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'Brokeback' Writers on Westerns for Scott Cooper & Ridley Scott

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December 15, 2010

Cooper / Scott

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?

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  • Xerxex
    I for one love Scott's body of work and even enjoyed Body of Lies, haven't seen Robin Hood and probably won't, and him directing a western just sounds awesome.
  • Mark It Zero
    Larry McMurtry should headline this news piece, not "Brokeback Mountain" writers... I understand "Brokeback" is more interesting... so I'll let that pass. But to suggest McMurtry to switch to a different genre? You are out of your mind! He is the premier Western writer of our time. I know most people think "Lonesome Dove" as a 1980's soap opera TV show, but that series of six books hasn't been topped in my opinion. Western or not, I'd still stand behind it! It did win the Pulitzer, you know;) I know he's dabbled outside of Westerns here and there, but if you ask me... he shouldn't;)
  • Marcus
    The script for Brokeback Mountain was a solid, no-bullshit adaptation. With these two writers on board, both these projects should be kick ass.
  • beavis
    i'm always ready for a new western!
  • macca
    Did you not see the excellent remake of 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe? It was a successful film, well received if not exactly a blockbuster, and may be partly responsible for the new interest in the genre.
  • Having worked on western films in Alberta (recruted because of ranch experience) I live for the genre. My only mild complaint is there seems to be a lack of people that actually study the time periods to dress the actors appropriately.   3:10 to Yuma was an excellent movie but the wardrobe was nowhere near as accurate or as well done as the Lonesome Dove series. (as for 3:10's talent, it was alright.  I suggest watching the original with Glenn Ford, it's amazing) If the project has Larry McMurtry involved, hopefully the production company will be sticklers for detail and not just go for the easy route of throwing a faded bandana on khaki (Bale's character) or the big conchos on Mr. Crows hat Like in 3:10 but follow some examples given like the characters on Lonesome Dove or even Sam Elliot in Conagher.  C'mon! let's see some period buffalo coats, woolly chaps and SlimJim holsters with the actors trained in how to wear them, and for that matter pronounce the words of the genre properly. After all, you call 'em "Shaps".  "Chaps" are a couple of young lads from England.  Either way trust me, I'm not ranting and can't wait for the films!

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