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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

County’s moonshining history featured
‘Lawless’ opens Wednesday
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Photo courtesy Weinstein Company: Shia LeBeouf (foreground) plays Jack Bondurant, the youngest of the three Franklin County moonshining brothers, in the film “Lawless,” which opens Wednesday nationwide.

Monday, August 27, 2012

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Franklin County's moonshine past gets national attention in the new movie "Lawless," which opens Wednesday at more 2,200 theaters across the country.

The movie is based on Matt Bondurant's book, "The Wettest County in the World," chronicling a Prohibition-era conflict between bootleggers and corrupt authorities in Franklin County.

Although the book is fiction, it is based on the lives of Bondurant's grandfather and his two brothers who made moonshine in the county, which has long been described as "The Moonshine Capital of the World."

During a stop here in 2008 when Bondurant, a native of Northern Virginia who is a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, was promoting his book, he said he visited his grandfather, Jack Bondurant, in Snow Creek during the summer months when he was growing up.

That's' when he heard the stories about moonshining in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Those stories became the basis for his book and much of the action centers around moonshiners paying "protection money" to local authorities who would then allow them to continue their work.

For those who cooperated, their moonshine operations were safe, and they were guaranteed their loads of "white lightning" would not be touched inside the county.

In the novel, brothers Howard, Forrest and Jack Bondurant refuse to cooperate, and the brothers end up paying the consequences.

A stellar cast headlines the movie, with Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce and Mia Wasikowska.

In fact, Clarke, who plays Howard Bondurant in the movie, visited Franklin County in February 2011 to spend time with Bondurant family members and some Snow Creek residents to learn the local dialect. Clarke is Australian.

Filming, which was done mostly in northern Georgia, was completed last year and the Weinstein Company bought the U.S. distribution rights, resulting in many promotions (trailers) that have been airing on national television.

The film also was entered into competition in May's Cannes Film Festival where it received mostly favorable reviews, placing 12th out of 20 international films submitted, according to the Cannes Film Festival website.

On the website, which features a compilation of film critics here and in other countries, "Lawless" has so far received a 70 percent favorable rating.

David Rooney, film critic for the Hollywood Reporter, writes: (The film is) fueled by a brooding sense of dread, visceral bursts of violence, potent atmosphere and some juicy character portraits from a robust cast.

In an audience poll, 97 percent said they want to see it.

The Weinstein Company's promo says, "Lawless is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant's family in his novel 'The Wettest County in the World,' the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation's most notorious crime wave."

"Lawless" is rated "R," mostly for violence.

Both the Eagle Cinema in Rocky Mount and Westlake Cinema at Westlake plan to show the film starting Wednesday.

"We've had a lot of interest expressed in some of the big movies released since the theater opened, but this movie, by far, has created the most interest," said Eagle Cinema owner Ammie Brookes.

The film will not arrive in time for any advance showings, she said.

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