Acclaimed Texas movie opens in Valley theaters

HARLINGEN — The movie tells a story as big as Texas.

A young man is introduced to the harsh realities of working the West Texas oilfields in 1939. He finds love. He gets ambitious. He’s on his way to becoming an oil baron.

Based on the cult-classic 1966 novel by Tom Pendleton, the production was shot entirely in Texas, with the cast and crew all being native Texans or having ties to the Lone Star State.

“The Iron Orchard” opened Friday in 50 theaters across Texas, including McAllen and Edinburg, as well as New York and Los Angeles.

“It’s not often do we go to the movies and get to see a movie about Texas made entirely by Texans that captures that world and seems to be resonating with audiences here,” said Gerry De Leon, the movie’s screenwriter who has strong ties to the Valley and Harlingen. “The story itself is epic, and hopefully, people will see that in the movie.”

Gerry, whose mother Glendora De Leon currently lives in Harlingen, is returning to the Valley to host opening weekend Q&A sessions Saturday in McAllen and Sunday in Edinburg. He’s excited to share with local audiences his experiences writing the movie and completing the project.

“Audiences have really taken to it,” Gerry said. “People from West Texas really feel that it was authentic. It tells the story about where they’re from.”

“The Iron Orchard,” which is rated “R” for language and some sexual content, was filmed in the summer of 2017 and worked its way through independent film festivals in the U.S. and abroad in 2018. It received the audience choice award at the 2018 Austin Film Festival.

“It has some of the things we go to the movies for — romance, it’s a period film, a love story but also about a man who is out to prove himself to the world and maybe he didn’t make the best choices in the world,” Gerry said. “It’s a story that I hope people will be entertained by.”

Gerry described the production of the movie as a long road, but he and director Ty Roberts, whose father introduced them to the novel, were determined to get it done.

“Ty’s father told him about this beloved book out in West Texas about the oil industry. I read it. Loved it. Ty read it. Loved it. And we teamed up together to make it,” Gerry said, explaining Hollywood filmmakers previously attempted to adapt the novel for the big screen. “The movie never got made, the right way to do it.”

With a successful small release last weekend in four theaters in Houston and four theaters in West Texas, Gerry looks forward to a successful run and a wider distribution.

“I cannot stress enough, the team, whole cast and crew came together, especially Ty the director and our producers, our lead actor, really made a great movie that people will get behind,” he said.