'Brokeback' Writers on Westerns for Scott Cooper & Ridley Scott
by Ethan Anderton
December 15, 2010
Though writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana haven't scripted a feature film since the controversial Brokeback Mountain, the duo is sticking to the western world, albeit with a little less man-on-man action. Deadline reports the writers are behind two developing projects for two different directors. They're already working on an adaptation of Paulette Jiles' novel The Color of Lightning at 20th Century Fox with Ridley Scott lined up to direct and they're also in the midst of a deal at Warner Bros. for an adaptation of S.C. Gwynne's novel Empire of the Summer Moon which will be directed Scott Cooper, the director of Crazy Heart.
There's no telling when Ridley Scott might get around to directing The Color of Lightning, but his Scott Free production banner is producing that and the Empire of the Summer Moon adaptation as well. For Scott's potential directing gig, the story is said to be loosely based on a factual tale which inspired the classic John Wayne western The Searchers:
Britt Johnson is a free black man traveling with a larger band of white settlers in search of a better life for his wife, Mary, and their children, despite the many perils of the journey itself. After a war party of 700 Comanche and Kiowa scalp, rape and murder many of the whites, Mary and her children get separated from Britt and become the property of a Native named Gonkon. Britt must wait through the winter before he can set out to rescue and reclaim his wife and children, only to discover that not only does he not have enough money to bargain with the Indians but also that his own family's fate has as much to do with land disputes and treaties as it does with his determination to get revenge.
As for Empire of the Summer Moon, the story also deals with the Comanches, but they tribe is not made out to be the villains. The story follows the great Comanche warrior Quanah, who held the westward expansion of settlers at bay for 40 years, and led to the formation of the Texas Rangers to fight against them. The author had this to say about the story:
"Quanah was the last great Comanche chief, considered the key to what they called 'The Comanche Barrier' to settling the West. He came to power very young and led the Comanches in the last great wars against the white man. One of the interesting parts of the story was that his mother was the most famous captive of the era. She was the white squaw who refused to return, until she was finally brought back against her will by the Texas Rangers."
In an industry where westerns are frowned upon and generally don't garner a lot of attention from audiences, it's interesting that two are being developed for such high profile directors. The stories certainly sound interesting and if Universal's Cowboys & Aliens can bring some attention back to the genre then these two new projects just might have a chance. If not, McMurtry and Ossana may have to think about switching to a different genre. What do you think?