Monday, May 23, 2011

Designing ‘3:10 to Yuma’

Russell Crowe (as outlaw Ben Wade) and Peter Fonda in 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma.

"You know, I think Sedona was considered as one of our locations,” says Andrew Menzies, production designer on director James Mangold’s remake of 3:10 to Yuma, based on the Delmer Daves-directed Glenn Ford western that spent a couple of days filming in Sedona in December 1956. “It was a very close contender, but it was very hard,” Menzies explained in a phone chat in early August 2007. “Films are dictated not only by the look, but by the finances. So when you have New Mexico offering [big rebates] of the money you spend in the region, it’s very hard to turn that down.”

But that’s not to say Sedona’s look didn’t influence the film, which centers on a battle of wits and wills in the old West between charismatic outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his captor, struggling but principled rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale). In his job, Menzies was responsible for the look of the movie, working with Mangold to create a visual style and setting to support the storytelling. “There’s a place called Ghost Ranch, two or three hours from Santa Fe (where Yuma’s location shoot was based), which actually has a similar landscape to Sedona, with beautiful pink and peach rocks.

How do the two films compare? One difference between 1957 and 2007 Menzies mentions is today’s realism vs. 1950s’ theatricality. “We were very concerned with research,” he says. “We had thousands of pictures [as reference for] buildings, colors, wardrobe. It was a major concern of mine and James Mangold’s. Obviously, the movie has to be entertaining, so we break from [reality] for some of the action, but it was cool. It was very exciting.”

How exciting? Yuma was Menzies’ first western, but “I would cut my rate to do another.” Note to producers: He was chuckling as he said that.––Steven Korn. Originally published in the September 2007 issue of Sedona Monthly

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