Chuck Norris, aka Lone Wolf McQuade and Walker, Texas Ranger, has earned a reputation through his 34 movies as one tough, karate-choppin’ hombre.
Yet Spokane is seeing a gentler side of Norris, who has been in town for about three weeks filming his latest action movie, “The Cutter.”
“My wife and my 3-year-old twins are out here with me, too,” said Norris, 64, an affable and soft-spoken man. “We’ve been riding the (Looff Carrousel) a lot. The babies love that Carrousel downtown. We rode it so much yesterday, I was starting to get sick!”
Norris and his family are renting an apartment at Big Trout Lodge in Liberty Lake for the duration of the shooting, which will continue through Dec. 19.
“We thought a hotel would be too confining for the twins,” he said.
In “The Cutter,” Norris plays John “Shep” Shepherd, an ex-cop and private investigator who specializes in locating kidnap victims. Shep has been hired to find an elderly diamond cutter and Auschwitz survivor.
Kidnappers have snatched the cutter and forced him to cut two special diamonds, stolen from the biblical “breastplate of Aaron.”
The action all takes place in Spokane, where the jeweler has retired. Spokane will be “played” as Spokane – audiences will see police cars clearly labeled as Spokane police cars, for instance.
Crews have already filmed at Comstock Park, the Davenport Hotel, the STA Plaza and various private houses. The movie is being made for Nu Image Studios with production services provided by North by Northwest, a Spokane film and video production company that has made numerous movies in Spokane.
We asked Norris to describe the pros and cons of filming in Spokane.
“I love Spokane,” Norris said. “The biggest pro is North by Northwest – they’re a very good group here. I had actually heard about them in L.A.”
“I’m not a cold-weather person,” said Norris, laughing. “I guess that would be the con of the whole thing.”
Norris became involved in the project through director Bill Tannen, who directed Norris’ 1988 film “The Hero and the Terror.”
Rich Cowan, CEO of North by Northwest, said it’s too early to tell where the movie will end up. It may have a theatrical release, but it will undoubtedly have at least a DVD/video release and get wide foreign distribution.
After all, Norris is known all over the world. “Walker, Texas Ranger” ended its 8½-year CBS run in 2001, but the show lives on internationally.
” ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ has had almost a billion viewers watching that show in 85 countries,” Norris said. “I went to Moscow, Russia, and it airs three times a day there.”
So even in Moscow, people call out “Walker!” when they see him.
That’s what they were calling out on the corner of Lincoln Street and Broadway near downtown Spokane on Friday morning, as Norris and the film crew filmed a car crash scene.
“Chuck Norris said hi to me as I was walking by!” said Jessica Jackson, a student at the Summit School, an alternative high school near the location. “Sure, I know who he is. He’s ‘Walker, Texas Ranger.’ “
A crowd of about 40 watched as stunt men carefully rehearsed the crash scene, hitting the brakes hard at the last minute.
The sixth time, they didn’t hit the brakes. They hit the accelerators. Metal crunched, glass flew, steam gushed out a radiator, and a sedan spiraled wildly across the asphalt.
“Damn!” shouted one of the students watching from the corner.
After a short break, Norris was standing in that intersection for the next scene. The bad guys exited their car. Norris fired off a few rounds and then engaged in some hand-to-hand combat.
Shep is, apparently, one tough karate-choppin’ hombre.
Meanwhile, Spokane can expect to see more movie action over the winter. Cowan said North by Northwest will be shooting “End Game,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr., James Woods and Burt Reynolds beginning in February.
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