James Mangold & Cathy Konrad, 3:10 To Yuma Interview

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline caught up with producer Cathy Konrad and writer/director James Mangold to talk about their new movie, "3:10 to Yuma,” a modern take on the classic Western by Elmore Leonard which stars Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Logan Lerman, Alan Tudyk, and Gretchen Mol.

In Arizona in the late 1800's, infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the "3:10 to Yuma," a train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other’s respect. But with Wade’s outfit on their trail – and dangers at every turn – the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny.

Cathy Konrad has produced sixteen feature films including "Girl, Interrupted, ”Kate and Leopold,” "Citizen Ruth,” "Wide Awake,” "Cop Land,” and the final installment of the highly successful "Scream” trilogy. She is widely recognized in the industry for launching new filmmakers and writers, and for her choices in material, which are both artistically progressive and commercially viable.

In 2005, Konrad and her partner, writer/director James Mangold, completed "Walk the Line,” a biopic about the turbulent life of music legend Johnny Cash and his lifelong romance with singer/songwriter June Carter. Mangold co-wrote and directed, and Konrad produced under their production banner Tree Line Film. The film received five Academy Award nominations and its star, Reese Witherspoon, won for Best Performance by an Actress.

With six feature films to date, including the award winning "Walk the Line,” "Heavy,” and "Girl, Interrupted,” James Mangold is a director known for making sophisticated ensemble films in a wide range of genres while keeping constant the powerful themes, original characterizations, sterling performances and striking imagery that have come to define and unify his work.

Konrad and Mangold have several other high profile projects at Tree Line, including "Mute Witness,” a remake of the British indie thriller, set up at Spyglass. Other recent projects include the series "Men In Trees,” which stars Anne Heche and debuted on ABC in Fall 2006. Here’s what Cathy Konrad and James Mangold had to tell us about their latest collaboration on "3:10 to Yuma”:

Do you hope this movie is going to rejuvenate interest in the Western?

CATHY KONRAD: I think of course if it inspires other people to make more movies like this, then great. I made it because Jim, when I met him in 1995, said one of his favorite movies was "3:10 to Yuma.” We were making "Cop Land” at the time. Actually one of the characters in "Cop Land” was named Freddie Heflin after Van Heflin who was in "3:10 to Yuma,” and the material in and of itself, Western genre aside, was a great, incredible story about two men and their journey together. And so I just think the story is good, the scenery is great, and it is set in the West, but the movie as a whole is about two characters and their struggle which is a great, classic, and timeless story.

Q: Did you have trouble getting this made because of the Western setting?

CATHY KONRAD: Yeah, and we had trouble getting Walk the Line made because it was a musical story.

JAMES MANGOLD: And the country setting.

CATHY KONRAD: Yeah, and the country setting. I think what’s always interesting and rewarding for us is if Hollywood has a tendency to want to say no to things that haven’t been done in awhile. I made "Scream” in 1995 when no one was making horror movies and in fact I remember when that movie came out, the trades called it DOA, dead on arrival, and of course that proved to be different. I think sometimes when things haven’t been done in awhile, the tendency is to say let’s not do that. No one wants to see it. And in reality I think as filmmakers, it’s a really interesting challenge to say hey, we haven’t seen it in awhile, maybe we should see it again. It’s not because people weren’t interested. It’s because we aren’t making it. So I hope we made a good one and I hope we made one that makes people interested in seeing as many good ones as there are.

Q: How did Christian Bale and Russell Crowe become involved? Were they your first choices?

CATHY KONRAD: Definitely.

JAMES MANGOLD: Well Russell was our first choice. I think Christian was a bit more of an enigma to me and it took meeting him. I was not sure whether he was Dan Evans until I spent some time with him. But immediately upon that, I think I was convinced. But long ago when we first started developing the material, it was Russell who I had in mind because it’s a rare cat that can both play the acts of villainy that you see in the film and at the same time not be a villain.

Q: In the press notes, you say that he’s himself in the film as well as being true to the genre of the time.

JAMES MANGOLD: What’s the quote? What do I say?

CATHY KONRAD: He is himself.

JAMES MANGOLD: I just don’t want to accept your proposition because I don’t think Russell is himself in the movie so read me what’s in there.

Q: It states "Russell truly is himself in ‘LA Confidential’ and ‘Gladiator’ and ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and yet at the same time he’s completely true to the period.” I want to know what you meant when you said, "Russell truly is himself”?

JAMES MANGOLD: He brings his soul to the work. He brings his true essence to the work. You have to kind of unwind my mind to understand that, because I think there’s two things. One is I’m usually arguing back a kind of existing predilection in the media and the general public to evaluate actors by how much they transform themselves from what you see on the street to what you see in the movie. So that the greater the transformation, the greater the acting, and that’s bullshit. So that for me, to start from that, that turns acting into sort of an Olympic event about being a chameleon as opposed to…

A close-up in a movie is like an x-ray. Therefore the greatest gift an actor can give you in that close-up is something even under that magnification that seems true. The only way to do that – and the greatest actors from Marlon Brando to Russell Crowe and everything in between – is to deliver a piece of themselves. They can’t hide behind accents and decisions and affectations and intellectualizations about a character, that at some point they have to find a way to reveal something where you don’t see them hiding behind a set of decisions. And that’s why I believe he’s so great in a tradition of great actors who share a piece of themselves in every role.

Q: Russell acts very well on a horse. Is that a natural thing?

JAMES MANGOLD: We found that was very true.

CATHY KONRAD: Well he lives on a ranch in Australia and he has a part of the ruggedness of his life in Australia translates. I mean he loves it, he has a ranch, and it’s an actual working ranch. It’s not for play. He has lots and lots of cattle and lots and lots of horses and he works it. He works the ranch with his family so there was a part of that spirit that was easily translated. He’s very comfortable in a saddle, very comfortable on a horse. A lot of the other actors got very well versed in it. They went to cowboy camp but there is something that you gain when you have an actor that has a skill set that is matched well in its physicality for the role.

JAMES MANGOLD: That was true for Christian as well.

CATHY KONRAD: Absolutely.

JAMES MANGOLD: I mean he came in from also the work he’s done on other films where he’s ridden. They’re both really good athletes and I think as a producer and a director, it brings to you a host of opportunities with actors who are that physical and good at being physical and acting through physicality.

CATHY KONRAD: And it was a very physical shoot. I think a lot of people were surprised when we got down and we were shooting in New Mexico and we were working with a lot of animal wranglers and a lot of people that were… that was their life. It’s a very demanding job. I think that the masculinity required and just the daily rigors were played well with Christian and Russell. It was very much authentic to them.

Q: You don’t get a lot of chances to make Westerns so when you’re developing a project, are there certain Western elements that you feel you’ve got to have this in this movie?

JAMES MANGOLD: I don’t look at it like a buffet meal so I guess I didn’t feel like I needed jello or ambrosia but the fact is that I think the biggest problem for the Western is – one thing Cathy and I will discuss a lot – is instead of blaming the world on why things are going wrong, what are we doing wrong. And I think one of the things that has bedeviled the Western – and I think there are couple of key exceptions and I think we all know what they are – is that a lot of Westerns made in the last 20 years are not movies about characters in the mythic period of the West. They’re movies about movies about characters in the mythic period of the West. So what happens is you get in these quoty, post modern kind of extreme which – with no attack on you – but that way of thinking would promote. Like "Oh, I need my Gaby Hayes.” It’s like, "No, you don’t. Tell your story. Do you need a character here or not?”

You don’t need anything that isn’t indigenous to your story. And when they made those movies, they weren’t always looking over everyone’s shoulder like they were making … There was something true about the story itself and what it called for. Part of the kind of hats we popped on as we started making the film was to try and be conscious of making a good film, trying to make a decent film as opposed to taking on the mantle of rebirthing the Western. Just let’s make a movie that works and the rest will take care of itself.

CATHY KONRAD: It was interesting because when we were developing, and I won’t use names, but I do recall when we were homeless and looking for somebody to make the movie, we attended several meetings at the studios and there were a lot of people wondering, kind of asking us to give them guarantees that it would not be dirty and that the guys wouldn’t be sweaty and actually someone said to me, "They’re not going to wear hats, are they? Because you can’t put a hat on the movie star and hide their face. Is it going to be dusty?” And we’re like, "Yeah. It’s hot out there.” [Laughs]

It was interesting because I do think, and I don’t fault the studio systems for wanting to play it safe with whatever, but what’s so great about the movie is that it is a Western and the way that Jim had wanted to shoot this movie was that a lot of attention is often paid to the landscape and a lot of attention is often paid to the scenery. It’s almost as if the characters are part of the scenery so to speak and we really tried to tuck in a little bit closer and get more inside the heads of the story of these people and the feelings and that emotion as opposed to… I mean certainly there are vistas and what not, but it was really about the people. I think we really wanted to do that differently because I think that’s what people want -- to relate to the people.

Q: Were there any Western movies which influenced you?

JAMES MANGOLD: Well we both love "The Outlaw Josey Wales” a lot.


JAMES MANGOLD: There’s a lot of Westerns. Obviously "3:10 to Yuma.” Obviously the cadre of …really there’s a canon of these films. I mean "Shane,” "Once Upon a Time in the West,” the entire (Sergio) Leone trilogy. There’s a whole host of Eastwood Westerns that I think are beautiful. I’m a big fan of John Wayne who I think is really underrated. I’ve watched them all.

CATHY KONRAD: I think visually "Once Upon a Time in the West” was something that we talked a lot about.

JAMES MANGOLD: Yeah. Once thing I really felt strongly about was that the Western… Part of what was going on again in the United States in the last 20 years making Westerns was a kind of Remingtoned-out nostalgic…

CATHY KONRAD: Knott’s Berry farmy…

JAMES MANGOLD:…sweeping wheat fields thing. I felt like in a way if you use a music analogy, like Rock and Roll might have been born in this country but then the British did something very exciting with it and it’s kind of traveled around the world getting reinvented. What happened in Italy with the Western was really important and it was a part of what we missed, meaning I think we haven’t taken it up again using some of the things that they developed. And when we do, it’s kind of tongue in cheeky and bullshit and not really picking up on what was really heartfelt and magnificent about those films, but just kind of the more gimmicky shots or zany moments but not really recognizing what was magnificent in the Spaghetti Westerns and the period.

One of the things that I think was the greatest lesson for me was thinking of the West as not an historical drama which is something that Cathy and I talked a lot about which was the idea that part of what had killed the Western and we felt and the way people view it is that it started to become another period drama in people’s minds as opposed to what it really is which is almost like a science fiction landscape. It’s a mythic landscape. If you really analyze it historically, there’s about 6 or 7 years where the West in the context of the way it’s dramatized really existed. It’s really about a moment of the industrial revolution bearing down on the frontier idea, the post war moment of the Civil War, settlers, and entrepreneurial spirit, fear of religious persecution, big business starting to press down on the little guy. All this stuff happened and it’s the great anxieties of our nation in this great little mythic space.

I think that the great thing about the Spaghetti Westerns is they never focused on where they were taking place. Is this Arizona in 1876 or is it New Mexico in 1824 or is it…? Who gives a shit? Because they were really focused on what was powerful about these films which wasn’t ‘did they own that kind of gun stock at this moment’ or really what was important which is this is a kind of wonderful mythic landscape to play out these themes and not to get lost like you would in the age of innocence as Kathy would say. You know, like the more precious historical film where the china and the silverware and everything is about this precision. That’s not what Westerns are about to me. Anyway, long way around but…

Q: Was there a particular film you saw Russell Crowe in that made you go "this is the guy I want”?

JAMES MANGOLD: "Gladiator.”

CATHY KONRAD: Oh yeah. And I also think in Hollywood every time I go to cast a movie or we go to cast a movie, somehow in my head before we get to the actual casting process, you think there’s a lot more actors available than there really are. Really when it comes down to it, for certain kinds of roles, sometimes there really are just a couple of people that could really be great. What we were talking about Russell before is that there’s a naturalness and an ease to his masculinity that is rare in a movie star working right now in this age range. When you tick off all the things you need, someone to be a certain age, someone to be a certain type, the list is really….


CATHY KONRAD: …very short and he was always someone that we were huge fans of everything.

JAMES MANGOLD: I didn’t need to see Russell in a Western. We didn’t need to know he could do this. I think the point is that "Gladiator” is a Western.


JAMES MANGOLD: In the sense of the structure and the sense of power. There are genres where things get muddled up like, in my opinion, "Brokeback Mountain.” It’s not a Western. It’s a love story. That’s what the architecture of that movie is. It was great press to say because they were wearing hats and there’s horses and sheep that it’s a Western, but…

CATHY KONRAD: …it wasn’t.

JAMES MANGOLD: The bottom line is what the genre means and what the genre has come to mean had nothing to do with that film. It had much more in common with "Love Story” than it did with "Rio Grande.” The fact is that that’s about reality, where "Gladiator” [is about] a man whose family is destroyed and he goes on a path of vengeance to find the one man through all this crap who’s responsible for the destruction of the only thing he loved. Are his actions evil? Are his actions good? Is his determination evil or good? Is he the force of good or are the bad guys? All the gray zones in between and what made that film so powerful and including the sympathetic portrayal by Joaquin of his antagonist I think make that film a great example of a Western structure brought into another kind of film.

Q: You mentioned Russell and Christian being the central characters, but you have Ben Foster who comes in and almost steals the movie with his performance. How did you come to cast him?

CATHY KONRAD: When we were casting the part of Charlie Prince, we had a tremendous amount of interest. I’d say that was the role that we didn’t really know who that could possibly be. So we had the audition process and everybody from A to Z came in because as you said, Westerns aren’t made that much so when you get a chance, it’s like… A lot of actors came out, actors that haven’t read in 10 years, to volley for that part. And Ben, it’s just one of those moments. It was sort of like what happened with Angelina Jolie when we read her for "Girl, Interrupted.” It’s like someone walks in and they just embody this idea and Ben had this kind of a puppy dog possibility, a vicious streak, a kind of neediness, but yet… He was just very potent and he had a body language that was really very interesting. He didn’t just sit in a chair and read for us. He just came with a whole ….

JAMES MANGOLD: He was all over…

CATHY KONRAD: He was all over the room and he was already working on so many ideas and it was great.

Q: After all the actors went to Cowboy Camp, who ended up being the best gunslinger on set?

JAMES MANGOLD: I’m not going there. They were all very good.

CATHY KONRAD: Part of picking the guns was really which character and what kind of gun they would have is a really interesting part of the process of the actors working with the armor on our shoot, Thell Reed. A lot of times I’m familiar going through the wardrobe process with actors where they always say it’s all about their shoes because how they walk is a lot of what helps them feel a certain way about their character. In this case, it was very interesting to watch them figure out how the gun was an extension of part of them as well. It spoke a lot to their past. In the case of Christian, he had been in the war. He was a soldier so what would he have? He’d have his rifle and he would have something else kind of tucked away that could be part of the secret of a life when he was in the war. And, Russell with the hand of god that had the gold cross on the handle. It was sort of like where did that come from? The guns actually told a story in this. They all handled their guns differently. There really wasn’t…

JAMES MANGOLD: Among the three guys, Russell is incredible. He’s worked on his quick draw for years and way predating our movie, and so he’s really adept with guns. At the same time, Christian has not had a lack of using weaponry in his pictures and is incredibly skilled but had different weapons. I mean we never had shoot offs so we could have a winner and Ben was an incredibly fast learner. But I think that Russell had pretty much been around Thell, and if you’re talking about the quickest draw, I think that would be Russell.

Q: You talked about approaching it as a Western but how about approaching it as a remake? The son has a bigger role in this than he did in the original. Can you talk about that?

CATHY KONRAD: Well the son *has* a role. He said goodbye to him on the farm, he said goodbye to his wife, and then he left. Jim and I would talk about this a lot in terms of how to approach a remake. I think the original was splendid and we loved it and we watched it many, many times, but the one thing we always felt when we watched it was, there’s a great beginning and there’s a great end, but there’s the whole journey in the middle. Like how did they get from the town to this other town? The whole journey was missing. And so we thought that that, in and of itself, was a great reason to remake it because you have this incredible tension in the characters which in the original took place primarily in the hotel at the end.

The challenge was how can we drag out this cat and mouse between these two and really ratchet up the tension and keep their stories evolving with clearly some additional physical action along the way for our modern appetite and such. And then, how do we strengthen the relationships? What can we add that was already planted as a seed in the original? Dan’s struggle with his family, the way that his sons might view him, the way that his wife viewed him, the subtext that really wasn’t spoken in the original but I think was plainly there in that one scene which is a wife going, "What are we doing?” and you could kind of see in Alice this questioning of her husband. And we took that idea and planted it with the son because I think that there’s something incredible to study in fathers and sons and how things get passed along and what that does to a man.

JAMES MANGOLD: We always loved the claustrophobia in the third act but we just felt that there was something Playhouse 90 about the original film in the sense that the scope of it and the journey to Contention seemed almost like just a cut.

CATHY KONRAD: It was a cut.

JAMES MANGOLD: In fact, in the original, the wife kind of miraculously arrives right at the end as they’re hopping on the train. We’re like "How the hell did she get there?”

CATHY KONRAD: She didn’t even have a horse. [Laughs]

JAMES MANGOLD: She makes it almost like the journey was nothing. It was like…

CATHY KONRAD: …so easy.

JAMES MANGOLD: But the thing about fathers and sons was really important to me in making the film and a thing that we worked very hard on the script with Brandt and Haas and myself and Stuart Beattie to try and get in there was the idea that the film was about dual families -- the family of the gang, Russell’s family if you will, Ben Wade’s family. One thing that was really important and I think makes Charlie Prince more interesting in our film and gave Ben a lot to play is in a way, he’s another son and father relationship in the film where you have this kind of mirror between an unadoring son in Christian’s case and a very adoring son in the other, and I think it produces a lot of interesting energies in the film.

Q: Can you talk about the music in the film?

JAMES MANGOLD: I was really interested in a score that didn’t sound completely sweeping and conventional and that had ideas. One thing we worked with Marco (Beltrami) a lot about was… What got him the job was a beautiful score he had done for "Three Burials (of Melquiades),” Tommy Lee Jones’s movie. If you saw the movie early, you probably saw it with Three Burials on it. It was a very, very powerful and evocative and I thought very kind of….

CATHY KONRAD: …modern.

JAMES MANGOLD: …modern sound. That was really important to me that it feel as exciting again as what I thought was happening in Italy obviously with (Ennio) Morricone who I think is not only one of our five greatest composers but has really brought a kind of new vital energy to the Western and I think single-handedly.

Q: Thank you.

"3:10 to Yuma” opens in theaters on September 7th.


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