Monday, March 04, 2019

Luke Perry: The man who loved Truffaut

That headline is, I admit, a slight exaggeration. But Luke Perry — who passed away Monday at the ridiculously young age of 52 — really did express high regard for Francois Truffaut while I interviewed him for Cowboys & Indians magazine a few years back. Which, of course, was enough to transform me from an admirer to an ardent fan.

We were talking about Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts (2013), the third in a trilogy of Hallmark Channel western films in which he starred as John Goodnight, a straight-shooting circuit court judge who dispenses justice with eloquence, compassion and, when necessary, lethal firepower. (Fun facts: 2011’s Goodnight for Justice was directed by Jason Priestly, Perry’s co-star in the original Beverly Hills 90210 TV series — and was, at the time it aired, the highest-rated made-for-cable movie in the history of the Hallmark Channel.) The official plot synopsis: “Between dealing with difficult defendants and dealing cards at saloons, John crosses paths with a stagecoach under attack. Drawing his gun, he comes to the rescue of the only surviving passenger, a beautiful woman named Lucy Truffaut (Katharine Isabelle, pictured above with Perry), who John doesn’t realize is actually a convicted con artist on the run.”

But wait, there’s more. Lucy doesn’t realize – at first, anyway — that John’s an honest judge. The bad news: Lucy is being pursued by Cyril Knox (Ricky Schroder), a wealthy aristocrat who wants her jailed. The good news: Lucy manages to convince John to help her escape – and board a riverboat where passengers are encouraged to indulge in high-stakes gambling.

Naturally, I had to ask:

Your lead female character is named Lucy Truffaut – like Francois Truffaut, the great French filmmaker who famously claimed, “Women are magic.” Did you intend this as a kind of wink-wink tribute to him?

Perry: Absolutely. Here’s the thing. When I sat down to come up with this one, the one sort of request that the [Hallmark Movie Channel] had made was that – well, in the past, I hung a guy, and shot a couple of other guys, and beat up a guy pretty badly in the last one.

Hey, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

Perry: [Laughs] Well, being the judge and jury and sometimes the executioner, that’s all part of his job. But the Hallmark people said, “Luke, our audience would also like to see you do some romantic stuff.” And at first, I couldn’t figure out what would be romantic about this character so much. But then I thought, when it comes to meeting a beautiful woman —historically, we’ve seen it — that’s when we men make our worst choices. While we’re thinking of ways to woo a beautiful woman, they just get into our heads. And I just wanted to do a story about that. And Truffaut knew all about that.

By the way: Has anyone else who’s interviewed you for this film noticed the Truffaut hat-tip?

Perry: You’re the only one who’s caught it, you’re the only one who’s asked. And I so appreciate it.
(Note: Francois Truffaut also was 52 when he died in 1984. And also gone way too soon.)

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