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And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)

TV Movie  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  7 September 2003 (USA)
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Hollywood makes a deal with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa to film his war and recreate his life.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Thayer
Sam Drebben
Harry Aitken
William Christy Cabanne
Teddy Sampson
William Benton (as Anthony Stewart Head)
Eli Morton
Cosme Alberto ...
Don Luis Terrazas (as Pedro Armendáriz)


Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa (Antonio Banderas) finds himself without adequate funding to finance his war against the military-run government. He also finds himself at odds with the Americans because of the Hearst media empire's press campaign against him. To counter both of these, he sends emissaries to movie producers to convince them to pay to film his progress and the actual battles. Producer D.W. Griffith (Colm Feore) becomes interested and sends Frank Thayer (Eion Bailey) with a film crew to develop film reels. Thayer becomes horrified and fascinated by the bandit. He finds an enigmatic individual that is both ghoulishly brutal and charmingly captivating. The resulting film became the first feature length movie, introducing scores of Americans to the true horrors of war that they had never personally seen. Thayer sold the studios on making the film despite their concerns that no one would sit through a movie longer than 1 hour by convincing them that they could raise the ... Written by John Sacksteder <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Lights. Camera. Revolution.


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Release Date:

7 September 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pancho Villa  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The original film The Life of General Villa (1914) the second film made about Villa's life by the Mutual Film Company has been lost, but some unedited film reels of the battle of Ojinaga (January 1914), showing Pancho Villa and his army fighting Federal forces, as well as photographs and publicity stills taken from the original film does still exist. See more »


The screen title "May 9, 1914 - New York City" appears over a shot of Times Square. A billboard reads "The Broadway Melody - Metro Goldwyn Mayer". That studio was founded in 1924, and that movie was released in 1929. See more »


Pancho Villa: [after hearing a gunshot] Sometimes justice can be loud.
See more »


References Lawrence of Arabia (1962) See more »


On a Tree by a River a Little Tom Tit
from "The Mikado"
Written by William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Performed by John Reed, the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra and D'Oyey Carte Opera Company
Courtesy of Decca Music Group Limited
See more »

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User Reviews

Excellent account of an absurd true story
9 December 2004 | by (Beverley Hills, England) – See all my reviews

Pancho Villa is a Mexican general who makes a deal with a movie studio where he will get $25,000 in gold, in exchange for the rights to film his battles. This is quite an absurd idea, especially as it leads to certain battles being 'made to measure' for the camera, and it becomes even more absurd when you realize that this is actually a true story. Yes, that's right; And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself is actually a film about the making of another film from 1914, known as 'The Life of General Villa'. The film is a little like Shadow of the Vampire, in that it depicts the making of an old film, using today's actors to play the people involved in the making of the old film. This film was made for American TV, and to me this seems a great injustice and a commentary on what the American film industry thinks of it's audience. Like 1995's Citizen X, the only reason that I can think of as to why this wasn't given a cinema release is that it would be lost on it's potential audience.

The film features a number of familiar faces. People that you often see in films, but don't know their names. Here we have the excellent Alan Arkin, who's one of my favourite 'smaller' stars without a doubt, Jim Broadbent, Eion Bailey and Anthony Head from the rubbish 'Buffy' program also makes an appearance. The real acting plaudits, however, go to Antonio Banderas for his complete embodiment of the title character. I've heard a number of people say bad things about Antonio in this movie, but I have no idea why; here he gives what is probably the best performance of his career. In fact, he is so good that after a while you forget that you're watching an actor and it actually seems like Pancho Villa really is starring as himself. This does the movie no end of favours on the reality front as it continually switches between the movie that they're making and the reality of Pancho Villa's revolution. This movie does an excellent job of catching an authentic Mexican atmosphere, and this is made even finer by way of an excellent, subtle, score.

The battles in the film are excellently staged, and also quite violent and bloody; which is always nice to see. That came as something of a surprise to me as, with this being a TV movie, I wasn't expecting the battles to be particularly well done. The message that this film has seems to be that people can be made to believe anything. As one character professes at one point in the film, "the lens is mightier than the sword", and through the way that the film shows the difference between what the film that the characters are making shows and what the truth is; this message comes across loud and clear.

Please don't miss this movie because it is cursed with '(TV)' after it's title; as although it isn't a masterpiece, it most definitely is well worth seeing.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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