By Samantha Simon
Updated Jul 15, 2016 @ 3:30 pm
Chad Michael Murray Lead
Credit: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Chad Michael Murray’s latest role is taking him far from Tree Hill. Far west, to be exact.

In Outlaws and Angels—which hits theaters today, July 15—Murray plays Henry, the leader of a gang of fugitives on the run following an unsuccessful attempt at a bank robbery. When the group invades a frontier family’s home to hide out, that’s when the movie’s terrifying plot truly begins to unfold. You’ll see Murray unlike you’ve ever seen him before—and that was exactly how the former One Tree Hill star wanted it to be.

We caught up with the 34-year-old actor earlier this week, and he revealed his main reason for taking on a western (and a horrifying one, at that). “I just want to do things that are going to scare the crap out of me,” Murray told InStyle. “I want to make bold choices and do things that are a complete departure from who I am.” When Murray first read the script for Outlaws and Angels, he knew it would keep him on his toes. “The script just jumped off the page, and I saw Henry as clear as day,” Murray explained. “I said, ‘This is something I have to do.’ So the next morning, I got together with [director] JT Mollner and told him that I wasn’t leaving the room until I got the part. I’ve never said that before in my life—it was the first time I ever begged a director for a job.”

Chad Michael Murray 1
Credit: Courtesy

Murray’s passion for the project did the trick, and working on a western was a dream come true for the star. “My father raised us on westerns—he was a big Clint Eastwood fan,” said Murray, who co-stars with Eastwood’s 22-year-old daughter, Francesca, in the film. “I grew up on movies like A Fistful of Dollars, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Unforgiven. And when I first moved to Los Angeles, Tombstone was one of my favorite movies to watch over and over again. Val Kilmer played such a great character in that film, and it was such a departure for him.”

Much like Outlaws and Angels is for Murray. But despite the fact that the movie may look like any other Wild West-set flick, its story is unique. “This isn’t your classic western,” said Murray. “It’s a story that’s timeless, and it could literally take place in any era—even right now in modern-day Los Angeles. If you really look at the content of the story, the western theme is just a backdrop. It’s an extra character that happens to set the scene beautifully.”

That scene was set in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and the desert environment was key in crafting Murray’s gritty onscreen appearance. “It was about 100 degrees out, so that very much helped me get the sweaty look,” said Murray. “But by nature, I’m more of an outdoorsy guy. My wife and I do a lot of camping, and my guys and I go out and do primitive camping. That’s kind of my life, so I’m pretty much always bearded up and a little dirty. I felt very at home during filming.”

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Credit: Courtesy

Murray’s penchant for the outdoors helped him channel his inner outlaw. “It’s great when you can sit down in the dirt and if your wardrobe gets dirty, that just makes it that much better,” he said. “The motto of the shoot was, ‘More sweat, more blood, more dirt!’” But there was one scene that required a bit less of Murray, at least when it came to his wardrobe. “The first scene we shot was this massage scene,” said Murray. “And boom, just like that, there’s my ass for everyone to see—including my co-star, Francesca, whose face is right there. It was like, ‘Hi, I’m Chad, nice to meet you. Here’s my ass.’ That was pretty much the gist of how that scene went.”

Luckily, Murray and Eastwood quickly recovered from their awkward initial encounter. “I can’t say enough positive things about her,” said Murray. “She’s a true pro and incredibly professional, especially for being so young. Most people her age are always on their phones, but Francesca didn’t touch hers. None of us did—we actually didn’t have our phones on set. There was none of that. It was literally just get to work, find the comfort in the scene, and find the life in it.”

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Credit: Courtesy

And when his longtime fans watch the film, Murray is looking forward to them seeing his dedication to the far-from-Lucas-Scott part. “I hope that they love seeing me so passionate about this opportunity,” he said. “I love making these choices, and I love going out a limb. It was an honest pleasure to make this film, and I think it bleeds through onscreen.”

Outlaws and Angels is in theaters and on VOD today, July 15.