What happens when art meets reality? An explosion, apparently. That's what transpired back in 2006, when both Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen brothers were onsite in isolated Marfa, Texas, shooting There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, respectively. The two film crews neighbored each other in Marfa and reportedly crossed paths at least once, when Anderson and his crew were testing the pyrotechnic system used in the film's famous oil derrick scene. The test resulted in a smoke billow so enormous that it affected a shot that the Coens were putting together nearby, forcing the directors to suspend shooting for the day.
As fate would have it, the two films would eventually go head-to-head for Best Picture at the 2008 Academy Awards, with No Country coming out on top. But they certainly weren't the first Marfa-based films to garner international acclaim. As NPR reported in 2011, the sleepy Texas town has played host to a surprisingly wide range of contemporary films and Hollywood classics, including Andromeda Strain, Fandango, and, perhaps most famously, 1953's Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.
When a big film crew rolls into Marfa, they don't just come for the vast horizons and desolate landscapes; they often enlist some of the locals, too. NPR's John Burnett recounts the story of one local rancher who even managed to get his name on Anderson's credit reel:
"We still are some of the wide-open, just pretty country that you don't really get to see anywhere else," says David Williams, manager of MacGuire Ranch, where There Will Be Blood was shot in 2006. "You can see for those mountains we're looking at over there are 20 miles away."
Williams, a fourth-generation cattleman, had spent the morning separating yearlings from mama cows. He has come to like movie people he says they're fun and they help the declining ranch economy. Williams even earned an executive producer credit on There Will Be Blood. In the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis plays a ruthless California oilman who hits a gusher. Williams' duties on the film included helping to erect a replica of a turn-of-the-century drilling derrick.
Read John Burnett's full article at NPR.