The West Australian
By Pierra Willix
April 7, 2022
|[Dominic Cooper as Arthur McCoy and Douglas Booth as Red Bill in That Dirty Black Bag]|
In the back garden of a London home two decades ago, a young Douglas Booth used to dream of adventures in faraway lands.
Enamored with tales like Lord of the Rings and Gladiator, he would ride (albeit on sticks he would find strewn around) and wondered if one day, too, he might have the chance to go up against the bad guys and emerge victorious.
Making a career out of stepping into others’ shoes, after taking on figures from Boy George and Nikki Sixx to Charles Dickens’ beloved character, Pip, Booth is now playing a conflicted cowboy who roams the “Wild West”. While he may be battling the bad guys like in his childhood dreams, he is anything but a clear-cut hero.
Taking place over eight days, That Dirty Black Bag stars Booth as Red Bill, an infamous, solitary bounty hunter known for decapitating his victims and stuffing their heads into a dirty black bag, because, as he puts it, “heads weigh less than bodies”.
But when he arrives in Greenvale, a once prosperous gold rush town which is now battling drought, he comes into contact with Arthur McCoy (Dominic Cooper), an incorruptible sheriff with a troubled past.
I think he’s been roaming the West for many years looking for anyone who might have a connection to the person who killed his mother but in the grander scheme of things, fate is bringing him to the town and McCoy and their fates have been linked and they are on a collision course,” Booth explains.
Douglas Booth as Red Bill in That Dirty Black Bag.Douglas Booth as Red Bill in That Dirty Black Bag. Credit: Stefano C. Montesi/AMC+/AMC+
While Red Bill comes up against some insidious foes, he is anything but innocent himself. However, Booth says there is more than meets the eye and that his humanity does come to the fore.
“For me, Red Bill is simple in the sense that he is someone not dealing with grief in a very good way,” Booth says.
After the murder of his mother years earlier, he has spent his life travelling around the Wild West looking for revenge.
“He has completely lost his way and soul but is also deeply unhappy and trying to get himself out of hell he has found himself in, but he has dehumanized himself in a way that it has become normal for him to be carrying around a bag of heads.
“His actions speak for themselves . . . he really needs some therapy,” he laughs.
Paying homage to the classic spaghetti western, the show tells of bounty hunters, bandits and bloody vendettas.
Emerging in the 1960s, these original films were primarily produced in Europe and led by Italian directors like Sergio Leone, who led Clint Eastwood’s famous A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Following on from the classics, the series was shot across Italy, Spain and Morocco and while Booth says these are moonlighting and “might not be the Wild West, it sure does look like it”.
“The Sahara Desert element made the scenery become a character, too,” he adds.
“That vast open space is so claustrophobic and these people within it are so unhappy but looking for contentment and to survive in this very barren world.”
Although the nod to the genre is clearly evident, there are also plenty of contemporary turns.
“You can’t avoid the fact this project is a homage to a genre but what was fun is that the director and writers twisted it and pushed it into a modern direction,” he says.
But Booth also had to spend time perfecting the classic cowboy characteristics, too, from the famous stare-down to pulling out a pistol ready for a showdown.
“Some of that was done over a glass of wine in Puglia,” he laughs.
“And there is a lot of waiting around on film sets, so we had lots of time to prepare.”
That Dirty Black Bag is streaming on AMC Plus.