Railroad ties brought Mary Steenburgen and first-time director Jay Russell together on "End of the Line," now shooting in Arkansas.
Steenburgen is exec producer/star of the $2.9-million drama, which Columbia U Film School grad Russell (26) co-wrote with John Wohlbruck. The film is the first in which Orion Classics has made an upfront investment.
"My father worked for 40 years, mostly as a conductor, on the Missouri Pacific Railroad," Steenburgen explained. "Jay, who, like me, is from North Little Rock, Ark., has a father who worked for the (now defunct) Rock Island Railroad. When he sent me this script, which is about the dignities and the eccentricities and the language of the people I grew up with, I said yes immediately."
In the story, two victims of the phasing out of the fictional Southland railroad (Wilford Brimley and Levon Helm) steal a train and journey to Chicago to convince the line's owner that it can be run profitably. Kevin Bacon plays Brimley's son-in-law, a new breed of railworker with little loyalty to a vanishing way of life. Barbara Barrie is Brimley's wife and Steenburgen is Helm's spouse.
Steenburgen had been planning to make the film with money from Arkansas investors until line producers Lewis Allen and Peter Newman were able to secure financing from Orion Classics and the videocassette outfit Karl/ Lorimar.