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Cowboys and Aliens a Spielberg special


IT’S been 14 years since Scott Mitchell Rosenberg first started what was to be the Cowboys and Aliens graphic novel, the title of which was so compelling that the movie rights were bought even before the book was finished.
But it’s taken this long for filmmakers to figure out the conundrum of how to bring these two classic genres together on film – a film which is launched in cinemas across the UK this week.
The huge task of adapting Cowboys and Aliens from book to big screen fell into the hands of Iron Man screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, as well as writer Steve Oedekerk, known for his work on Bruce Almighty.
“We were brought onto Cowboys & Aliens just as the Iron Man shoot was wrapping up, and were offered a chance to create an entire story universe on a blank slate,” said Ostby. “There was an existing graphic novel, which we very much admire, but we chose instead to be inspired by the novel’s indelible cover art: a cowboy on horseback, racing away from a looming spaceship overhead.”
Despite the title sounding a little far-fetched, the writers, together with executive producer Stephen Spielberg, believed that the two different genres were meant for each other.
“It occurred to us as we started writing our first draft, ‘Why hasn’t anyone done this before? These two genres belong together.’
“We imagined the epic grandeur of John Ford’s The Searchers, infused with the magic of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” said Fergus. “Every character in the piece touches on a classic Western archetype, but each also strives to be a rich, unique character in their own right.”
In 2008, Spielberg brought writers/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci onto the project to get it ready for preproduction and along with Damon Lindelof, the men reworked the screenplay to create a shooting script that fulfilled Spielberg and Rosenberg’s ultimate vision for the project.
“What I respect about Alex and Bob is that they wanted to keep this concept authentic,” said Spielberg. “They’ve made it all real from the standpoint of the characters.
“Even if the aliens never came down in this film, there’s still a tremendous story of conflicted characters in a range war. It’s one that starts to bubble up to the surface in the very first act of Cowboys & Aliens.
“If it was just cowboys, it would be a pretty darn good cowboy story. If it was just aliens, it would be a pretty good alien story unto itself, but then when you combine the two… it’s wonderful.”
The men found the trick would be to strive for a balance between these distinct worlds of the lawless West and alien invaders.
As Orci says, however, it wasn’t long before they understood the rationale for the project’s lengthy gestation.
“Although we heard the title and said, ‘Let’s do it!,’ when we sat down to write, we realized it was going to be much harder than we initially thought," he said. "We knew that it had to feel organic and had to weave together naturally.”
The collision of genres gave the writers a rich palette of archetypal characters and situations with which to play.
They took the elements that fans of the Western are familiar with and reinterpreted them through the lens of an alien-invasion film.
It was during the Comic-Con convention in 2009 that Kurtzman and Orci bumped into director, producer, writer and actor Jon Favreau, who was brought on board to direct the film.
“I had heard about the project during the time that I was making Iron Man,” remembers Favreau. “I thought it sounded cool, so when Alex and Bob approached me, I read the script and signed on. It was a great script, a real page-turner.
“My idea was to embrace both genres and through the juxtaposition of the classic form of both the alien-invasion movie and the Western create something new and exciting.
“I believe that people are thirsting for something like this.”
It was then that the filmmakers went about casting their unique flick and while action star Daniel Craig may not be the first person one considers when the words ‘American cowboy’ come to mind, Favreau, who transformed Robert Downey Jr. into a superhero in Iron Man, has a knack for inspired casting.
“He was the first cast member we brought on,” explains the director. “I realized in talking with him and looking at him that he has this gruff, handsome, Steve McQueen-type quality.”
A longtime fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as Alien and Blade Runner, Craig didn’t feel as if it would be a big leap to bring these genres together and prepared for the part by watching as many Westerns as he could.
“I watched a lot of John Wayne Westerns, but my favourite ones are the ones from the ’70s—movies like Little Big Man and those so-called dirty Westerns where there’s a little more reality,” he said.
Harrison Ford’s character, Woodrow Dolarhyde, was one of the last to be cast and although Spielberg and Ford have a long working relationship, it wasn’t a given that the man who is inextricably linked with Indiana Jones and Han Solo would come aboard the project.
And while Ford was initially intrigued by the project, he was also skeptical – that was until Favreau talked him round.
“What’s interesting is that these people back in 1875 in the Old West didn’t have our experience of space travel and planetary understanding when the invasion happens,” Ford explained.
“They have no context in which to understand what was occurring.
“The only possible context is the one that was given to them by the preacher in town.
“The aliens were possibly demons and remained demons throughout the telling of the story.”
Cowboys and Aliens is in cinemas now, certificate 12A.

FROM http://www.gethampshire.co.uk/entertainment/film_and_cinema/s/2098349_cowboys_and_aliens_a_spielberg_special

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