A Star is Born


Valley’s Electric’s 1943 digger truck “adds authenticity” to “Backseat,” produced by Brad Pitt.

VEA’s digger truck has role In film about Dick Cheney

By Ginger Meurer

One of Valley Electric Association’s own is set to join Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Alison Pill, Sam Rockwell, Bill Pullman, Shea Whigham, Adam Bartley, Tyler Perry, Stefania LaVie Owen and more big stars in the film “Backseat.”

Reuniting much of the cast and crew from the critically acclaimed “The Big Short” –  including director Adam McKay, actors Bale and Carell and producer Brad Pitt –  the film is scheduled for a 2018 release.

According to the Internet Movie Database, “Backseat” is set to share “the story of Dick Cheney, the most powerful Vice President in history, and how his policies changed the world as we know it.”

To do that, filmmakers needed to recreate a scene depicting Cheney (played by Bale) working with an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers crew on electrical transmission lines in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Key to that scene was VEA’s big star, its historic 1943 pole digger truck.

Butch Caple, Manager of Support Services for VEA, says moviemakers were excited to find the vehicle.

“They started doing a search on the internet, and they saw the truck, and they tracked us down,” he says. “They thought it would add a little authenticity to the movie.”

The Chevrolet truck, used to drill power line poles until 1969, is similar to the co-op’s first mechanized piece of equipment. In 2013, the truck was restored to pristine period condition after years rusting on display in a field at the Pahrump Valley Museum.

Nowadays the truck enjoys celebrity vehicle status with appearances in parades and car shows.

“We always have it going somewhere,” Butch says. “It’s our community truck. It’s our co-ops truck. So, we try to let the members see it. I think they appreciate it.”

Just like any actor, the digger truck had to go into makeup prior to filming north of Los Angeles in late September.

“They had to make it look dirty because when we got it there it was, of course, pristine,” Butch says.

The crew considered three treatment techniques before arriving at a spray that would make the truck look authentically grungy without hurting the finish.

“We are very careful with it,” Butch says. “We want to really protect it.”

Butch says the art director came by to see what the truck’s capabilities were, asking if they could articulate the auger.

“We told him that we could, and that lit up their eyes a little bit to help authenticate what they were doing. It went from a static truck to a moving truck in the scene,” Butch says.

The truck isn’t the only VEA talent that may make it into the film. Mechanic Joe Bolan, who was in the back operating the truck, may make his silver screen debut, and then there’s Butch, or at least his elbow.

“I was in the truck, and I had my elbow out the window,” he says. “So that’s my claim to fame there.”

This could be just the beginning of the digger truck’s film credits.

“They know us now,” Butch says. “I’m sure they have a photo journal they keep of all their equipment they’ve ever used, so I wouldn’t be surprised in the future if we don’t get a call.”