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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 2, 2006

'Unlikely Lawman' hero a likely role for Joe Moore

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

From left, Tina Shelton, Allen Cole and Joe Moore appear in "Unlikely Lawman," a stage adaptation of Robert Broomall's 1993 western novel "The Lawmen." "Unlikely Lawman" opens Thursday at the Mamiya Theatre.

Brad Goda

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7:30 p.m. Thursday; repeating at 8 p.m. June 9, 16; 2 and 8 p.m. June 10, 17; 7:30 p.m. June 15

Mamiya Theatre

$35, $30 (65 and older), $24 (25 and younger)


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Joe Moore as the marshal of a lawless Arizona town in the days of the old west?

What next? Howard Dashefsky as a Green Beret colonel with a oedipal complex in 'Nam?

In reality, Moore's transition from the KHON-TV anchor desk to the star of "Unlikely Lawman" his stage adaptation of Robert Broomall's little-known 1993 western novel "The Lawmen," bowing at the Mamiya Theatre on Thursday isn't all that odd. Moore is familiar to many as a sometime actor, playwright and screenwriter who has done indie films (1991's "Goodbye Paradise"), locally lensed television series ("Hawaii Five-0," "Magnum P.I.") and stage work ("Dirty Laundry," "Will Rogers Returns") for years.

We asked Moore five questions about his love of westerns and the fight-scene-filled "Unlikely Lawman," and forced him to choose between The Duke and The Coop. Excerpts follow.

Q. You're a longtime fan of the western. What's the fascination?

A. There's a simplicity and an invigorating quality to it. The western takes us back to a time when a man, if he was strong enough and lucky enough, could be the master of his own destiny. And we know, because of the complicated world we live in today, those days are long gone. So we can return to them briefly via the western. I like going on that journey as an audience member and as an actor. It's fun.

Q. Are you disappointed that current popular entertainment has largely abandoned the genre in almost all of its forms ... novels, film, television?

A. Yeah, I am. They say these things go in cycles. And I was hoping that (the HBO series) "Deadwood" might be the return of the cycle. But frankly, I lost interest in "Deadwood" pretty quick. I think (David) Milch, the creator, went way overboard with the profanity aspect of it, and I think he did it deliberately to attract an audience.

Q. Much of Broomall's collection of westerns is out of print. How did "The Lawmen" fall into your hands?

A. I was on a flight back from Atlanta (in 1994), picked it up at an airport bookstand and read it on the flight to Hawai'i. I really liked the story. ... It had a distinctive voice of its own, but there were various elements that reminded me of the classic western films "High Noon" (and) "Rio Bravo." And there was a flavor of "Lethal-Weapon"-in-the-wild-west (that recalled) the ... chemistry between the Mel Gibson and Danny Glover characters of "Lethal Weapon."

I quickly noted on the back cover that Robert Broomall was from Maryland. I was born in Maryland.... I went to the University of Maryland, and I saw that Broomall had as well.

So just on a lark, I called Baltimore information, and he was listed! I call him, he picks up the phone, we start chatting, and I told him that I had really enjoyed the book and had done a small independent film out here "Goodbye Paradise" and was really interested in making this (into) either a play or a film. ... One thing led to another, and I wound up buying the film and (stage) rights from him.

Over the years, I've (worked) on (an adaptation) off and on. ... Finally, just last year, I decided that I wanted to do this thing before I turned into the Walter-Brennan-age character.

Q. Why did you want to play the hero and lead character Clay Chandler so badly?

A. From (an) early age, (people) of my generation played either cowboys and Indians or cowboys and cowboys, (the latter of) which this thing is. ... And then there's the heroes and villains (angle). You look at it and imagine yourself in that role. ... Since I first read the book and thought this would be a good play or film, I thought, "(Chandler) would be so much fun to do."

Q. Who was the man when it came to the western ... John Wayne or Gary Cooper?

A. Probably because of my age, John Wayne. I have every John Wayne film that is available ... either on tape or DVD. ... My No. 1 childhood idol, other than my dad, was John Wayne, and No. 2 was James Arness as Matt Dillon (in "Gunsmoke").

But Gary Cooper is obviously right up there. He was terrific. (Laughs.) Nothing bad to say about Coop.

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.