Deadhead Miles

Written by Joe D on February 29th, 2012


This is a film I’ve heard about for many years and now finally it can be seen, thanks to Netflix streaming. Written by the great Terrence Malick a couple years before he directed his masterpiece Badlands, Deadhead Miles is a paean to the open road, a picaresque tale of two and eventually one traveler. That one traveler is played by Alan Arkin, a terrific performance and one of the weirdest Southern accents ever. Arkin is the driver of the big rig of destiny. Beautiful cinematography, 35mm, rich color,awe inspiring landscapes, 1971 locations make this movie a kind of low ball visual feast. And a cool country music score, by Tom T. Hall. A great supporting cast, including some real gems.


But the reason I knew about this movie is that a friend of mine worked on it. Bud Smith, great editor of such films as The Exorcist, Putney Swope, Cat People, Zoot Suit, Sorcerer, Personal Best and many other films, told me about his time on Deadhead Miles. Bud was hired to edit the film, he stayed in Los Angeles while the crew shot on location and sent the film back. Bud cut the film as it came in. At the end of the shoot the director took a few weeks off to recuperate from the rigors of a road movie. When he came into the editing room Bud was ready with his first cut of the movie. They screened it. The director said,” Can you take that all apart and put it back in dailies?” Bud said, ” You mean there’s nothing in there that you like?” ” Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.” “Well, I guess you got the wrong guy to work on your film.” And with that Bud left. Tony Bill , the producer, wisely duped Bud’s cut before having it disassembled and after a little while Mr. Bill fired the director. The new editor used Bud’s original cut for a lot of the film which then languished in obscurity until now. So check it out, a unique film.

7 Comments so far ↓

  1. Mar

    Will check this out. What a story from Bud Smith!!

  2. Mar
    Joe D

    Tony Bill wanted Bud to come back on board but Bud was already working on another film. I think it was Bob Downey’s Western Greaser’s Palace.

  3. Apr

    Www flm forno

  4. Jul

    Great movie – thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Jul
    Joe D

    Glad you like it. Bud later told me he directed 2nd unit on this film, great shots of the trucks at sunset in the mountains, etc.

  6. Jul

    Are most of the songs on this film made just for the film? I want to find the version of “Where does a little boy go” but I can’t find the version on this movie anywhere.

  7. Jul
    Joe D

    I don’t know for sure but it’s very possible it was recorded just for the film and I really doubt a soundtrack album was ever made. You’d have to ask Tony Bill the producer. If I can find out anything else I will post it.

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