St. Joseph, Mo. Walking in the footsteps of Jesse James helped Ron Hansen write a book about the infamous outlaw more than 20 years ago.
Now his book is the basis for a movie starring Brad Pitt. And a lot has obviously changed since the writer last visited St. Joseph.
"To see the whole panoramic and to see what Jesse James was seeing, it helped," Hansen said. "You get a sense of the size of the character, get a picture of the personality he had."
For the first time since writing "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" in 1983, Hansen was back in the house off Mitchell Street that the outlaw was killed in more than a century ago.
A film crew with the History Channel interviewed Hansen in January for a companion piece to the Hollywood movie.
How Hansen got involved with the project is an underdog tale worthy of Hollywood itself.
Hansen said his agent was pushing his Jesse James novel and another book he's written called "Desperados" to producers and directors for some time. While Hansen though "Desperados" had a better chance of spurring interest, it was his Jesse James novel that piqued the curiosity of an emerging director and Pitt himself.
Director Andrew Dominick had just come off his underground movie "Chopper" in 2001 and happened up on a used copy of Hansen's book about James in a book store. A phone call from Pitt to Dominick is all it took.
"Brad Pitt contacted him and said he was from Missouri and asked him about this book about Jesse James," Hansen recalled. "It was really Brad Pitt and the Missouri connection that pushed this forward."
And now the movie is set to debut this summer.
The History Channel recently finished the interview segments for the documentary. Re-enactments for the show will begin shooting in late March in Easton, Kan., said the documentary's supervising producer, Josh Rosen.
As the crew spent more than an hour finessing the background for one of the interview segments, a lucky Missouri Western State University film student soaked up the experience.
Christiana Hansen got the chance to be an assistant when her uncle was tapped for the project.
"My uncle just asked if I wanted to do it. It was just by luck, really," she said. "I'm an actor by trade, but I have aspirations to do a little bit of everything."
The documentary called "The Plot to Kill Jesse James" is slated to air in July on the History Channel, Rosen said.