When it comes to the fate of the Western film genre, some folks see the glass half empty, but more than a few choose to see it half full. “Hollywood likes nothing more than imitating success, so if this picture is a hit I guarantee you there will be moreWesterns to follow,” said Tom Ortenberg, president of Theatrical Films for Lionsgate Films, a subsidiary of Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation.
“This picture” is Lionsgate’s 3:10 to Yuma, scheduled for a Sept. 7, 2007 release, and it’s just one of a trio of new Westerns to air this fall. Comanche Moon is slated for airing later this season on CBS, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is due out Sept. 21.
The action-packed 3:10 to Yuma promises to be more than a mere remake of the 1957 classic starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, a tale in which the Heflin character—in desperate need of money to support his family and ranch—volunteers to transport outlaw leader Ford to a train depot, knowing that the outlaw’s gang is near and bearing down hard. The muchawaited remake, with Russell Crowe in the Ford role and Christian Bale in Heflin’s, promises to again play two intense leading men off one another in what should be a contemporary take on traditional values.
“You’ve got a terrific director in James Mangold,” said Ostenberg, “who is absolutely at the top of his game, directing stars like Russell Crowe, Christian Bale—both of whom are beyond terrific in the movie. “In addition, as wonderful as our lead actors are, the supporting cast of people like Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, and GretchenMull really adds some backbone to an already great movie. Ben is unbelievable. He gives a star-making, revelatory performance.
“The film feels timeless, because not only does it work in its own right as a Western, but the subtext and the story of a father [Christian Bale as Dan Evans] trying to prove himself in the eyes of his son also works wonderfully.”
Ostenberg cited what he called a great line in the film, one that occurs “when nobody can understand why Dan is going to such lengths to bring in Russell’s [outlaw] character. “He [Bale] says, ‘When this is all over, you tell them I brought Ben Wade to justice when nobody else would.’ That line, the way it is delivered, will give everybody in the audience goose bumps and bring tears to eyes. I really think the film will become an instant classic.”
In another fall offering, a Warner Brothers Pictures/Virtual Studios film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, offers yet another, perhaps deeper, examination of one of America’s most notorious outlaws. Director and writer Andrew Dominik based the story on the novel by Ron Hansen, profiling the charismatic and unpredictable Jesse James’ (Brad Pitt) private life and public exploits, including plans for his next great robbery.
James wages war on his enemies who are trying to capture the man, reward money, and a little notoriety of their own. Robert Ford joins the gang but becomes resentful of the outlaw who finds that the greatest threat to his life may ultimately come from those he trusts most.
Other cast members include Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Renner, Paul Schneider, and Sam Rockwell. Release is scheduled for Oct. 5, 2007.
Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn, and Rachel Griffiths will star in Comanche Moon, a six-hour miniseries based on the book by Larry McMurtry. Other stars include Karl Urban, Graham Greene, Linda Cardellini, Elizabeth Banks, and Wes Studi. The prequel to Lonesome Dove will broadcast on the CBS Television Network, scheduled for November 2007.
As the film unfolds, Texas Rangers Augustus McCrae (Zahn) and Woodrow F. Call (Urban) are in their middle years, dealing with ever-increasing tensions of those years. Kilmer plays Capt. Inish Scull, a Yankee aristocrat and hero of the recently concluded Mexican War, married to Inez Scull (Griffiths), who fills her time with other men when he’s away from home.
McCrae and Call enlist with a Ranger troop to pursue outlaws Buffalo Hump (Greene), the great Comanche war chief; Kicking Wolf (Jonathon Joss), celebrated Comanche horse thief; and a deadly Mexican bandit king with a penchant for torture. The rangers also encounter Buffalo Hump’s violent son Blue Duck (Adam Beach).
CBS Paramount Network Television and Sony Pictures Television coproduced Comanche Moon, and executive producers include Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana as well as Paul Frank, Julie Yorn, and Adam Shulman of Firm Films.
These films may be just the jumpstart for a revival of Westerns, but Hollywood looks to audiences to cue them for possible future movie hits, so that the Western genre’s place in production studios is never fully assured.
“The only way audiences are going to get more of these is if they support movies like this one,” said Ostenberg of 3:10 to Yuma. “This film will be everywhere. It is going into more than 2,000 theaters on September 7. It’s truly going to be people like the readers of American Cowboy that are going to help make the difference.”
"The only way audiences are going to get more of these is if they support movies like this one,”
“This film will be everywhere. It is going into more than 2,000 theaters on September 7. It’s truly going to be people like the readers of American Cowboy that are going to help make the difference.”