To the thousands of troops sent to our border to feature as extras in President Trump’s production of “The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!” I say welcome, bienvenidos a Tucson, and thank you for your service.
The Southern Arizona Theatrical Arts Commission has always been a booster for large-scale theatrical projects like the one you’ve been cast in. A production of this scale will outshine “Rio Bravo,” “Rio Lobo” and “Revenge of the Nerds” combined.
I spoke to a producer associated with Trump’s “show.” “Tell me about ‘The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!’”
“The president’s production of ‘The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!’ is already bigger than David Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. With a cast of thousands and logistical expenses in the hundreds of millions, the president is sparing no expense for this …”
“Hey, that’s fake news! The president’s spectacular extravaganza is no stunt! ‘The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!’ will give new meaning to the phrase ‘the theatre of war’!”
“‘The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!’ is a full-scale theatrical production that will rival Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” for its extravagant use of crowd scenes and sand dunes. We’re under a lot of pressure from the president. It’s not all roses. We have a huge cast, a lot of down time, cost overruns, logistical headaches and … aggravating union issues to deal with.”
“What do you mean?”
“These are trained soldiers we’re using, not professional actors. In order to perform in the president’s apocalyptic horror opus, ‘The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!’, all performers must be card-carrying theatrical guild members. It’s the law.”
“The President overlooked the fact that to qualify for a SAG membership card you have to have completed three days of work as a ‘background actor’ or one day of work in a ‘principal speaking role.’ ”
“Like Mike Pence, right? He has a SAG card. His gift for delivering over-the-top lines with a straight face is amazing.”
The producer agreed. “He’s the Hervé Villechaize of the White House. The president says not to worry about the union issue. He says he has ‘friends from Queens and Jersey’ who’ll take care of it.”
“Wow.” I noted that Mr. Trump always treated his “Apprentice” performers very well. “Doesn’t the cast of ‘The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!’ deserve the same respect? They’re sleeping in tents. Where are the trailers? All of his stars always got trailers. And assistants. And their own makeup and script girls. And why are they working on Thanksgiving? They should be with their families. At home. And the props! Good grief! With the fleet of Blackhawks alone you are burning through your budget like Ridley Scott, and Michael Bay on crack. And when the caravan gets here don’t your big headaches really begin?”
“That’s true. We are going to need makeup, costumes and a lot of pricey CGI to make the people who’ve walked here from Central America look terrifying. That will be a challenge since they all look ragged, desperate and pathetic. Especially the exhausted children. And there are thousands of them.”
I brought up a recent shakeup that was jarring. Mel Gibson, whom Trump recently appointed chief of the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector and commander of the Joint Task Force-West, said during a news conference Friday at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales that he was, “looking forward to choreographing a battle scene at the border that would rival ‘Braveheart’ for its realistic, brutal, cinematic gore.”
The producer nodded. “When the President was asked about an order for 7,000 bagpipes and cudgels he fired Gibson and replaced him with John Milius, the director of ‘Red Dawn’, a film which Mr. Trump described as ‘the most powerful true documentary about an invasion of our country I’ve ever seen.’ ”
When a director in the distance shouted “Quiet on the set!” my subject excused himself to return to work. “I gotta go. They’re stringing more concertina wire.”
Epilogue: Eventually “The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!” was released to a select few critics. Phil Needle of “The Broadway Bugle” called it an “incoherent production featuring endless shots of concertina wire being strung.” Rex Pompous of “Variety” wrote, “ If you’re longing for a lackluster epic interspersed with shots of sad, pathetic people in rags waiting to be processed by drowsy bureaucrats this ‘political thriller’ is for you! I give it 3 Red Bulls and a Xanax.” The Post’s notoriously charitable Whitney Snoot called it “a bloated anti-climactic yawn.”
“The Terrifying Caravan from Hell!” is expected to go straight to streaming to select markets in the spring of 2019, after its Fox News premiere. A sequel, “The Terrifying Caravan from Hell! II” is planned for the early fall of 2020.