Brendan Wayne – Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Interviews

Brendan Wayne remembers when he was four years old, visiting his grandfather, iconic actor John Wayne, on the set of the 1976 Western “The Shootist.” It was the Duke’s final film of his career. He succumbed to cancer three years later.

“I remember him picking me up with one hand and smiling at me,” Wayne told me during an exclusive interview. “I didn’t even know I was on a movie set. I thought that’s where my grandfather lived.”

Thirty years later, Wayne has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and become an actor. Although Wayne admits he doesn’t have any allusions about becoming as famous as the man who starred in over 80 Westerns including “True Grit” and “The Searchers,” he still wants to give the best he can to an industry that has provided his family so much over the years.

“Everything is relative in life – my relative just happens to be John Wayne,”Wayne said. “That’s what I know. I want to live up to that.”

After earning small roles in films such as “Fast & Furious” and “Couple’s Retreat,”Wayne joined the cast of the sci-fi Western “Cowboys & Aliens.” In the film, he plays Charlie Lyle, a deputy sheriff in the Old West who must help fight off an alien invasion.

During our interview, Wayne talked about any responsibility he feels continuing his grandfather’s legacy and how he thinks the Duke would’ve reacted if alien spacecraft had landed in one of his movies.

What made you want to be a part of this film?

Well, first and foremost Jon Favreau was making the film. You always want to work with guys who are creative. Plus, it’s a Western. I grew up watching Westerns. It’s part of my American heritage. Then I saw there was sci-fi mixed with the classic Western and it looked awesome.

What were your initial thoughts when you heard the title “Cowboys & Aliens?”

My first thought was, “Hey, you mean Indians, right?” Then it was explained to me that I was completely wrong.

You grew up riding horses. Was it easy to transfer your real-life cowboy sensibility into your role as a deputy?

I grew up on horses, but not like the stunt guys working on this movie. I did my own stunts. I had such a good time running up and down hills on these horses. I’m sure I didn’t tarnish my grandfather’s legacy and make myself look stupid. Everyone made sure I looked damn good on a horse.

Do you feel like it’s your responsibility to continue where your grandfather left off or is that way too much to ask of anyone?

I don’t know if it’s way too much to ask. My grandfather was and is important not because he lived up to something, but because he was something and stayed true to that. He was who he was and lived his life that way. As far as feeling any responsibility, I do feel that. I carry that around as a good thing because I don’t know any other way.

What is your favorite film of his?

It changes all the time, but I think at the end of the day if someone asked me to pick one John Wayne movie it would be “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.” His character was such a human character. He wasn’t a good guy, but he did the right thing at the right time.

What did you think of the Coen Brothers remaking “True Grit” and are you open to more interpretations of your grandfather’s work?

You know, I think the good thing about the Coen Brothers’ movie was that it was their own story. I thought there had been enough time between the films where it didn’t feel like they were trying to challenge it directly.

How would your grandfather have handled an alien invasion in one of his movies?

(Laughs) He would’ve put the reigns in his mouth, loaded up his guns, ridden across the plane, shot as fast as he could and told one of those aliens, “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!”

Roberto Orci – Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Imagine a classic Western where a mysterious stranger with a dark past walks into a dusty town and stirs up intrigue among the residents. While the storyline can be associated to dozens of films made over the last 60 years, screenwriter Roberto Orci (“Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III”) and his writing team decided to take that conventional idea and add a little twist.

“We thought, ‘What if that man walks into town with no name and is a man of few words because he was abducted by aliens and doesn’t remember anything?’” Orci explained to me during an exclusive interview about his new film “Cowboys & Aliens.” “In alien lore, people are abducted and then returned to their life and don’t remember what happened. So, we mixed a big Western idea with an alien story. We kept finding these places where the genres intersected very naturally.”

In “Cowboys & Aliens,” which is based on a graphic novel, a town in the Old West is invaded by alien spacecraft. Although enemies when they first meet, loner Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and a cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), must join forces to defeat their new intergalactic foe.

During our interview, Orci, who was born in Mexico City, talked about adjusting the script specifically for Craig and Ford, and whether he thought the actors’ past roles as James Bond and Indiana Jones would help or hurt the project.

What did you first think about the combination of aliens and cowboys for a movie?

I thought, “This is as good as chocolate and peanut butter. Why haven’t I seen this movie yet? Where is it? No one has done it, so I’m going to do it!”

During the writing process, did you already know Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were your leading men?

At first we didn’t know. We had no idea when we were writing we would get the amazing cast we ended up with.

Did you have to make adjustments to the script when they were cast?

When we got Daniel and Harrison, we absolutely developed the role for them. Daniel is such a good actor he can do more with less, so we actually took words out of his mouth because he was so good with his eyes and his body. We didn’t realize Harrison’s role could be so big until we got him. He became a co-lead in the movie.

Since both men have played iconic characters in other movies, did you worry their past work in action adventure films would have audiences subconsciously thinking about those roles?

Worried, no. More like hoping. (Laughs) That doesn’t mean we just hired them to copy what they’ve done before. We like to think that neither Harrison nor Daniel would have signed on to do this movie if they felt we were merely exploiting their image. They had to have real characters. When they came onto the movie, we made sure they felt they had new characters to play. But we also didn’t want to deny their history.

What are the challenges in combining advanced science fiction material to a setting as bare-boned as the Old West?

There were two main challenges: How do you do it tonally so it isn’t a joke? The idea might make some people giggle, but we wanted to take it seriously. That’s not to say it’s not a fun adventure, but we wanted to treat it like a real story. The second thing was, how do you make it believable that humanity would have a chance against an alien race? If aliens landed 120 years ago, how do you make it believable? People back then hadn’t even seen electricity yet. They don’t know what an alien is.

The script had gone through many incarnations over the years. When you finally got your hands on it, what condition was it in? Did you work with what you had or did you start from scratch?

We really didn’t read any previous drafts because we knew [past screenwriters] were developing it as a comedy. We didn’t want to do a comedy. We wanted to take the premise seriously. So, we started over.

Were you worried since crossing genres in the past hasn’t worked very well with movies like “Wild Wild West” and more recently “Jonah Hex?”

We were worried, yes. We didn’t want to be a gimmick. We wanted cowboys and aliens to be something that went together naturally. We didn’t know if it would work, but we liked the title and just started to explore.

Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”), Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Mark Fergus (“Iron Man”), Hawk Otsby (“Iron Man”), Damon Lindelof (debut)

Throughout movie theaters across the country, the trailer for “Cowboys and Aliens” was met with uproarious laughter when the title card was revealed. Although seemingly not any more preposterous of a plot than a teenager infused with spider DNA, audiences chuckled incredulously. With audiences laughing at the mere concept of the film, there was added pressure on director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) to keep a serious tone and to strike a convincing balance between the western and sci-fi genre. What we actually get is a film with no true identity.

The film opens with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of a desert not knowing where or who he is and with a strange device attached to his wrist. When he heads into the nearest town, Lonergan discovers that he is a wanted criminal and is set to be turned over to the feds. While Jake is intercepted by the begrudging Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), aliens attack the town of Absolution, taking many of its residents with it. Though confused and shocked by the events, Jake, Colonel, the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), and others band together to go on a rescue mission to fight the alien race and recover their loved ones who have been abducted.

For a film starring two strong actors and a supporting cast to match, the acting in “Cowboys and Aliens” is incredibly flat. Both Craig and Ford seem to be going through the motions, giving plastic performances with only a few explosive moments. Not even the always-dependable Sam Rockwell (“Moon”) can muster a memorable performance.  However, the actors are not totally at fault here. With a cheesy, cliché-ridden script, the writers (five accredited ones to be exact) take a solid cast and give them nothing to do with their characters. No effort is made to give us a reason to root for these people other than the obvious “us vs. them” reasoning.

One of the biggest problems surrounding “Cowboys and Aliens” is that it attempts to combine two genres, and in the process fails on being a good version of either. The Western elements are not nearly compelling enough. While the familiar costumes and sets are there, the swagger and strong characters of true Westerns are sadly missing. The film incorporates its sci-fi elements with generic and predictable action beats, there for the sole purpose of showing the aliens and what they can do. It has the same tired and predictable sci-fi moments that you’ve seen a hundred times before.  You know when an alien is going to meet its end and you know when some unsuspecting human is going to get snatched.  It’s been done before, and in much more interesting ways. When coupled with some spotty CGI work, the end product is a film that turns out being a mediocre sci-fi movie set in the Old West.

But beyond all of its shortcomings at mashing genres and at a run time of about two hours, the biggest problem is that “Cowboys and Aliens” is unnecessarily long-winded and isn’t very much fun. It relies so heavily on mesmerizing you with its visuals that no care is given to the story.  And while the trailer provided audiences with laughs, the actual film is more likely to produce yawns.