Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting ‘3:10 to Yuma’ Remake on Track

Christian Bale (left) and Russell Crowe in the 2007 3:10 to Yuma.

In 3:10 to Yuma, the 2007 western directed by James Mangold, the title refers to the train that will carry charismatic outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to face justice – if his captor, financially struggling but principled rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale), can put him on it without either a) giving in to the smoothtalking Wade’s efforts to convince him to take the easy way out, accept a payoff, and walk away, or b) getting killed by the bandit’s gang en route. But this wasn’t the first time movie fans boarded the 3:10 to Yuma – in 1957, Glenn Ford and Van Heflin matched wits as Wade and Evans. Mangold’s version was filmed in New Mexico, but the original 3:10 to Yuma made several stops in Arizona, including a quick one in Sedona in December 1956.

After the commercial and critical success of Walk the Line, their 2005 Oscar-winning Johnny Cash biopic, a report in Variety on Feb. 21, 2006, revealed that director Mangold and his producer-wife Cathy Konrad planned to remake 3:10 to Yuma for Sony/Columbia Pictures as their next project. Shooting was to begin in summer 2006 from a script by Stuart Beattie, screenwriter of Michael Mann’s 2004 Collateral, that was based on earlier drafts by writing team Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious). The following day Variety broke the news that actors Tom Cruise and Eric Bana (2005’s Munich) were negotiating to star in the remake; Cruise planned to play the Glenn Ford role in 3:10 as his followup to Mission: Impossible III.

But four months later, despite having spent four years developing the project, Sony put 3:10 on ice, reportedly because Cruise had changed his mind about the project, even though Oscar-winner Russell Crowe had come on board in his place. There was industry speculation that Sony was shopping the property to other studios or looking for a financing partner.

“This is deja vu all over again,” Mangold told Variety, recalling that Walk the Line had also been set at Sony until the studio suddenly pulled the plug and he brought it to Fox. He and Konrad planned to start talks with other studios immediately and still hoped to begin filming Yuma in October.

“This is a very middle-priced movie,” Mangold said. “I’ve never made a movie that has exceeded $60 million, and this one won't either.” Variety indicated Sony may have had concerns about the money it would owe $20 million star Crowe if he got a share of the movie’s back-end profit, and how the western would play internationally.

“Westerns have come to mean a kind of narcissistic, ponderous film –– and that ain't what we're making," Mangold told the industry newspaper at the time. "We’re making something with balls, taste, and emotion. And I think it’s something that’s an answer to the kind of saturated, digital overload we’re seeing on screens. This is about real people and real action.”

Shortly afterward, Relativity Media agreed to finance the film and by August 4, The Hollywood Reporter disclosed that Christian Bale (2005’s Batman Begins) was close to signing on to co-star and the movie was on track for a fall start. A few weeks later, Peter Fonda (Easy Rider, 1969), Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page, 2005), Ben Foster (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006), Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes, 2006), and Dallas Roberts (Walk the Line, 2005) joined the cast.

By Sept. 17, 2006, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Lionsgate would distribute the 3:10 to Yuma remake. With a budget now reportedly swollen to close to $80 million, Yuma was a bigger risk than usual for Lionsgate, known for inexpensive hits like the Saw and Madea franchises. The long journey for the 3:10 to Yuma remake finally ended when shooting began on Oct. 23, 2006.

The weekend before filming was scheduled to finish, a freak storm dumped nearly two feet of snow on the set of the supposedly drought-ravaged town. But still, after almost three months of shooting at locations around New Mexico, filming of 3:10 to Yuma wrapped on Jan. 20, 2007, exactly 50 years and three days after the original did.––Joe McNeill; originally published in the September 2007 issue of Sedona Monthly

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