David Heavener has movie-making business smarts | EW.com

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David Heavener has movie-making business smarts

In his latest video, ''Fugitive X,'' he stars, directs, composes, and produces

While tough guys from Robert Mitchum to Bruce Willis have attempted recording careers, sometime songwriter David Heavener exploited the music industry to become a movie star — not to mention a director, screenwriter, producer, composer, even a distributor. He wears all these hats for Fugitive X (just released on video by his own Silver Lake International Pictures), in which he plays ”a guy who gets up one morning, goes to work, and everyone’s trying to kill him.”

After penning early-’80s hits for country star Billy ”Crash” Craddock and contemporary Christian singer Cristy Lane, Heavener invested his royalties in a trip to Hollywood. In 1989 he landed a starring role in the low-budget actioner Ragin’ Cajun, a big deal for someone whose previous pro acting jobs included playing a cowboy at a theme park in his native Kentucky. Heavener, 35, decided after the experience to start shooting his own movies. ”People make filmmaking too complicated,” he says. ”All it is is a couple of guys with a camera, telling a story.”

In the past decade, Heavener has become a down-home hybrid of Orson Welles and Roger Corman, making 21 primitive yet enjoyable schlockers such as Kill Crazy, Outlaw Force, and Twisted Justice. ”Other people who try acting, directing, writing, and producing reach one or three movies, then give up,” says Michael Weldon, author of The Psychotronic Video Guide. ”He must be a great businessman.”

For someone whose budgets average $1.5 million, the do-it-all- yourself auteur manages to attract some impressive — all right, once-impressive — names: Fugitive X costars For Your Eyes Only Bond girl Lynn-Holly Johnson, and earlier ensembles included The Brady Bunch’s Robert Reed and Batman’s Burt Ward. Heavener got his first taste of star power when he signed Tony Curtis for the 1991 Midnight Run knockoff Prime Target. ”Tony talks about it in interviews a lot,” Heavener says. ”I don’t know if he’s using it as an example of the bottom of his career.” Casting future Oscar winner Martin Landau in 1993’s Eye of the Stranger remains Heavener’s biggest coup. ”I wrote that with him in mind,” Heavener says. ”I didn’t think I could get him. He was working with, uh, that guy who did Husbands and Wives.”

Guess Woody won’t be calling him anytime soon. But Heavener, who lives in L.A. with his wife, Shanita, 28, and two kids, is currently prepping the sci-fi thriller Escape 2020. Though his movies boast titles like Jurassic Women (”We just sold that to the USA Network for twice the budget”), he considers himself a filmmaker with a conscience. ”I don’t put a lot of four-letter words in my movies,” he says. ”Action sells, but I’d really love to make family pictures.”