ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- Thousands filled the seats of Abilene’s Paramount theater for the local premiere of “Chocolate Lizards”, a film based off of a 1999 Novel written by McMurry University Professor Cole Thompson and based in the Abilene-Buffalo Gap area.

“I was raised in the oil field, and then after I went to graduate school I worked for about 12 years in the oil field mainly here around Abilene. I was just struck by how colorful characters they really are. They’re a little bit rough you know but they’re also wonderfully kind and it’s really kind of a wonderful Texas spirit,” said Thompson.

Thompson crafting the tale of an aspiring actor from Boston that loses everything only to wind up in Buffalo Gap, Texas. There he finds a father figure in a roughneck with his own set of problems and they find the strength to chase their dreams in one another.

“Of course the local crowd is gonna be excited about a hometown story, but it’s also a tribute to Texas,” said Film Director Mark Bristol.

Bristol signed on to direct the screenplay written by Julie Denny and her husband Mike – a painstaking process that took 20 plus years of revisions, crew changes, and even the pandemic, but Thompson says he feels it’s all been worth it.

“I understood it was going to evolve into something else but…I trust them, and it turns out for good reason because they really have created something wonderful,” said Thompson.

Academy Award Nominees Thomas Haden Church (Merle) and Bruce Dern (Scheermeyer) signed on to star along side Carrie-Anne Moss (Faye) of The Matrix fame, and up and coming actor Rudy Pankow (Erwin Vandeveer) known for his role on the Netflix series The Outer Banks.

Brad Leland is most recognizable from Friday Night lights acts in the role of Max Dugan. He and his co-stars, minus Pankow, were all present at The 7pm premiere at the Paramount Theater Wednesday night.

“I like it. It’s better than Hollywood,” Leland told KTAB/KRBC.

Leland also sharing an interesting factoid about his connection to the local area.

“I’m feeling some tremendous nostalgia because I actually went to first grade here in Abilene, Texas… And the writer and his wife, she and I are the same age. We went to Bonham Elementary school at the same time,” Leland shared.

The night was full of movie magic for all in attendance, but especially those that had a hand in crafting the film.

“I feel euphoric. This is the town where the novel was written. It is the town where Mike and Julie Denny had the dream 20 plus years ago to turn this into a movie,” Bristol expressed.

Thompson shared his immense gratitude to be a part of such a large scale project, having had his first novel rejected. He says the success of this story is the very essence of what his story has come to mean.

“I’ve seen the movie three times now and I’ve enjoyed it more each time… I mean the story is about fighting for your dream,” Thompson said.

Chocolate Lizards the book is available on many online shopping portals, though the film has not yet been released to the public.