A film shot in South Mississippi about three years ago will finally see its release.
Billed as a “murder mystery,” the film stars Luke Goss, Malcolm McDowell, Braun Batt and Kate Orsini. It also features some crew members from South Mississippi, including director of photography Francisco Gonzalez and executive producer Paul Bonge.
The film, which is not rated, had its premiere in South Mississippi in 2015. But it has been a long road for the movie’s distribution — a road that includes financial problems and a lawsuit.
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‘Artists Die Best in Black’
“Mississippi Murder” is based on the 1996 novel “Artists Die Best in Black” by Jackson native Martha Mabey, who is the aunt of Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and author Michael Hewes.
“I wrote the book when I was living in Richmond (Virginia), which is where I live today,” Mabey said. “It was based on some characters I knew in Richmond.”
Mabey said the sister of Price Hall, who directed “Mississippi Murder,” contacted her brother about adapting her novel into a film.
“Price contacted me and I optioned my book for him to use for a screenplay,” Mabey said. “He said he knew how to get some money to make it into a film — but I learned quickly that in Hollywood, people promise you money that goes away the next day.”
On with her life
While Price continued to seek financing for the film, Mabey said she went on with her life, moving to Mexico and then the Coast, where she opened an art gallery in Biloxi.
“I heard from Price or a producer from time to time, but the calls started to become fewer than they had been,” she said.
After Katrina hit in 2005, Mabey moved back to Richmond. Then she said she had an idea.
“I talked to Price about maybe making the film on the Coast and he was able to get someone to financially back the film if is was shot in South Mississippi,” she said.
But that was about three years ago.
The film hits a wall
Mabey returned to the Coast where she said she got to watch the movie being made. She described the experience as “wonderful.”
“Everyone involved with the film was every nice,” Mabey said. “But then they ran out of money and that happens a lot with films — my only involvement with this was the fact that my novel had been optioned for the screenplay — I had no involvement with the actual making of the film.”
Actress Juliet Landau, originally cast as the female lead, sued the producers after she was replaced. Landau reached a settlement with the producers in August 2013.
From novel to film
Mabey said she had heard the film had been picked up by a distributor, but she was a bit surprised to find the title had been changed.
“I had no idea the title had been changed to ‘Mississippi Murder,’ ” she said. “I ordered a copy on Netflix and I can’t wait to see it.”
Although it has been more than 20 years since she wrote “Arists Die Best in Black,” Mabey said she has nothing but fond memories of the process and hopes she’s not the only member of her family to have a book made into a film.
“What I learned from all of this is that you never know the timing on when things are going to happen,” Mabey said. “I’m hoping that Michael’s (Hewes) book ‘Watermark’ may get turned into a movie one day — you never know.”