David Harbour Would Walk Tall
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Buford Pusser Festival in Adamsville, Tennessee. While I would hope that everyone reading this article would recognize that name, Buford Pusser, I understand that, for some of you younger folks, that might not be the case. While I could never in a single article manage to encapsulate Pusser’s story, I will attempt a Cliff’s Notes version for your benefit. Buford Pusser was a legendary sheriff in western Tennessee who waged a one-man war against organized crime, the notorious State Line Mob. He was a total cowboy, breaking the law as often as enforcing it in his attempts to clean the State Line ruffians from the area. Pusser’s death in the mid-70s may or may not have been the result of a mob hit; there is still debate on this subject today. Pusser’s life story was the inspiration for the movie WALKING TALL in 1973, along with two sequels and a short-lived TV series. I was a little boy when I first saw that show and then the films. Buford Pusser, carrying his trademark “big stick” and enforcing frontier justice, became a hero for me, and I spent many an hour patrolling my backyard with an old shovel handle pretending to be him. As an “adult,” I have traveled several times to Pusser’s hometown, where he is rightly regarded as a favorite son, his home has been turned into a museum, and each year a weeklong festival is held in his honor.
Duane “The Rock” Johnson was a fan of Pusser’s, too, but he did the man a grave disservice when he purchased the rights to the WALKING TALL franchise in 2003-2004 and remade the film, claiming the starring role for himself. If he’d really wanted to honor Pusser, he would have let someone else play the lead; since Buford Pusser was Caucasian and the Rock is not, they had to change all the names and the location, etc. The WALKING TALL remake was NOT the story of Buford Pusser. Shame on the Rock. Pusser deserved better.
The reason why I’m mentioning this on this here site is because it struck me at the festival, if they wanted to do another remake and do it right, the perfect actor exists to play the part of Pusser: David Harbour of STRANGER THINGS. Harbour is only six-three, so he’s a little small for the role. Pusser, a former professional wrestler, was six-eight. They can fake that, though. Harbour has the acting chops, the gruff appearance, and (almost) the size to play Pusser. All he needs is the stick.
I do hope those of you unfamiliar with Pusser will do some googling. His story is fascinating. The man had his bottom jaw blown off in the botched assassination attempt that killed his wife, went on to return to duty, and did in fact succeed in putting the State Line Mob out of business. The abandoned ruins of some of the notorious dens of vice–nests of gambling, prostitution, moonshine, drugs, and murder–still stand on the State line between Tennessee and Mississippi, but the criminals are long gone.
I want to see David Harbour play Buford Pusser. Somebody make this happen!
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!