Feb 8 2004
The Jackson Sun
Perhaps the book deal will come through now, along with Hollywood's great spotlight that she and friends have quietly hoped would sway eyes toward West Tennessee, if not hush critics.
"I'm excited about it," Dwana Pusser Garrison said, referring to the movie remake of "Walking Tall" but not offering much more than that in a recent phone interview.
However, the upcoming movie that stars pro wrestling superstar The Rock and that has come under fire for removal of the original story line that depicted the life of her late father, a hero to many for his days as McNairy County sheriff, may soon have Garrison's full support.
Back from Hollywood, where she and her manager twice reviewed the "Walking Tall" remake, Garrison will hunker down today with family and friends at her Adamsville home and develop a game plan for the weeks leading up to the movie's release on April 9.
It will be intriguing to learn what is decided, for Garrison has been surprisingly guarded in her comments since she returned from Los Angeles on Wednesday. In fact, she referred questions to her manager, and he supplied a prepared press release in which Garrison's statements delicately address Metro Goldwyn Mayer, or MGM, the mega movie studio that owns the rights to "Walking Tall."
"Everything went well," said Garrison's Nashville manager, Rex Robinson. "At this point, that's all we're going to say. Hopefully in about a week or two, I can give you more information that will be very exciting."
Garrison said last week that the original contract that her father, Buford Pusser, signed in 1969 left the movie vulnerable to a change in the story line and she would have only minor editing changes. In Los Angeles, she successfully pushed for the movie to have a credit line that reads the picture is dedicated to her father.
Robinson declined to be specific on certain topics, including when he was asked if efforts are being made to bring The Rock to West Tennessee. Should Garrison throw her full support behind the movie, it is conceivable that the family would try to woo television entertainment shows to the Buford Pusser museum in Adamsville.
Garrison is shopping for a book deal and, having battled multiple sclerosis for six years, she is hoping to help her family be financially stable in the years ahead.
It's also why she has delicately handled recent interviews. In the press release, Garrison praised MGM for reviving the story and said, "My family and I are satisfied with the changes made in the film's story line. The single-most important element from the 1973 version of 'Walking Tall' that best represents my father was left intact, which is the pursuit of justice."
The release goes on to say that Garrison acknowledges the remake is quite a departure from the original. "Although the new 'Walking Tall' is not a remake of the original story of my father," Garrison was quoted as saying, "it is a great source of pride for me to know that his life continues to inspire people more than 25 years after his death."
Thing is, the upcoming movie has drawn criticism in recent weeks from longtime fans of the original who hoped that Dwayne Johnson, who rose to stardom in the late 1990s by playing the likeable pro wrestler The Rock, would take the reigns as the lead actor and pull off a feel-good portrayal of Buford Pusser.
Pusser was the McNairy County sheriff from 1964 to 1970 and used his intimidating, 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame to bust the moonshine runners and illegal gambling and prostitution rings along the Tennessee-Mississippi line. He died at age 36 in a 1974 car accident, just a year after the first "Walking Tall" hit theaters and spawned two sequels and a 1981 television series.
However, in the remake, Johnson plays Chris Vaughn, a retired member of the U.S. special forces who returns to his hometown in Washington state, becomes sheriff and takes down a local casino that has overrun the town with the drug crystal meth.
The two-minute preview, which can be seen on www.walkingtallmovie.com, shows several casino scenes in which dancers are performing above the slot machines.
Garrison spent three days in Los Angeles, and those close to her family want to assure "Walking Tall" fans that her decision to support the film will come after long hours of thought.
"When she got her feet back on the ground in Nashville," said Steve
Sweat, a family friend, "I could tell her batteries were just about run
down. But she's real excited about it."
Copyright © 2004, The Jackson Sun