In theatres everywhere this Friday (July 29, 2011) is Cowboys & Aliens, a movie that is quite interesting for us at Life For Mile from a production point of view.
This Ron Howards and Brian Grazer production wrestled with the same problems that we are facing with Life For Mile. One of the major challenges is how do you combine the western moviemaking style with another genre (in C&A’s case, it is Sci-Fi) and make that work.
Producer (not director) Ron Howard’s idea was to branch out from the western genre and somehow extend from it. That was the central idea and also what director Jon Favreau had been able to achieve. Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg was involved with the same production in a previous incarnation until Ron (Da Vinci Code) Howard ultimately took over and developed it into what Cowboys & Aliens is today.
Harrison Ford who played a supporting role in the movie described the production as taking the ‘humanity of a western and folds into it a sense of contemporary interests.’ Daniel Craig, the hero of the story, is somewhat of a superhuman endowed with alien technology. He is the crucial bridge that connects the Wild West and the Alien World in the movie.
I like the word ‘humanity’ that Ford used, which means that the movie is not all Action. There are story elements that appeal to the audience on a human level instead of just an assault on our ‘animal’ senses (though many of us, myself included, rather enjoy that unabashedly as well) like a pure action movie would do.
One of the western genre masters is John Ford. His classic western movies like The Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man, The Searchers etc., all have interesting human dramas in them. Many John Ford’s movies are not action movies but western dramas. It is the human conflicts, predicament with the environment, the times, character studies etc. that make the drama intriguing. This is what Harrison Ford is referring to.
C&A director Jon Favreau also described Harrison Ford as the iconic actor to Jon’s generation as John Wayne was to Harrison’s generation. This John Wayne reference is particularly interesting as Wayne was a star that was very much associated with the western movies that John Ford made. One of the approaches that Favreau took in making C&A was to be true to the structures of the western movies i.e. John Ford, Sam Peckinpah etc. One of Favreau’s concerns was to make sure the western genre of C&A be authentic and not a slapstick tongue-in-cheek version of it like Will Smith’s Wild Wild West or Jackie Chan’s Shanghai Noon was.
Life For Mile would be similar in the same vein. It is a real-life historical drama that has genuine western genre elements – the frontier town, railroad construction, gunslingers etc. The story also contains mystery, horror and supernatural subplots as well but Life For Mile won’t be all action-packed and of course, no sci-fi elements.
Life For Mile is a real-life drama that took place in the 1880s where the Old West was very much part of the story.
Life For Mile Movie –
Actor/Executive Producer – Stephen Chang
Producer/Screenwriter – Ray Van Eng
Life For Mile Pre-production stills #1
Life For Mile Pre-production stills #2