As Movie Premiers, Cut Bank Readies for the Spotlight

By JUSTIN FRANZ for the Flathead Beacon

The small Hi-Line community of Cut Bank is bracing for its 15 minutes of fame as a feature length film of the same name is due to premier on June 16 at the Los Angeles Film Festival. “Cut Bank” features Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton and John Malkovich in a dark thriller set in the town of 2,900 people just east of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Although the film is set in Cut Bank – and even includes its iconic World’s Largest Penguin statue – it was actually filmed near Edmonton, Alberta last year. The fact that the town was going to be the setting of a feature length movie took Amy Overstreet, the executive director of the Cut Bank Chamber of Commerce, by surprise.

“It came up on IMDb.com and someone sent it to me,” she said. “We didn’t seek out this attention and we don’t have any control over it, so we figure we’ll just roll with it.”

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Production photo from “CutBank”

While the movie will premiere next week, it has yet to be picked up for distribution and it’s unclear when it may be released nationwide. The film follows a high school athlete named Dwayne McLaren, played by Hemsworth of “Hunger Games” fame, who has been looking for a way out of his small town. But his plans to leave town are derailed by a murder and a police investigation headed by the local sheriff, played by Malkovich.

According to Overstreet, the Cut Bank postmaster is murdered in the film, which is especially concerning to her because in real life she’s married to the Cut Bank postmaster. She said her husband has taken it in stride and thinks it’s “hilarious.” But Overstreet is more concerned about how the movie will portray the town.

“The taglines are things like ‘Where Luck Doesn’t Exist’ and ‘Where Dreams Go To Die,’” she said. “With taglines like that I’m not sure how positive it will be, but I’m trying to stay positive and I hope it sparks some interest in the community.”

Since Overstreet found out about the movie she has been in contact with the Montana Film Office and even the Chamber of Commerce in Fargo, N.D., to see how they dealt with attention from the film of the same name by Joel and Ethan Coen that came out in 1996.

“We would have liked for them to have filmed in Montana,” said state Film Commissioner Deny Staggs. “But there are still a lot of ways to benefit, like getting name recognition. I’m sure most of the people who will see the movie will have never known there was a place called Cut Bank.”

Staggs said even if the movie does put Cut Bank in a negative light – “playing up the clichés of small towns” – that can still attract people to the town. The hit show Breaking Bad, about a science teacher-turned-drug kingpin, certainty didn’t do any favors for Albuquerque, N.M., but the town has been able to attract tourists because of the show.

“It’s both scary and exciting for a town like Cut Bank,” he said.

Overstreet and another member of the chamber of commerce will be in Los Angeles for the premiere and said regardless of how the town is portrayed, she wants to be ready for the additional attention.

“Cut Bank needs to be ready for its 15 minutes, or even 15 years, of fame,” she said.

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