to an end when he was found dead of multiple gunshots in a small inn along the old Natchez Trace.
The death of Meriwether Lewis has long been the subject of debate among historians with some accepting the conventional wisdom that the explorer, one half of the legendary Lewis and Clark team that explored much of the Western United States, took his own life. Others have questioned that assumption and believe he died under much more “Mysterious Circumstances.”
Those circumstances caught the imagination of Baldwyn-based writer and filmmaker Clark Richey and will soon take to the silver screen as production begins on Richey’s new film “Mysterious Circumstances.” The film will be shot throughout North Mississippi and feature numerous stars including “Dukes of Hazzard” star John Schneider who came to fame as Bo Duke on the hit series and Evan Williams, who previously starred in Netflix’s “Versailles” and “Midnight at the Magnolia” in the title role of Meriwether Lewis.
The co-owner of Six Shooter Studios, Richey said the idea for the film was born of his own fascination with Lewis’ story.
“Before I’m a “filmmaker,” I am a lover of history, especially when a mystery is involved. The Lewis death tale has always been pointed to as the greatest mystery to be found on the historic Natchez Trace. I think most people drive right past the Meriwether Lewis historic site and don’t really connect “Meriwether Lewis” to “Lewis and Clark.” When you really dive into the history of this area, between Nashville and Natchez in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, you quickly find that Mississippi was the “Wild Wild West” in that time period, and you’ll also find that the movers and shakers in the young United States routinely moved up and down Mississippi on the Trace,’ said Richey.
Lewis, then governor of the Louisiana territory, was on his way to Washington, DC when he stopped at the small inn at Grinder’s Stand near Hohenwald, Tenn. In the predawn hours, he was found dead of multiple gunshots. Lewis had previously attempted suicide and many historians believe his death to be just that. However, many questions have arisen about missing money, the truth of the account of the innkeeper’s wife who found the body and other issues which have led some to believe Lewis’ death was something much more sinister.
The new film will be produced by Robbie Fisher, a veteran filmmaker who today owns Fisher Productions LLC in Water Valley and has worked on numerous film, television and commercial projects, winning a variety of awards.
“I was sent Clark’s script for Mysterious Circumstance by a mutal friend (Richey’s Six Shooter partner Amye Gousset) and I could not put it down. It compelled me to research Lewis and learn more about his story. I knew I wanted to be a part of this project, to be a part of such great storytelling.
Richey said the best writing comes when you connect with a story.
“I write about things that I am interested in. I think that’s all a writer can really do. And then if you write compellingly, you will convince people that what you’re interested in, in fact, is genuinely interesting. I think with the Mysterious Circumstance screenplay we have a winner because it combines many elements – western, history, mystery, action, etc,” he said.
Production is scheduled to begin soon and along with the cast of veteran performers including Sonny Marinelli (Entourage); Lance E. Nichols (House of Cards); Billy Slaughter (Magnificent 7); and Amye Gousset (The Purge) several locals will have roles as well.
“A friend of mine Senator Chad McMahan claimed one of the only spots we had for an adult, but we did cast two local boys from Tishomingo County in roles in the film – Rider Mayo (9) from Iuka and Keandre Wicks (13) from Burnsville. We have some local professional actors cast also though,” said Richey.
Specific locations for filming are not being released due to concerns about crowds and the need to protect the cast and crew from COVID, but Richey said North Mississippi was the obvious choice for the film.
“We wanted to film in Mississippi right out of the box. I’m a lifelong Mississippian, and where we would make our film really was not ever in question. We have the topography and resources here in our immediate area to perfectly suit the Meriwether Lewis story. Northeast Mississippi is the “hill country,” of course, and we are blessed to have a truly unique corner of Mississippi to live and play in. Our area is a great match for the Tennessee area where Lewis died. Beyond that, Six Shooter Studios has a strong desire to show this part of Mississippi as an efficient and rewarding place to make movies,” he said.
They expect the film to be ready to distribute in around a year and will begin by trying to sell the movie for theatrical distribution directly. Next would be efforts to take the film on the festival circuit and seek distribution through other avenues or streaming services.