Cowboys & Aliens

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Cowboys & Aliens is an upcoming American science fiction Western film starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. The film, directed by Jon Favreau, is based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Cowboys & Aliens is scheduled to be released in the United States and Canada on July 29, 2011 and in other territories on ensuing weekends.

In 1873 Arizona, a loner named Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens with no memory of his past and a mysterious shackle around his wrist. He enters the town of Absolution where he learns that he is a notorious criminal wanted by many people, including Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who rules the town with an iron fist. Absolution soon faces an even greater threat when alien spaceships attack the town. While his shackle holds the key to defeating the aliens, Lonergan must ally with Dolarhyde and other former enemies to make a stand against them.[3]

Cowboys & Aliens is directed by Jon Favreau and is based on the comics of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The project began development in 1997 when Universal Pictures and DreamWorks bought film rights to a concept pitched by Rosenberg, who had been a president at Malibu Comics. They hired Steve Oedekerk to write and direct the film, which Oedekerk planned to do after completing Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. Rosenberg, who formed Platinum Studios to pursue adapting Cowboys & Aliens and other Malibu Comics properties into film and television, joined as a producer.[4] By 1998, Oedekerk left the project to pursue a remake of the 1964 film The Incredible Mr. Limpet with Jim Carrey.[5] By 2004, the film rights were acquired by Columbia Pictures, who did not move the project beyond development.[6]

In 2006, Rosenberg published Cowboys & Aliens as a graphic novel. In the following year, Universal and DreamWorks partnered again to adapt Cowboys & Aliens into a film.[7] In June of 2008, Robert Downey Jr. entered negotiations to star in the film as Zeke Jackson, a former Union Army gunslinger.[8] While Downey Jr. was making Iron Man 2, he told director Jon Favreau about Cowboys & Aliens. Favreau investigated the project,[9] and in September of 2009, he joined as director.[10] Downey Jr. left the project in January of 2010 to star in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,[11] and later in the month, Daniel Craig was hired to replace him.[12] Favreau said that Craig's portrayal as James Bond "brings a certain virtuosity".[13] He also described Craig, "On the one hand, he's like this Jason Bourne type, a leading man who's also a lethal character, but on the other hand, he's also got a lot of humanity and vulnerability to him."[14]

In April of 2010, Harrison Ford was cast alongside Craig.[15] Favreau had cast Craig and Ford in the film because they were actors that suited the action-adventure roles so the characters would be less seen as comedic. The director compared Ford in particular to John Wayne in having "a sense of history" with the actor and the role.[13] Before Cowboys & Aliens, Ford's only Western film was The Frisco Kid in 1979.[16] While Ford is well-known for playing Indiana Jones, the filmmakers wanted to avoid giving him a cowboy hat that would remind audiences too much of Jones. Writer Alex Kurtzman said, "We needed to make sure that—no pun intended—we tipped a hat to iconography of Harrison Ford and also presented the audience with a very different version."[17]

Olivia Wilde was cast in one of the lead roles, and Favreau called Wilde's character the key to the film.[9]Sam Rockwell was also cast in a supporting role as Doc. The character was described as a large Mexican in the original script,[18] but when Favreau and the writers learned of Rockwell's interest in the film, they reconceived and expanded the role.[19] Favreau himself is known for appearing in his films, but for Cowboys & Aliens, he chose not to have a cameo because he thought it would affect the tone of the film.[9]

When asked about how the film was developing, Rosenberg stated, "It's incredible. Sometimes it's like seeing exactly what was going through my head when I first had that spark in my head as a kid. Jon Favreau's bringing his own talent and vision with the adaptation, but at the same time it remains true to what I was really trying to get at in the original story."[20]

Steven Spielberg, one of the film's executive producers, visited the director and the writers during pre-production to look over the script and the artwork. He provided Favreau with a collection of classic Western films.[14] Spielberg also invited the director and the writers to a private screening of several Western films and provided live commentary on how to make one properly.[21] The films included Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, and Destry Rides Again.[16]

In the film's decade as a developing project under several studios, different versions of the screenplay were drafted by numerous screenwriters, beginning with Oedekerk. Other screenwriters involved were David Hayter, Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, Jeffrey Boam, Thompson Evans, and Chris Hauty.[8] When Universal and DreamWorks re-partnered in 2007, they had hired Hawk Ostby and Mark Fergus.[7] In 2009, Ostby and Fergus were replaced by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Damon Lindelof.[22] Kurtzman and Orci watched and analyzed American Western films including The Searchers. Orci said, "The first draft was very kind of jokey and broad and then it went very serious. You kind of swing back and forth between the two extremes and the tone until you find the exact right point where a Western and a sci-fi movie can really shake hands without it seeming unnatural."[18] "Imagine you're watching Unforgiven and then Aliens land," Orci explained.[23]

Orci also said, "The comic has the themes of enemies uniting to fight a common enemy and has the setting of that specific time period, so we kept the inspiration from all of that. In terms of the specifics of the story and who these characters are, we wanted the audience to be surprised and to not feel like they've already seen everything if they were fans of the comic. So, while the themes and the setting and many of the elements are a great inspiration, the story is completely adapted and translated for live action."[24] The aliens were loosely based on the Anunnaki gods of Babylonian religion, who have a distinct interest in gold.[25]

On June 30, 2010, principal photography for Cowboys & Aliens began[26] at Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico.[27] One of the filming locations was Plaza Blanca, also known as "The White Place", where Western films like The Missing, 3:10 to Yuma, City Slickers, Young Guns and The Legend of the Lone Ranger were also filmed.[21]Sound stage work took place in Los Angeles, with additional location shooting at Randsburg, California.[26] Filming finished on September 30.[28]

A scene in which Craig's character rides a horse alongside a ravine and jumps down it onto a spacecraft emulated many scenes in American Western films where cowboys rode along a moving train and jumped on it. Favreau said the scene referenced the one in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones chases a truck and noted that a similar scene existed in the 1939 film Stagecoach, saying "We're constantly referencing back to our roots."[13]

Scott Chambliss was hired as the production designer based on his work on Star Trek, produced by Orci and Kurtzman.[29] The visual effects were created by Industrial Light & Magic, represented by Roger Guyett as the visual effects supervisor.[30]

Favreau noted that Cowboys & Aliens focused on a specific aspect of the alien genre which mostly revolved around the films of the eighties.[13] "And although we have quite a bit of CG – I like the way they told stories before – before you could show everything with CG. And it was a real unveiling of the creature, little by little, and using lighting and camera work and music to make it a very subjective experience. And so we tried to preserve that here," he pointed out.[21]

Cowboys & Aliens will not be shown in 3-D. When approached with the idea by DreamWorks, Favreau was not interested, stating that Westerns should be shot only on film (as opposed to being shot digitally, which is required for modern 3D technology).[31] "That would be like filming in black and white and colorizing it," he reasoned.[32]

Director Jon Favreau sought in Cowboys & Aliens a plausible approach to how humans from the late 19th century could confront extraterrestrial beings armed with advanced weaponry. He said, "It was very well laid out, well planned, and there were a lot of discussions with a lot of actors who called me to task on things that seemed too convenient, so we made sure we earned each step." The director also sought to maintain a Western tone as aliens appeared in the film, saying, "It's very easy to just cut the string and then all of a sudden the action starts and you're in Independence Day."[14] Favreau cited the works of John Ford and Sergio Leone as sources of inspiration as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[18] Favreau also wanted the science fiction element to stand on its own,[14] referencing Alien, Predator, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.[18] He said of both genres, "It's about finding the intersection of those two genres... If you do it right, it honors both, and it becomes interesting and clever and a reinvention of two things that people understand the conventions of, instead of just a retread or remake or sequel or reboot of a film you've seen before."[14]

In the Americas, the Native Americans were an indigenous culture that were conquered by European settlers. Favreau compared the film to the historical confrontation "in the frustration of not having the technology to allow you to prevail". He said. "It's always the low-tech culture that feels powerless when faced with an enemy that has technology on their side." In the film, the cowboys are the low-tech culture, and the aliens with advanced technology possess the belief of Manifest Destiny. Favreau also said of the premise, "It allows the cowboys and Native Americans to come together, which would be impossible had there not been a greater common enemy. It sets the Western up in a very classic way and then turns it on its ear."[13] When the aliens appear, the film becomes a road movie in which the main characters try to track the aliens, team up with different groups, and ultimately confront the aliens. Favreau compared the gathering to The Magnificent Seven in facing seemingly insurmountable odds in their confrontation.[33

Cowboys & Aliens, which crosses genres with the American Western element of cowboys and the science fiction element of extraterrestrials, has an "inherently comic" title and premise.[2] At the San Diego Comic-Con International in July of 2010, director Jon Favreau hosted a presentation and was accompanied by the film's primary cast members, including Harrison Ford in his first Comic-Con appearance.[32] In the presentation, Favreau explained to audiences that he intended the film as a serious mix of the Western styles of Sergio Leone and John Ford and "really scary" science fiction like Alien and Predator. The first trailer for the film appeared in the following November, and The New York Times reported that film audiences found the premise comedic. Eddie Egan, the president of marketing at Universal Pictures, acknowledged the misconception and said, "The trailer is the first very public step in reconciling the tone of the movie with the more immediate effect of the title on its own." The studio anticipated a marketing campaign that would demonstrate that the film is "a tough-minded adventure" like Unforgiven by Clint Eastwood.[2]

During the Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011, the studio aired a TV spot for Cowboys & Aliens. Hours before the American football game, Favreau used Twitter to link followers to the spot online. Entertainment Weekly reported, "It... roused the geek-hive fan base and stirred new speculation about his hybrid of classic Westerns and extraterrestrial-invasion thrillers."[34] After the spot aired, Favreau said the first trailer was intended as an introduction to pique people's curiosity and that the Super Bowl TV spot was "showing more of the sense of adventure as things unfold".[13]

In April of 2011, Favreau and Roberto Orci appeared at

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