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After presenting a Western firearms safety class to motion picture prop personnel, Spangenberger was hired to coach Mel Gibson in fast and fancy handling of an 1873 Colt Peacemaker, for his hit oater Maverick. Gibson was a quick and eager learner whose gun work on-screen proved to be an excellent calling card for Phil for years afterward. This studio still shows the three leads, Mel Gibson, James Garner and Jodie Foster.
Red River Frontier Outfitters, a company Phil Spangenberger created and ran for decades, supplied authentic Old West custom gunleather and costuming to the films Tombstone, Unforgiven, Wyatt Earp, Maverick and American Outlaws, to name a few, along with costuming for Universal Studios Western stunt shows. Red River gunleather was worn by Gary Busey and Willie Nelson in Barbarosa. Courtesy Universal Pictures.
Best of the West 2022: Western Movies
In The Harder They Fall, a film full of Black historical figures (although not full of history), when outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) learns that Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been freed from jail, he goes to gun him down. Possibly the biggest budget Western of 2021, The Harder They Fall starred Regina King, Idris Elba and Lakeith Stanfield. How big was Netflix's budget? Find out in the article!
Among Phil Spangenberger’s work in the film industry has been firing live ammunition in everything from black powder antiques to modern full-auto weapons, for authentic live-fire sound effects. For the movie Geronimo: An American Legend, he shot black powder cartridge guns from his personal collection.
"Coaching Will Smith in some fancy gun work for 1999’s Wild Wild West...produced more opportunities to add my two cents’ worth of authenticity to movies." Spangenberger served as Will Smith’s gun coach for several sessions before production started on Wild Wild West. Once filming began, Phil spent time working with Smith on the various stage sets on both the Sony (formerly MGM) and Warner Bros. lots.
Spangenberger was brought on board The Mountain Men to teach iconic star Charlton Heston how to load and fire muzzle-loaders for this 1980 feature. Here, he and Heston (right) stand by with Phil’s Green River Rifle Works Hawken, while filming in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, during an on-location gun coaching scene from ABC-TV’s American Sportsman. Photo by Michael Levasheff, Courtesy Guns & Ammo Magazine.
Serving as a gun coach and technical consultant on major motion pictures like Hidalgo sometimes involves giving actors a brief gun-handling lesson for a specific scene. While on the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show set in Southern California, Phil gave a quick lesson in spinning a Peacemaker Colt to character actor J.K. Simmons for his portrayal of Colonel Cody. Courtesy Touchstone Pictures
Dern’d If You Do
In 1967, Bruce Dern (center) was cast as Hammond with Chuck Roberson as Brown (left) to support Kirk Douglas’s Lomax (right) and John Wayne’s Taw Jackson (off-camera) in a gold heist in The War Wagon. Dern would later costar in with Wayne in The Cowboys (1972) and Douglas in Posse (1975).