And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself is a 2003 television film for HBO in partnership with City Entertainment and starring Antonio Banderas as Pancho Villa, directed by Bruce Beresford, written by Larry Gelbart and produced by Joshua D. Maurer, Mark Gordon, and Larry Gelbart. The cast also included Alan Arkin, Jim Broadbent, Michael McKean, Eion Bailey, and Alexa Davalos.
Maurer, who originally conceived the story and did extensive research, sold the project to HBO and then brought on Gordon and hired Gelbart to write and collaborate on the screenplay. At the time of production, this was the most expensive 2-hour television/cable movie ever made, with a budget of over $30 million. The movie was shot almost entirely on location in and around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
The film concerns the filming of The Life of General Villa (which was shot in 1914) and is seen through the eyes of Frank N. Thayer, a studio boss's nephew who gets a career boost when he is placed in charge of the project. The resulting film became the first feature length movie, introducing scores of Americans to the true horrors of war that they had never personally seen. Thayer sold the studios on making the film despite their concerns that no one would sit through a movie longer than 1 hour, by convincing them that they could raise the price of movies to ten cents, doubling the going price at that time. The actual contract that Pancho Villa signed with Frank N. Thayer and the Mutual Film Company on January 5, 1914 to film the Battle of Ojinaga still exists and is in a museum in Mexico City. The original film has been lost, but some unedited film reels of the battle, showing Pancho Villa and his army fighting Federal forces, as well as photographs and publicity stills taken from the original film, still exist.
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