Blockbuster filmmaker JON FAVREAU (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) directs DANIEL CRAIG (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) and HARRISON FORD (Indiana Jones franchise, Star Wars series) in an event film for summer 2011 that crosses the classic Western with the alien-invasion movie in a bold and blazingly original way: Cowboys & Aliens.
Joined by an arsenal of top moviemakers—STEVEN SPIELBERG (Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park), BRIAN GRAZER (8 Mile, A Beautiful Mind, American Gangster) and RON HOWARD (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code), as well as ALEX KURTZMAN (Star Trek, Transformers) and ROBERTO ORCI (Star Trek, Transformers)—Favreau brings an all-new action-thriller that will take audiences into the Old West, where a lone cowboy leads an uprising against a terror from beyond our world.
1875. New Mexico Territory. A stranger (Craig) with no memory of his past stumbles into the hardscrabble desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don’t welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford). It’s a town that lives in fear.
But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these mysterious visitors challenge everything the residents have ever known.
Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and what he’s experienced, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveler Ella (OLIVIA WILDE, TRON: Legacy, The Change-Up), he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents—townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Chiricahua Apache warriors—all in danger of annihilation. Unlikely allies united against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival.
Joining Craig, Ford and Wilde for the action-thriller are SAM ROCKWELL (Iron Man 2) as saloon owner Doc and Ana de la Reguera (Eastbound and Down) as his wife, Maria; ADAM BEACH (Flags of Our Fathers) as Colonel Dolarhyde’s right-hand man, Nat Colorado; PAUL DANO (There Will Be Blood) as Dolarhyde’s cowardly son, Percy; CLANCY BROWN (The Shawshank Redemption) as Absolution’s plain-spoken preacher, Meacham; and KEITH CARRADINE (Nashville) as Sheriff John Taggart and NOAH RINGER (The Last Airbender) as his grandson, Emmett.
The screenplay for Cowboys & Aliens is by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & DAMON LINDELOF (Lost) and MARK FERGUS (Children of Men, Iron Man) & HAWK OSTBY (Children of Men, Iron Man), from a screen story by Fergus & Ostby and STEVE OEDEKERK (Bruce Almighty). It is based on Platinum Studios’ “Cowboys and Aliens” by SCOTT MITCHELL ROSENBERG (“Men in Black”). Grazer, Howard, Kurtzman, Orci and Rosenberg produce.
The accomplished behind-the-scenes crew for Cowboys & Aliens is led by director of photography MATTHEW LIBATIQUE (Iron Man, Black Swan), production designer SCOTT CHAMBLISS (Star Trek, Salt), editors DAN LEBENTAL (Iron Man, Elf) and JIM MAY (The A-Team, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), costume designer MARY ZOHPRES (Iron Man 2, True Grit) and composer HARRY GREGSON-WILLIAMS (The Town, Unstoppable).
Spielberg, Favreau, DENIS L. STEWART (Iron Man 2), BOBBY COHEN (Revolutionary Road, Memoirs of a Geisha), RANDY GREENBERG (Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, upcoming Meet the Haunteds) and RYAN KAVANAUGH (Limitless, upcoming Immortals) executive produce.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The Project Begins
The promise of the title “Cowboys and Aliens” was so compelling that the movie rights to Platinum Studios chief Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s graphic novel were snatched up before the book was even completed. It was so intriguing, as executive producer Steven Spielberg recalls: “I kept wondering why no one had done anything like this before.”
The cover art for the comic made Oscar®-winning producer Ron Howard a believer from the first time he saw it. He summarizes: “It was everything I hoped for and beyond: the coolest version of the West meeting some badass aliens. It’s the West, with all of its tensions. It was cool for me to see characters who would have been shooting at one another a few days before suddenly forced to try and survive together.”
Rosenberg’s graphic novel detailed a terrifying invasion set in the mysterious land of the American West in the late 19th century. Replete with gunslingers, outlaws and saloon fights, the harsh backdrop provided a unique place for the otherworldly assault on our planet. With the end of the Civil War only a decade prior, innovations in technology and industry—from the light bulb to telegraphs and transcontinental railways—shared space with a violent expansion of the young country. It would not be uncommon for cattlemen to encounter Chiricahua Apache in the New Mexico Territory during this time, and encounters were rarely friendly. When these classic antagonists realize they have a shared enemy, interactions move from grim to cooperative.
In the 14 years since Rosenberg first showed what was to be the “Cowboys and Aliens” graphic novel, many have grappled with the conundrum of how to bring these two classic genres together on film. Iron Man screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, as well as writer Steve Oedekerk, known for his work on Bruce Almighty, crafted the screen story that would serve as the basis for the screenplay of Cowboys & Aliens. In addition, Fergus and Ostby share screenwriting credit on the film.
Recalls Ostby: “We were brought onto Cowboys & Aliens just as the Iron Man shoot was wrapping up, and were offered a chance to create an entire story universe on a blank slate. There was an existing graphic novel, which we very much admire, but we chose instead to be inspired by the novel’s indelible cover art: a cowboy on horseback, racing away from a looming spaceship overhead.”
Fergus loved that residents of the Old West didn’t possess the mindset to “process the impossible.” He says: “That image, not to mention that title, said it all for us. Bring the classic Western genre together with the alien invasion movie and the results could be mind blowing on the big screen.” Indeed, the writing partners had the same reaction that Spielberg had to the source material. Adds Fergus: “It occurred to us as we started writing our first draft, ‘Why hasn’t anyone done this before? These two genres belong together.’ We imagined the epic grandeur of John Ford’s The Searchers, infused with the magic of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Every character in the piece touches on a classic Western archetype, but each also strives to be a rich, unique character in their own right.”
The project would have to wait until 2008 before it would fire on all cylinders. Spielberg, who had joined earlier with Imagine’s Howard and Brian Grazer, brought writers/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci onto the project to get it ready for preproduction. Along with Damon Lindelof, the men reworked the screenplay to create a shooting script that fulfilled Imagine, Spielberg and Rosenberg’s ultimate vision for the project.
With the blockbuster successes of such films as the first two Transformers, Mission: Impossible III and the reimagining of Star Trek to their credits, Kurtzman and Orci had more than proven themselves as exceptional storytellers on a big scale. The same was true of Lindelof, through his work as the showrunner of the television phenomenon Lost and producer of the Kurtzman & Orci-scripted Star Trek. All were eager to work with the group of influential filmmakers whose work had so impacted them over the years.
Academy Award®-winning producer Grazer felt that the stars had finally aligned for the team to make the action-thriller. “Ron and I have discussed that the Mayan culture is infused with the possibility of alien visitation,” he notes. “We thought this was a brilliant starting point and wondered, ‘Why couldn’t it have happened in the Wild West?’ After reading Scott’s story, we knew we wanted the film not to be tongue-in-cheek, but an entertaining look at what happens when two disparate worlds collide. The writing teams were able to capture that vision perfectly.”
Reflects Spielberg: “What I respect about Alex and Bob is that they wanted to keep this concept authentic. They’ve made it all real from the standpoint of the characters. Even if the aliens never came down in this film, there’s still a tremendous story of conflicted characters in a range war. It’s one that starts to bubble up to the surface in the very first act of Cowboys & Aliens. If it was just cowboys, it would be a pretty darn good cowboy story. If it was just aliens, it would be a pretty good alien story unto itself, but then when you combine the two…it’s wonderful.”
“When we heard the title, it immediately evoked some of our favorite titles that inspired us as kids,” states Orci. “We thought of films that have the various degrees of a sci-fi movie and films that are extremely emotional and heartwarming, like E.T., as well as movies that are extremely action packed, like Aliens. On the cowboys’ side, we saw an opportunity from films we’d been inspired by, such as Unforgiven, which has people trying to come to terms with a past that has come back to haunt them or who must deal with crimes they are trying to outrun.”
Orci’s writing and producing partner was equally intrigued by the prospect. Kurtzman recalls: “In a world where studios are frequently looking for big titles, there aren’t many that stand out, and this one did that for us. Not just because it’s catchy, but because it held the possibility of genre blending in a way people had never seen before. That got us incredibly excited, and we knew that we wanted to dive in at the opportunity to make a Western and a sci-fi movie at the same time.”
The men found the trick would be to strive for a balance between these distinct worlds of the lawless West and alien invaders. As Orci says, however, it wasn’t long before they understood the rationale for the project’s lengthy gestation. “Although we heard the title and said, ‘Let’s do it!,’ when we sat down to write, we realized it was going to be much harder than we initially thought. We knew that it had to feel organic and had to weave together naturally.”
The collision of genres gave the writers a rich palette of archetypal characters and situations with which to play. They took the elements that fans of the Western are familiar with and reinterpreted them through the lens of an alien-invasion film. Kurtzman notes: “It was about honoring specific tropes to each genre, then figuring out how to blend them. In the Western, everybody recognizes the man with no name. He walks into town and everyone wonders who he is and what he’s trying to do. The sci-fi spin on that is that he’s the man with no name because he was abducted by aliens and doesn’t remember who he was. He must discover his identity and come face-to-face with his past…while simultaneously becoming a hero to people whose loved ones have been taken by aliens.”
In July 2009, Kurtzman and Orci made what was becoming for them (and many successful filmmakers of their generation) the annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic-Con. Coming off of the staggering success of the first Iron Man, director Jon Favreau was one of the convention’s rising stars. As well, his work as director, producer, writer and actor included projects from independent films including Swingers to blockbuster comedies such as Elf. While Favreau was returning to San Diego to discuss the sequel to his superhero odyssey, Kurtzman and Orci were representing much anticipated adaptations of Star Trek and Transformers, as well as one of television’s exciting new properties, Fringe. It was during the convention that the three met at a party.
“I had heard about the project during the time that I was making Iron Man,” remembers Favreau. “I thought it sounded cool, so when Alex and Bob approached me, I read the script and signed on. It was a great script, a real page-turner.” What the filmmaker would bring to the project was a pitch-perfect tonal approach to the material. He aimed to take both genres seriously and to make the story appear quite real for both the people of Absolution and the moviegoers who came along for the ride.
Back in Los Angeles, Favreau outlined his thoughts on Cowboys & Aliens in a meeting with Spielberg, Howard and Grazer, and they were sold. “My idea was to embrace both genres,” explains the director, “and through the juxtaposition of the classic form of both the alien-invasion movie and the Western create something new and exciting. I believe that people are thirsting for something like this.”
His producers felt that Favreau’s passionate and unique take on genre fusion was just what the project needed. Spielberg sums the team’s thoughts on their director: “Jon has proven his eclectic approach in style and in content based on the subjects he chooses. What grounds him is that he comes at everything based on behavioral approaches. ‘How would these characters behave? How can I make this more authentic?’ The more the genre poses limitations on the filmmaker, Jon takes those limitations and turns them into tremendous advantages…based on his complete knowledge of acting and directing actors and writing great parts.”
To inspire the team, Spielberg arranged for a screening of a new print of John Ford’s The Searchers. Favreau was determined to draw on the elements that made classic Westerns successful, and in Spielberg, Grazer and Howard he had something few filmmakers had at the ready. “Steven’s strong visual language is something I grew up on; it’s influenced my work,” says Favreau. “Then to actually speak to the guy and to have him present me with an education in the Western, that was great.”
In his producers, Favreau found a wealth of filmmaking knowledge that was always available. “So much in Hollywood is wandering around in the dark trying to figure it out for yourself,” he says. “It’s wonderful to be able to speak to someone who you have tremendous respect for. To have Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer as mentors at this place in my career is such a welcome luxury.”
Kurtzman and Orci agree with their director’s assessment. The men sum: “Shepherding this movie from inception to release—not only as writers, but as producers with the likes of Steven, Ron, Brian and Favreau—has been one of the true joys of our career. Our partnership was what we could imagine only in our wildest dreams: sharing a vision with passionate filmmakers, who also happen to be your heroes.”
For creator/producer Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, seeing his labor of love finally come to the big screen has been a powerful experience. He notes, “I created this comic in ’97 when Platinum was simply a piece of paper that was stuck to a door. Since Jon was hired as the director, he has totally had the feel for Cowboys & Aliens. You see that in everything he’s done before, and whenever you sit in a room with him you get that he just gets it.”
Bond Meets Solo:
Casting Cowboys & Aliens
While action star Daniel Craig may not be the first person one considers when the words “American cowboy” come to mind, Favreau, who transformed Robert Downey Jr. into a superhero in Iron Man, has a knack for inspired casting. He saw something both familiar and iconic in the British native that would fit the character of Jake Lonergan, the lone, amnesiac stranger who wanders into the former boomtown of Absolution just in time to save it from total annihilation.
“He was the first cast member we brought on,” explains the director. “I realized in talking with him and looking at him that he has this gruff, handsome, Steve McQueen-type quality.” Rugged good looks notwithstanding, Craig has a gift for conveying much with few words. “The language of the Western is about action, not dialogue,” says Favreau. “I usually have a fire hose of dialogue to use in my films, but here you have to make the action the dialogue, whether it’s the gunfights or hand-to-hand combat. That’s all part of Jake’s personality, and Daniel is able to carry that off really well. He says a lot with his actions. You see when his wheels are turning and he’s up against everything.”
A longtime fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as Alien and Blade Runner, Craig didn’t feel as if it would be a big leap to bring these genres together. Admitting that he “based his character very much on the silence of Clint Eastwood,” Craig prepared for the part by seeing as many Westerns as he could. The actor says, “I watched a lot of John Wayne Westerns, but my favorite ones are the ones from the ’70s—movies like Little Big Man and those so-called dirty Westerns where there’s a little more reality.”
When it came time to get into character, Craig offers that it was much easier to become Jake Lonergan than other roles that he tackled. He says, “The cowboy just comes out. We are in a desert, and I’m wearing chaps. I’m wearing a gun around my waist, I’ve got cowboy boots on and a hat and I’m riding a horse. I rode on a horse every day and I got paid to do it, so I couldn’t have been happier.”
Is the situation feasible? Craig believes that 19th-century settlers and Indians would be hardy enough to handle creatures from another world. He notes: “The idea is that survival kicks in. These people are very tough. They’re frontier people, and we’ve got American Indian tribesmen who are a tough breed who have survived the outside world and all that Mother Nature has to throw at them.”
One of the final roles to be cast was Harrison Ford’s character, Woodrow Dolarhyde, Absolution’s cattle-rancher benefactor…and the only man keeping the decaying town and its inhabitants from financial ruin. A Civil War colonel whose bitterness calcified after the bloody battle at Antietam, Dolarhyde is a brutal and cold-hearted tyrant, and he has it out for the man he thinks stole his gold: Jake Lonergan. As Orci explains, “If it weren’t for the aliens, he’d be the bad guy in the film.”
Though Spielberg and Ford have a long working relationship, it wasn’t a given that the man who is inextricably linked with Indiana Jones and Han Solo would come aboard the project. Favreau discusses how he managed to find a distinct identity for the iconic actor: “For my generation, he’s like John Wayne. When people sit in their seats, they’re bringing everything that has come before to their experience of watching a movie. You can’t separate the actor from his work. I remember seeing Harrison for the first time as Bob Falfa in American Graffiti, and then of course in Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. He has a roguish quality. He’s always charming but with unpredictability; you never knew what he was going to do. There is a danger to him that we thought fit this role.”
While he was initially intrigued by the project, Ford was also skeptical. Favreau recalls: “He became interested after I showed him the concept art and explained that our approach was serious in tone; we weren’t going to play this as a joke. Our goal was to juxtapose these two classic forms to create something new and exciting.”
Admittedly, Ford’s primary interest in the film fell on the cowboy side of the story. He says: “What’s interesting is that these people back in 1875 in the Old West didn’t have our experience of space travel and planetary understanding. When the invasion happens, they have no context in which to understand what was occurring. The only possible context is the one that was given to them by the preacher in town. The aliens were possibly demons and remained demons throughout the telling of the story.”
A history buff, Ford shares a bit about how his character came to be: “The Western depends on the reality that it’s every man for himself. They were on the edge of the frontier and had to depend on their own resources. The strong will and the strong man did prevail. Dolarhyde is an old rancher, the richest guy in town who disdains the Indians. He’s a hard man who has a son who is not the best person…because of the advantages that his father accrued for him. The result of his dominant personality is expressed through this son who is a bully and a weak hand.”
In addition to Jake Lonergan, the other stranger in the film brings further mystery to the denizens of Absolution and the surrounding territory. Ella seems to shadow Jake as he moves about the town, but when the skies open up and terror rains down, she alone knows what this enemy wants. For the role of Ella, the filmmakers sought an actress who would embody both the mystery and the toughness required of the only woman in a begrudgingly assembled posse of cowboys and Indians.
Olivia Wilde, who has been a mainstay of the hit television show House M.D. since 2007 and has crafted a film career when not shooting the series, was hired for the production before anyone had seen her in the trailer for TRON: Legacy. In that moment, the filmmakers had never been more certain of their decision. “She’s on for a just a split second,” says Favreau, “but her attitude and her look—how appealing and interesting she was—made me take note. Not just me, but the fanboys and a lot of people caught that one image from the trailer and picked up on it. She’s also down to earth, soulful and genuine and a very nice, warm person. That dichotomy was interesting, and it encapsulated what we wanted for Ella.”
The actress appreciated the writers’ distinct take on a character that could have easily devolved into a damsel in distress. “Ella was immediately fascinating to me,” recounts Wilde. “I read the script and fell in love with it. I thought, ‘I have to play her.’ In Westerns, the female characters tend to be the prairie woman or the cowgirl, often very strong and stoic but not usually one of the gang and rarely as intrinsic to the story as Ella is. She has a connection to Jake and a certain power over him that no one else has.”
Favreau would bring along not only key crew from Iron Man 2, but also one of that film’s stars. Casting continued with Sam Rockwell, who played Tony Stark’s unpredictable competitor, Justin Hammer, in the 2010 global hit. In Cowboys & Aliens, Rockwell portrays the fish-out-of-water saloon owner called Doc who, along with his beautiful wife, Maria, has moved from the city out to the barren desert town of Absolution to eke out a living. When the aliens abduct Maria, Doc joins the posse to try and free her from the demons…though he’s by no means a hearty adventurer.
For Rockwell, Cowboys & Aliens tapped into childhood fascinations. “It takes me back to the stories we told as young boys,” the actor shares. “We’d play with our little cowboys, and then we’d get our dinosaurs, our army men and our Indians and we’d mix them all together and make our own pretend movies.”
Adam Beach was brought aboard to play Nat Colorado, the Indian-born ranch hand dedicated to his hard-nosed, adoptive father, Dolarhyde. The cattle boss’ second-in-command, Nat is also charged with looking after the insolent and entitled scion of the most powerful man in Absolution. Beach, a Canadian Saulteaux, liked the idea of turning the tables with this part. “I’ve never played a cowboy before,” says the actor who grew up on the Dog Creek First Nations Reserve at Lake Manitoba. “I’m always the Indian, throwing the spear and shooting an arrow. I loved filming from this perspective.”
Cast as the weasely thug Percy Dolarhyde, the only son of the richest man in the territory, was Paul Dano, who was previously seen as the conflicted preacher opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Dano explains his character: “I play the spoiled, drunk, punk son of the cattle baron in town. My character feels entitled and acts how he wants because the town wouldn’t be much without his father’s money. Watching a lot of old Westerns, there are so many great parts and so many great character actors. In this movie, I felt like everybody had an opportunity to bring something to the table.”
Noah Ringer, who played the title character in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, was cast as Emmett Taggart, grandson of the town’s sheriff. When his grandfather is abducted, Emmett joins the group of cowboys in search of their kin. The young performer shares: “Emmett is the only kid in the movie, so he’s the one that expresses the emotion and makes people feel. He is really strong inside but the smallest person. He grows up a lot on this journey.”
There was no problem bringing aboard a rich array of distinctive actors for all the roles in Cowboys & Aliens. In the 1870s, many men sported long beards, a sign of virility, while women grew their hair long and didn’t dye their locks. “In the tradition of a lot of classic Westerns,” explains Orci, “no role was too small, because every character is a stop along the way of the genre. We had people coming out of the woodwork to be on the film, and we ended up with an amazing cast.”
Completing the primary cast are True Blood’s Raoul Trujillo as the Chiricahua Apache chief, Grey Wolf; Mad Men’s ABIGAIL SPENCER as Jake’s lost love, Alice; The Tudors’ DAVID O’HARA as Lonergan’s former gang member, Pat Dolan; and Justified’s Walton Goggins and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’s Julio CESAR Cedillo as bandits Hunt and Bronc, respectively. Finally, what Western would be complete without a nod to the Duke himself? John Wayne’s grandson, BRENDAN WAYNE, joins the cast as Deputy Lyle.
Caverns and Weaponry:
Production Design and Props
Production designer Scott Chambliss was tasked with maintaining the balance between the two visually distinct worlds of Cowboys & Aliens, and he managed that with his distinct designs. “When you hear the title,” says Orci, “it’s easy to conjure up images of guys on horseback with Stetsons riding under flying saucers. But Scott’s approach was to meld these two worlds together, subliminally referencing the Old West in his design of the aliens and their world.”
To maintain the integration of these two genres, all of the alien hardware, weapons, speeders—as well as the alien tower and its workings—needed to be tailored to a 19th-century sensibility and imagination. Favreau asked for a setting in the throws of the Industrial Revolution…one of railways, steamships, telegraphs and tools with their multiple moving parts. This is the future from a decidedly late-Victorian vantage point.
Drawing inspiration from the sculptural work of American artist Lee Bontecou and the angular and geometric patterns of Brutalist architecture, the alien hardware is a far cry from the high-tech gadgetry or shiny antiseptic armor of much sci-fi imagery. Gritty and creepily biological, the invaders’ nightmare technologies range from the 10-winged insect-like alien aircraft—ones that extend their long metal whip-like tentacles to snatch up their prey—to the giant vivisection tables, with their mammoth clamps and decrepit skin-like surface, encrusted with the blood of their victims.
Burrowed deep below the surface of the Earth are Absolution’s loved ones, the aliens’ victims…and the real motive behind the alien assault. The labyrinthine tunnels where the aliens extract the precious resource they’ve found and hold their human specimens hostage was built as the “cavern set.” This equaled a series of subterranean spaces that correspond to the area beneath the remote New Mexico desert where the alien ship has touched down and where the final battle takes place.
After spending months preparing the New Mexico locations, Chambliss left the company to shoot in this state while he returned to stages 6 and 27 on the Universal Studios lot. There, he and his team spent months building two astonishing environments. Chambliss explains of the 19,200-square-foot set: “We wanted the cavern to feel like it is miles underground and goes on forever. These tiny tunnels open up into big, scary spaces and then close down into creepy areas where the aliens do unspeakable things to their human captives.”
In addition to the series of tunnels where Jake and Ella race to free the human hostages and end the alien invasion, the cavern included the cave where prisoners are suspended like slaughterhouse animals…not to mention the surgery room where the aliens perform human vivisection.
The production designer found an innovative way to create the illusion of a vast underground space for the journey that Jake and Ella take after they penetrate the alien tower. Chambliss and his team created a modular set…an intricate puzzle of huge, dark rock walls and floors with interchangeable pieces that could be moved into different configurations to accommodate the actors and the shooting crew. Giant “rock icebergs” that were up to 14-feet tall were lifted by a gantry system or rolled around whenever Favreau wished to change the sets.
Down from the cavern set, on stage 27, Chambliss fashioned a very different, but no less frightening, environment for an earlier scene in the film: the first face-to-face encounter with the alien. To set the stage, Jake, Dolarhyde, Ella, Doc, Meacham and young Emmett have set off in pursuit of their assailants. While riding across the high desert plains, they see something unusual in the distance: a paddleboat wheel propped upside down in the air. Disturbing, as there isn’t a river for hundreds of miles. Something has plucked this riverboat up and tossed it out into the open desert as if it was a discarded toy.
Our heroes are seeking cover from the storm when they come upon the upturned riverboat. As Emmett wanders through the vessel exploring the wreckage, the space becomes more threatening. In this topsy-turvy place, he passes through an archway into the main casino. Its gambling tables and piano remain in pieces on the ground, while chairs are suspended from rafters and boulders jut up into the boat. In the corner, a shadow lurks.
After researching riverboats from the period, concept artists drew illustrations to demonstrate what the intact riverboat should look like. Starting with foam core models of an undamaged boat, the artists broke down the design to see how the set would look if a boat had been hurled about. “It’s a combination of creating something based on a real object that is, at the same time, a very abstract sculpture,” says Chambliss, “all the while keeping in mind that we needed to make this a dynamic, unusual space for the actors.”
Relying upon the artists’ models, Chambliss’ team built the framework of the upside-down set. Complete with broken windows, uneven surfaces and pitched walls, the riverboat included mounted trophy heads, as well as cracked mirrors and kerosene lamps. When it came time to dress the set, the fun began. Laughs Chambliss: “We had this beautiful furniture, casino tables, elaborate chandeliers, chairs, framed paintings…and then we got to destroy them. The crew and I had great fun throwing the stuff around, stomping on this and crushing that, seeing where it landed and deciding what worked.”
Iron Man and Star Trek property master RUSSELL BOBBITT joined the team with the challenge of outfitting a 19th-century world with props from weaponry to whiskey bottles. He and his crew blended period research with fantasy invention to create a battery of props from three different but intersecting worlds. But hewing as close as possible to the historical record presented challenges when it came to outfitting one of those worlds.
Ella tells Dolarhyde and the chief of the Chiricahua Apache, Grey Wolf, that no matter the history of the Indians and the white man, they must come together to fight a common enemy. The Chiricahua are a formidable force that joins an already unlikely alliance of cowboys, outlaws and cattle baron to fight the aliens. Historically, this tribe were some of the last standing American Indians who fought against land incursions. Their steadfast resistance to white settlement nearly led them to extinction, leaving behind scant details about their way of life.
The few written or photographic records of the Chiricahua were created years after the period in which our story takes place and were often unreliable. The subjects in the photos taken close to the time frame were usually highly posed by European photographers, who would alter their dress and the items they carried to suit white men’s image of who the Indians were and what they thought the Indians should represent.
What is clear is that the Apache were well-armed, skillful warriors; they used their bows and arrows, spears and shields with incredible precision and collected pistols and rifles from trades with and raids on European settlers. Bobbitt and his team worked closely with the Apache technical consultants on the traditional weaponry—from lethal war clubs and stones lashed to heavy sticks, to shields made with layers of wet rawhide sewn around a frame and dried until they were rock solid.
Bobbitt explains: “We learned what kind of feathers to use [turkey], how long the bows are [never more than 42 inches or under 30 inches], and we had everything, from lances to quivers, made properly under the supervision of our consultants.”
Apache technical consultant OLIVER ENJADY and consultants from the Mescalero Apache even painted shields for Favreau’s team that were used during the war dance ceremony. Recalls Enjady: “I told them the designs were not Apache, and they went and got some paint. I pulled four men out of the group, and we painted the shields that appear in the film.”
As New Mexico is so rich with Old West history, outfitting the movie’s cowboys and settlers was a much easier task. The small Bible from which Meacham reads after the aliens attack on the town is actually an antique from the 1860s. Bobbitt and his team were able to find a local blacksmith who used period tools—forged in a furnace the smith built himself—to create badges for Sheriff Taggart and his deputies. As well, the team discovered one of the few existing manufacturers of tintype photographs to create the mysterious picture of Alice that Jake discovers tucked away in his hat.
His horse and his hat excluded, a cowboy’s gun is his most prized possession. Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde is one of the few men of means in our story, and his weapon, an Uberti 1873 Army Colt, his ornately custom-designed holster and his gun belt reflect his history and social standing.
THELL REED, a Western gunslinger and one of Hollywood’s top gun coaches, worked closely with the actors in the weeks prior to shooting. Reed not only showed them how to handle their period weapons, but also taught them some of the flourishes characteristic of Western gun use. “Thell showed them how to fan the weapon, how to properly pull back on the trigger,” says Bobbitt, “and he showed them crazy moves like how to spin your gun before it goes back into the holster.”
While the pearl-handled Colt was perfectly suited for an ex-army colonel and wealthy cattle baron, Jake wakes up in the film’s opener with no gun. That won’t do, so he takes a weapon from the three men who ambush him in the desert…then eventually ends up with an 1851 Navy Colt he pulls off of a dead wagon driver. For Jake, however, it’s not a gun, but the strange metal shackle on his wrist that becomes his signature (and most powerful) weapon.
The “blaster” is what the company called the thick metal brace our hero finds on his wrist when he wakes up at the beginning of the story. During the lethal alien attack on Absolution, the metal band transforms, and Jake—as well as everyone else—realizes he has the single most powerful weapon to protect them from the alien onslaught. Creating the futuristic piece attached to Jake’s arm presented the filmmakers with a big design challenge.
“We wanted a prop that wouldn’t stop the whole town when they saw it,” explains Bobbitt, “so it was designed to look like something that could’ve been familiar to them, a kind of shackle, something that could’ve been used to imprison him.”
Like many of the alien elements in the film, the blaster is a blend of period research and fantasy invention. With its tarnished, brown steel surface and clocklike mechanism, it’s meant to look like something one would find in the West in 1875. Although some of the movements of the weapon are enhanced by computer graphics, much of it—with its lights and moving parts—is real. Duplicate weapons, especially the old guns, were required for filming, but there were actually 30 blasters created to accommodate various scenes, action and weather.
Drawing From History
The American Indians depicted in the story are Chiricahua Apache, who by 1886 numbered less than three-dozen men, women and children. Nonetheless, under the leadership of Geronimo, this small group waged one of the most powerful resistances to the continued Mexican- and U.S.-led incursions into their land. Those who weren’t killed were forcibly removed from their lands, and relocated or imprisoned on the other side of the country, where many of them perished.
For Cowboys & Aliens, the filmmakers wanted the representation of American Indians to be as historically and culturally accurate as possible. For information about the Chiricahua, the team turned to New Mexico State University scholar SCOTT RUSHFORTH and Oliver Enjady, an Apache from the Mescalero Apache reservation.
The filmmakers knew that they wanted their interpretations to be respectful and authentic. Rushforth, who consulted with producers Howard and Grazer on The Missing, and Enjady were invaluable resources to the production. The consultants offered their advice on everything from traditional American Indian ceremonies to local garb and wiki-ups—the thatched huts that Chiricahua women made from brush, leaves and rushes. The men consulted on everything from the script to set, prop and costume design…down to the choice of horses for the Indians. They advised on the intricacies of the war dance and the singing of the song in the wiki-up when Jake takes medicine to remember who he is and what’s happened to him. This song was borrowed from and performed by the Mescalero.
Enjady was the primary liaison between the Mescalero and the production, and he felt a responsibility to his people to make sure the film’s representation of them was as accurate as possible. Indeed, in addition to the Mescalero he brought to work as dancers and extras in the film, he brought along four Medicine People, tribal leaders.
The war dance ceremony, with the cast and dozens of Mescalero singing and dancing around the fire, was shot over several nights in the New Mexico desert. The Mescalero designed the ceremonies, the dances and the songs. While it’s a somber ceremony, the music and the dance are both lively.
Rushforth and Enjady also run Ndé Bizaa, the Mescalero Apache language program that works to keep the language and culture alive. Raoul Trujillo, the actor cast to play Chief Grey Wolf, is actually Apache but didn’t speak the language when production began. Trujillo worked tirelessly with digital sound files Enjady and Rushforth had created to perfect his diction and accent. Commends Enjady: “He really cared to get it right.”
Enjady’s help encompassed all aspects of the character of Chief Grey Wolf. “He helped in the making of the chief, in what the chief has to embody,” commends Trujillo. “Every time I went into a scene, I’d have a list in my head of aspects of the character Oliver gave me that rooted him in harmony, balance, trust and benevolence. I let that creep into my body and my performance.”
“I was very honored that what we brought helped the project,” says Enjady. He and Rushforth were pleased to see early suggestions about changes to the script come to life before the cameras. In preproduction, Enjady and Rushforth had conversations with the filmmakers about how Ella might interact with the Apaches when she, Jake, Dolarhyde and the others are taken prisoners by the Indians. They suggested, in keeping with her character, that she reveal that she can speak Apache and they even gave the filmmakers some lines she could say. “I thought it was forgotten,” says Enjady of the conversation they’d had months before, “then, all of a sudden, she was saying what we thought she should say.”
In addition to inviting Mescalero from Southern New Mexico, the production cast American Indians from all over the United States. They found that it was quite difficult to secure people who can ride a horse bareback at full run through the middle of the desert, and after a long casting call, many American Indian nations were represented.
New Mexico, 1875:
Locations and Shooting
The landing place for the army of hostile invaders in Cowboys & Aliens is the New Mexico Territory circa 1875. The Civil War has only recently ended, and in the American West, bloody battles raged as Apaches, Navajo and other American Indian peoples fought the expansion of settlers into their lands. Tensions mounted between homesteaders; uncertainty, fear and distrust ruled the land.
More than just a location, the American West is an iconographical landscape, a vast terrain that has become as much a part of film history as it has American history. Places such as Monument Valley, the Alamo and Dodge City are etched into the minds of movie lovers. Keeping the backstory of the Western in mind, the filmmakers looked for a location to make their own, one that could accommodate everything from the first showdown with the aliens in a small town to the miles-long high-speed chases on horseback. They found that and more in New Mexico, the ideal locale for cinematographer Matthew Libatique to shoot Favreau’s vision.
The once bustling, vibrant town of Absolution is barely hanging on. Whatever prospects brought people west have dried up, and life exists between a saloon where they can drown their sorrows and a jail, the last bulwark against complete anarchy. All the scenes that take place in the dusty Western town were shot just southwest of Santa Fe at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a working cattle ranch that spans several thousand acres.
“The bones of a town were there, and we built Absolution up around them,” explains Orci of the functional backlot. In fact, as the actor who plays Sheriff Taggart can attest, Westerns have found a home for years in this part of New Mexico. Keith Carradine made one of his first movies—a Western called A Gunfight that starred Kirk Douglas and Johnny Cash—just a mile from Bonanza Creek back in 1970.
It was at Bonanza Creek Ranch that the company shot the opening scenes of Cowboys & Aliens, including the attack on the town. Favreau’s crew worked at night, six days a week, to create the footage they would screen for an enthusiastic crowd at July 2010’s Comic-Con.
The production headquartered in the capital city of Santa Fe, while the company shot for three months across tens of thousands of acres of land in northern New Mexico. The crew took advantage of a dramatic and diverse landscape, from narrow arroyos in box canyons with 300-foot basalt cliffs on either side, to large swaths of sagebrush- and saltbush-covered open terrain.
With its large tracts of gently rolling high-desert grasslands, San Cristobal Ranch, just 35 miles south of Santa Fe, was home to several key scenes for the film. There, the crew shot the gang camp where Jake has an unwelcome reunion with his old posse, and the Apache camp where Jake, Dolarhyde, Ella, Doc, Nat and Emmett are taken hostage by the Indians. Its vast open space also provided the backdrop for parts of the high-speed chase between our heroes on horseback and the alien speeders flying just above.
In addition to the stunning landscapes of San Cristobal, the Santa Clara Pueblo, the banks of the Rio Grande, Abiquiu Lake and the red sandstone cliffs along the Kitchen Mesa trail at Ghost Ranch, there were locales in New Mexico that seemed tailor-made for a Western in which alien marauders attack. With its oddly beautiful rock formations, Plaza Blanca was one such place that provided the ideal backdrop for the story’s climactic confrontation.
Plaza Blanca sits in a small valley on private land in the hills of the Rio Chama Valley in the northern part of the state. For thousands of years, the elements have carved the white sandstone cliffs into unearthly spires that rise hundreds of feet on either side of the arroyo below. It is here that our heroes come across a strange metal structure that towers 80 feet in the air, the temporary home of the alien creatures whom they’ve come to destroy.
Shooting in the narrow valley required strict coordination for a company of more than 200…not to mention more than 50 trailers, trucks and vans. In addition to tucking every vehicle and piece of equipment out of the sweeping views of DP Libatique’s cameras, the company was required to prepare a detailed evacuation plan that would move everyone out of the area in minutes in case of a flash flood.
The incident planning was no exercise in futility. Just weeks before the company arrived to shoot in Plaza Blanca, the greens department was preparing the location by bringing in temporary trees and native bushes to dress the sandy valley. Within minutes, a storm front moved in. The greens men had been instructed to get to higher ground immediately in the event of a storm. It was fortunate, as within 10 minutes the valley floor was literally a rushing river, carrying away all the company’s set dressing along a torrent of water.
After the company wrapped its shoot in New Mexico, it moved back to Los Angeles. There, stage work continued across the Universal Studios backlot, utilizing multiple stages for the subterranean world of the aliens and for the riverboat set, as well as for the acres of lands that would mimic the Southwestern territory.
Aliens Meet Cowboys:
Designing the Creatures
Even with the most sophisticated computer-generated imagery available to them, the filmmakers’ thoughts returned to the seminal alien-invasion movies with which they’d grown up. Moviemaking technology has advanced rapidly in the 34 years since Spielberg brought his creatures to the screen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the choices for contemporary filmmakers have expanded exponentially.
Favreau wondered if some of the subconscious dimensions of the genre have been lost in the process. “There’s a certain timelessness in the way Close Encounters comes across,” he says, “a certain unknown quality to the aliens. We’re borrowing a lot from classic depictions of aliens, and you see them through the eyes of our lead characters…you get glimpses of them. Think Predator, think Alien: that’s the view of aliens we have. They’re dangerous, clearly, they have much higher technology, yet there’s a very primal brutality to them.”
The team’s desire to create suspense and horror extended to both the creation and reveal of the film’s antagonists. “You want to play the same games that you had to before there was CG,” says the director, “to use fear, darkness and imagination when you reveal the alien, to allow it to unfold in a way that has some elegance.”
Once again, he harkened back to the films of his youth for inspiration. “We were going for the look and feel and tone of the pre-CG films like Close Encounters, Predator, Alien. Those films played with the mind; those were movies where there was an interplay between audience and filmmaker, and that’s just part of telling a good campfire monster story.”
Says Favreau of his inspiration: “It’s been amazing to pick Steven Spielberg’s brain and say, ‘How do you use today’s technology to present the imagery and the feeling that I felt so strongly when I saw Close Encounters?’ There’s this ineffable supernatural force that appears. And as great as the special effects are in Jurassic Park, I think about that cup of water on the dashboard. It’s how you tease the event, how you build to it when that dinosaur is stepping and you just see the water shaking. So, the first time we encounter the aliens, it’s in the parameters of nighttime in this old Southwest town and there’s about to be a scuffle. You have our lead characters, and then slowly on the horizon the lights come. Before they know it, aliens are upon them, blowing the town up and snatching people.”
To design and build the aliens, the production turned to award-winning Stan Winston Studio principal and alum SHANE MAHAN and his company, Legacy Effects. In less than two weeks, his team had drawn up 60 designs for the filmmakers.
In addition to creating an heir to some of Mahan’s other cinematic aliens, whether the Queen Alien or the Predator, his team looked to create a creature that was unique in both design and mechanics. “It’s not just something you haven’t seen before,” explains Mahan, “but you’re also trying to build something that’s mechanically innovative and something people can’t figure out.”
Their alien—part insect, part amphibian, part sea creature—was distinctly different from its predecessors. Rather than creating a suit simply for someone to wear, Mahan created a set of complex multifunctional rigs with interchangeable parts. The result was a towering eight-foot monster with a remote-controlled head, a fully articulated face and horribly malformed arms that protrude from its torso during some of its more disturbing encounters with humans. “It’s one of the most technically sophisticated organic pieces that we’ve done in a long time,” says Mahan.
When our heroes seek shelter from the rainy night in the upside-down riverboat that’s mysteriously landed in the desert, Emmett is led by his curiosity to wander about. He meanders through the increasingly foreboding space, hears something and freezes, and then all at once, he is face-to-face with an alien. Its horrible head dips down until he and the creature are looking at each other at eye level.
Of the design, Mahan recalls: “Steven said that the alien’s face had to have personality, recognizable eyes, mouth and brow—something that people could relate to.” Built into the multichannel remote-controlled head are some surprises. “In terms of creature design, you have to keep the audience’s attention; you have to build in many reveals.” At first, the alien is curious, searching Emmett’s face, examining him the way you might an insect you’ve come across. But then, in an instant, it transforms. Its eyes protrude, and it opens its mouth to reveal hideous rows of spiny teeth and oozing goo.
As Mahan explains, there are many advantages to having physical creatures to work with rather than relying solely on ones that are added through CGI. “There’s a psychological benefit to seeing something that’s actually been photographed. It’s dripping, it’s doing weird things. People are really reacting to it, and you can sense that intimacy. That helps lend credence to the digital work that happens later.”
Jumping in to supplement the work of the special visual effects team was Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic. Under the supervision of award-winning visual effects supervisor ROGER GUYETT, this group handled the lion’s share of visual effects and animation for the project. Top-notch teams at The Embassy Visual Effects, Ghost FX, Fuel VFX, The Garage VFX and Shade FX created additional VFX on Cowboys & Aliens. New Deal Studios and Kerner Optical crafted models and miniatures and contributed special effects for the production.
60 Feet in the Air:
Practical Effects and Stunts
Whether it was explosions hitting Absolution or townsfolk being snatched up off the ground from just above, the director was convinced that the more real he could make the threat for the performers, the more compelling it would read on the screen. As production designer Chambliss explains: “Jon wanted the world we constructed to help each actor bring his or her character to life.”
Because of the production’s emphasis on practical effects, the cast and crew were forced to think and act differently on set. “You have to be really creative,” says Orci, “and the storytelling becomes more elegant when you don’t have the freedom to do anything you want. It helps the imagination, it helps the audience and allows the CG to be the icing on the cake.”
Jake Lonergan is headed for the federal marshal and tethered to Percy, the troublemaking son of cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde, when Dolarhyde and his posse come to retrieve Percy from the hands of the law. At the height of the tense standoff between Sheriff Taggart and Dolarhyde, terror comes swooping down upon the small town.
To film the first alien assault and create as lifelike an attack as possible, the company brought out livestock, stunt performers and an array of filmmaking hardware. The cast was joined by more than 30 stuntmen and women, 23 horses, two dogs, a goat and two-dozen background extras. Circling them and the small Western town made up of only two intersecting dirt streets was an arsenal of cranes, cables and lights.
The set became an oasis of moviemaking in the middle of the dark New Mexico desert. Suspended on trollies amid more than 300 tons of construction cranes were sophisticated laser lights that moved synchronously as the explosions were detonated below. These blasts were carefully choreographed around the skilled riders on horses that were specially trained to work with pyrotechnics and loud noises. This was completely flanked by 14 additional 80-foot condors outfitted with lighting panels.
Stunts and Animal Work
The cameras capture Doc and Maria as they become separated and the cowboys rear up on terrified horses. As the couple calls out for each other and the street fills with the alien lights and explosions, Doc watches in horror, helpless as his beloved wife is roped by a speeder and hauled up into the sky.
At the height of the attack, Favreau directed that laser lights swoop down on cables, explosions detonate left and right, and people cabled to huge cranes be plucked up 60 feet in the air as if they were marionettes. That kind of mayhem required skillful execution, explains actress Ana de la Reguera, one of several actors who chose to do her own stunts during the alien abduction: “We had to have everything lined up at just the right moment: the horses, the lasers, the yelling, the explosions. Sam and I said our lines, and then at the perfect beat they pulled me up.”
The production team had planned for all the roping up of the victims to be executed by stunt performers. But when several of the actors expressed interest in trying it themselves, stunt coordinator and longtime Favreau collaborator TOMMY HARPER was open to the idea. “We had a new design for the rigs that made it easier,” Harper notes. “We tested it, so we knew it was safe. I started thinking, ‘Maybe we can even put some of the actors in it if they’re willing. We told them, ‘If you’re not afraid of heights, we can take you up slowly and progress into it until you’re comfortable with the final stunt.’” Keith Carradine and others joined de la Reguera as new members of the film’s ad hoc stunt team.
Harper’s crew rigged up the actors and stunt doubles with a special harness that, as it pulled the perfomers up, would actually flip them feet over head and pull them up dozens of feet into the air. To prevent injury, they had to fight their natural inclination to grab the line as they ascended. Fortunately, after many deep breaths and pep talks by the stunt coordinator, they were ready to go.
Most everyone enjoyed his or her flights through the air, but no one more so than Olivia Wilde. Wilde’s abduction happens later in the story as Ella and the others are racing on horseback while being pursued from above by the alien speeder ships. In fact, she is plucked while riding her horse at a full gallop. While the actress is an experienced horsewoman and the stunt was completely safe, it was the first time any actor had ever attempted to do the stunt while riding.
The carefully constructed stunt involved setting a slack line between two cranes that were 135 feet tall and a football field apart. It also required the attachment of a 12-foot, four-part ratchet to a harness worn under the actress’ dress. At just the right moment as Wilde was riding her horse, the harness pulled her up 40 feet into the air. It went off without a hitch, and when it was done, the actress was ecstatic. “It was my most exciting moment on the film,” Wilde says.
In addition to alien abductions, there were the more earthbound realities of shooting a Western. The actors had to ride a good deal on horseback, and during the rehearsal period, they trained on the horses with which they would spend much of the next three months. Boss wrangler CLAY LILLY worked with the performers to carefully select a horse for each of them. To ensure they didn’t buck or kick, the expertly trained animals selected were accustomed to the noise of guns, cannons and explosives, as well as proximity to fire and water.
For Noah Ringer, the production’s youngest cowboy, the horse training, which took place on a ranch outside L.A., was just part of the fun. “It was really great,” recalls the actor. “I got to ride with Daniel, and that’s where I met my horse, Jackson. My favorite thing was to gallop and sometimes I’d pass a few people I wasn’t supposed to. We’d have to do the take a few times.”
Ringer’s other co-star is a dusty dog without a name. The scruffy mutt arrives in Absolution with Jake, but over the course of the story he becomes Emmett’s loyal friend and protector. The dog was played by two Australian shepherds named DART and ARROW, both skillfully trained by handler EADIE MCMULLEN.
The menagerie of livestock certainly helped create an Old West atmosphere. There were more than 100 horses from all over the Southwest, including paints, quarter horses and Appaloosas. To complete the animal cast, there were many cattle, sheep, goats and rats…as well as a Eurasian eagle owl that appears briefly inside the riverboat.
Leather and Lace:
Costumes of the Film
Costume designer Mary Zophres arrived on this production immediately following another Western, the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit. “It’s a historical period for which there are not a lot of photos,” she explains. “Between the two films, I think I’ve seen every photograph from the time.”
With the feedback of her Iron Man 2 director, Zophres began creating the look for each of the film’s characters, starting with Jake Lonergan. “We had to make him an iconic hero,” she explains. “I wanted you to be able to see him from far away and know who he was.” To accomplish this objective, Zophres created a silhouette for the laconic stranger—complete with a leather vest, chaps and a signature hat—an outline that would identify him throughout the film.
With the period’s reliance on heavy wools, long hemlines and high collars, one of the challenges the designer faced was crafting costumes that wouldn’t look dowdy on her performers. Still mindful of the historical details, she notes, “I also wanted the clothes to be flattering and look attractive. We’ve made a film with some very sexy movie stars.”
In this genre’s catalog of female characters, there isn’t much that rests between saloon girl and prairie woman. Ella falls out of the range of Western archetypes: she is a woman traveling alone through the West. Craig laughs, “She would have had a bad reputation, I think is the best way to put it.”
Ella appears in Absolution, trailing Jake in the shadows and wearing a gun in a belt slung over a pale yellow dress. The inspiration for Ella’s dress came to Zophres from a single piece of fabric. “It was something I’d gotten six months before from a vendor who deals with antique clothing and cloth,” she recalls. Oddly enough, the most fragile costume on set never saw a rip or tear. “The irony,” says Zophres, “was the guys’ pants had tons of blowouts up their back seams while Ella’s delicate dress never ripped.”
The inevitable result of hours on horseback, busted seams kept Zophres’ crew busy sewing pants back together. For help with another problem endemic to Westerns, Zophres learned tricks from the real-life cowboys working on the film. In the middle of an elaborate scene with the cast, dozens of horses, multiple cameras and cranes, a hat could fall off and ruin an entire take. She turned to the rodeo crew and background players working behind the camera for advice. “Riding a horse is what these guys do for a living,” she says, “and they have all kinds of secrets for keeping their hats on.”
Except for one scene in the film, the clothes worn are rough and reflect the unforgiving landscape. In the 1870s, clean laundry—or a change of clothes, for that matter—was a luxury. Zophres advises that the aging of costumes and the distressing and dirtying up of all manner of fabrics and leather are a big part of the making of any Western. “They didn’t have washing machines. You were washing things on the side of a rock or in a little tub and hanging them out to dry. The wind was blowing constantly, and there was a layer of dirt on everything you owned. You brought what you could fit in one suitcase, and you wore it and mended it over and over again.”
Though our characters have just the clothing on their backs, the production required up to 14 copies of any given outfit, many of which needed to look more worn as the story went along. For Ella alone, there were 17 copies each of her two outfits. The process demanded a team of 30 people, a third of whom were dedicated to aging wardrobe. Once clothes were worn and washed, they were aged again.
Zophres’ commitment to historical detail extended from top to bottom. “Nearly all the clothing at the time was made out of wool, except for most shirts,” she explains. “And if it was hot, it was very unpleasant. We had the background players in corsets because it gave them the right silhouette. In those days, it was all about having a small waist. It also helps them have the right kind of posture. Even though they were pioneer women who dressed practically, they were still wearing corsets. All the female background players wore corsets, stockings and garters under their dresses. “They didn’t love it at first, but by the end of the day, many said that their backs felt better.”
ABOUT THE CAST
From James Bond to The Old Vic, DANIEL CRAIG (Jake Lonergan) has proven himself time and again in a wide range of roles in film, theater and television. The multitalented actor received a BAFTA nomination and an Empire Award for Casino Royale, his James Bond debut, which became the highest-grossing film in the history of the 007 franchise.
Born in 1968 in Chester and raised near Liverpool, Craig was first introduced to theater at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres. When he reached his late teens, he moved to London to join the National Youth Theatre, before continuing his training at the London Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Craig has since secured eclectic roles in television, theater and film, and is now regarded as one of Britain’s finest actors.
Craig received a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination (for Best Supporting Male) for his role in Douglas McGrath’s Infamous, which also starred Sandra Bullock and Gwyneth Paltrow. His multiple film credits also include his second outing as James Bond in Quantum of Solace, directed by Marc Forster; Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition; Defiance, based on the true story of four brothers in Nazi-occupied Poland, directed by Edward Zwick; The Golden Compass, co-starring Nicole Kidman and Eva Green; Flashbacks of a Fool; Elizabeth; Hotel Splendide; I Dreamed of Africa; Love & Rage; Obsession; The Power of One; The Mother; Sylvia; The Jacket; Layer Cake; and Enduring Love.
Cowboys & Aliens marks Craig’s third collaboration with film producer Steven Spielberg, following their work on the Oscar®-nominated Munich and the upcoming Spielberg-directed and Peter Jackson-produced adaptation of one of the world’s most beloved comic books, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, in which he plays Red Rackham. He also stars alongside Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts in Universal Pictures’ upcoming film Dream House, a tense thriller directed by multi-award-winning Jim Sheridan.
As a highly accomplished stage actor, Craig’s theater credits include leading roles in Hurlyburly, with the Peter Hall Company at The Old Vic Theatre; in Angels in America, at The National Theatre; and in A Number, at the Royal Court Theatre, alongside Michael Gambon. Last year, Craig trod the boards in a 12-week Broadway run, opposite Hugh Jackman, in A Steady Rain, a contemporary American play about two Chicago cops who recount their conflicting stories of a harrowing experience.
Craig has numerous notable television credits including the BBC adaptation of Michael Frayn’s award-winning play Copenhagen, Our Friends in the North, Sword of Honour, The Ice House, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, Kiss and Tell, Sharpe’s Eagle and the two-part BBC film Archangel, based on Robert Harris’ book of the same name.
Over the course of his career, HARRISON FORD (Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde) has become one of the most popularly acclaimed actors of our time. His body of work includes 43 feature films, 12 of which have exceeded $100 million each at the box office. Through his starring roles in such cinematic blockbusters as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, The Fugitive, Air Force One and Patriot Games, he has come to embody the quintessential American hero for moviegoers around the world.
An Oscar® and Golden Globe nominee for his performance in the suspense thriller Witness (1985), Ford also earned Golden Globe nominations for his starring roles in Sabrina (1995), The Fugitive (1993) and The Mosquito Coast (1986). The National Association of Theatre Owners named him Star of the Century in 1994. People picked Ford as “The Sexiest Man Alive” in 1998, and that same year, he won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Actor. In 1999, he won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite All-Time Movie Star and again, in 2000, he was named Favorite Motion Picture Actor. Also in the year 2000, he received the prestigious Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. In 2002, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored him with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement. Ford was the guest of honor at the 2009 Deauville American Film Festival and was honored with a César Award from the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma in 2010, for his contribution to film. In November 2010, he was honored at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival with the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film.
Born in Chicago, Ford attended Ripon College in Wisconsin, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He began as a contract player with Columbia Pictures, making his film debut in the crime drama Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966). After playing a small role in Getting Straight (1970), he resolved not to let his career choices be dictated by financial concerns, so he turned to carpentry while he waited for the right role.
In 1973, after a three-year hiatus from the screen, George Lucas cast him in American Graffiti. The next year, he landed a prominent supporting part in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, which was followed by an important role in Stanley Kramer’s television production of Judgment: The Court Martial of Lieutenant William Calley.
Ford returned to features in 1977, when Lucas cast him as cocky rebel starship pilot Han Solo in Star Wars, the film that shattered all box-office records and made Ford a household name. He went on to star in Hanover Street (1978) and The Frisco Kid (1979) and had cameo roles in Apocalypse Now (1979) and More American Graffiti (1979), before being cast by Steven Spielberg as intrepid adventurer Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The movie also became one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Between the Star Wars sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), and the Indiana Jones sequels Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Ford starred in a number of other memorable films. In Blade Runner (1982), he delivered a gritty performance as a cop in a nihilistic future Los Angeles. He earned critical acclaim and an Oscar® nomination for his role as a cop on the lam, hiding out in Amish country in Witness (1985). Ford followed that with a daring portrayal of an eccentric, idealistic inventor in The Mosquito Coast (1986). He went on to play a Hitchcockian protagonist in Frantic (1988), before showing his flair for romantic comedy in Working Girl (1988).
He has also played a lawyer accused of murder, in Presumed Innocent (1990); an arrogant yuppie transformed by a mugger’s bullet, in Regarding Henry (1991); the heroic ex-CIA agent Jack Ryan, in Patriot Games (1992) and in Clear and Present Danger (1994); a doctor wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, in The Fugitive (1993); a deeply committed New York City cop, in The Devil’s Own (1997); and President James Marshall, in Air Force One (1997). He also starred in the remake of Sabrina (1995), in the role originated by Humphrey Bogart.
Ford’s other credits include the romantic action-comedy Six Days, Seven Nights (1998), the romantic drama Random Hearts (1999) and the thriller What Lies Beneath (2000). In 2002, his film K-19: The Widowmaker, a drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow and also starring Liam Neeson, was released.
June of 2003 saw the release of Hollywood Homicide, which was directed by Ron Shelton and also starred Josh Hartnett. Ford’s project Firewall was released in February 2006. In 2007, he completed filming the feature Crossing Over as well as narrating the documentary Dalai Lama Renaissance. The year 2008 saw the release of the much anticipated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Last year, he was seen in Extraordinary Measures, with Brendan Fraser, and Morning Glory, with Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams.
With his enthusiasm for flying and as an avid pilot, Ford served as chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Program (from 2004 to 2009), teaching children about flying. He has flown several hundred children in his de Havilland Beaver plane. In January 2009, he was honored with a Living Legends of Aviation Legacy Award for his commitment to aviation. Ford was also recently honored with the prestigious 2010 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.
Strongly committed to environmental concerns, Ford is actively involved in a number of conservation groups. He serves as vice chairman on the board of directors of Conservation International. In Jackson, Wyoming, he has donated 389 acres of his property for a conservation easement to the Jackson Hole Land Trust. He is also an honorary chair of the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation.
Ford has participated in numerous public-service announcements with regard to conservation and the environment. In 2006, he narrated Discover Hetch Hetchy, for the Environmental Defense Fund, which looks at restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.
His recent awards include the Heart of the City Award from City Harvest, for fighting hunger; an award received at the NRDC Forces for Nature Gala; the Lindbergh Award from the Lindbergh Foundation, for the concept of balance between technology and the environment; the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from B’nai B’rith, for his environmental work; an honorary award from the Taurus World Stunt Awards; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Laguna Playhouse. On May 30, 2003, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
His other awards include the World Ecology Award from the International Center for Tropical Ecology, and the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment.
In 2006, he received the Independent By Nature Award from the Aspen Filmfest, and the Spirit of Nature Award from the Jules Verne Adventure Film Festival, which honored his work in film as well as his work with regard to environmental issues. Also in 2006, he received the Tower Award for excellence in the arts at the fourth Russian Nights Festival. In 2008, Oceana honored him for his role as an advocate for environmental issues, and in August 2010, he received the National Environmental Hall of Fame Award.
An actress and an activist, OLIVIA WILDE (Ella) is a modern-day Renaissance woman. She effortlessly transitions between sharing the screen with renowned actors in critically acclaimed films and television shows, and working alongside devoted doctors and teachers in Haitian refugee camps.
Wilde recently starred as Jeff Bridges’ trusted friend and protector Quorra in the 3D futuristic blockbuster TRON: Legacy. This year, she will be seen in a wide array of projects. In the fall, Wilde has a cameo in Andrew Niccol’s futuristic thriller In Time. The film takes place in a world where individuals stop aging at age 25 and Wilde portrays Justin Timberlake’s mother, even though in real life, she is four years younger than he is. Additionally, Wilde will be seen in The Weinstein Company’s quirky political satire Butter, in which she portrays a competitor in an annual butter-carving event. Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman and Ty Burrell also star in the film.
Wilde recently wrapped production on Stefan Ruzowitzky’s film, Blackbird. She stars as Eric Bana’s younger sister in a story about two sibling fugitives who collide with a troubled ex-con during a holiday homecoming. She previously wrapped production on Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut, Welcome to People. The film is the story of a businessman, played by Chris Pine, whose life is rocked when he learns his late father had a secret daughter. Wilde portrays Pine’s girlfriend, Hannah.
Raised by parents who are award-winning journalists and documentary filmmakers, Wilde was inspired to explore the documentary field on her own as well. One of her latest projects include executive producing the simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking short, Sun City Picture House, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary follows a community in Haiti that rallies to build a movie theater after the disastrous 2010 earthquake.
In addition to her work on the big screen, Wilde recently returned to her role in the spring of 2011 as Dr. Thirteen in the most watched television program in the world, House M.D. She joined the show in 2007 and has been a part of numerous life-saving storylines. House M.D. has won four Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes.
Wilde’s previous film credits include a cameo, opposite Russell Crowe, in Paul Haggis’ drama The Next Three Days; Year One, opposite Jack Black; co-starring with Bruce Willis and Emile Hirsch in Universal Pictures’ Alpha Dog; Bickford Shmeckler’s Cool Ideas, for which she won Best Actress at the Aspen Film Festival; and Conversations With Other Women, opposite Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart.
Additionally, Wilde starred in and produced Fix, the story of documentary filmmakers who race all over California to get help for a relative. Fix opened at the 2008 Slamdance Film Festival and was released in New York in November 2009.
Her previous television roles include co-starring in the drama The Black Donnellys, created by Paul Haggis; Skin, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer; and a recurring role on the critically acclaimed FOX series The O.C. On stage, Wilde headlined Beauty on the Vine in the Epic Theatre Center’s off-Broadway production.
Wilde is a board member of Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) and sits on the foundation board of the ACLU of Southern California. She recently teamed up with APJ board members Barbara Burchfield and Bryn Mooser to launch a new chapter of the organization named Young Artists for Peace and Justice (YAPJ). YAPJ is dedicated to creating a movement in American high schools and colleges to contribute to the end of poverty by supporting education in the developing world.
SAM ROCKWELL (Doc) has emerged as one of the most dynamic actors of his generation by continuing to take on challenging roles in both independent and studio productions.
Rockwell recently wrapped production on David Gordon Green’s The Sitter, opposite Jonah Hill. On stage, Rockwell will next be seen alongside Jessica Hecht in A Streetcar Named Desire. The production, directed by David Cromer, will launch the seasons at the Williamstown Nikos Stage Theatre Festival.
Rockwell recently starred, opposite Christopher Walken, in Martin McDonagh’s critically acclaimed production of A Behanding in Spokane, on Broadway. Rockwell was last seen in Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction, opposite Hilary Swank; Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, opposite Robert Downey, Jr.; and Duncan Jones’ Moon, for Sony Pictures Classics, which won the Michael Powell Award at the 63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Rockwell has created memorable characters in several films including Andrew Dominik’s critically acclaimed film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring opposite Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck; David Gordon Green’s acclaimed film Snow Angels, opposite Kate Beckinsale; the Russo brothers’ comedy Welcome to Collinwood, opposite George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Jennifer Esposito and William H. Macy; David Mamet’s Heist, opposite Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon and Danny DeVito; the blockbuster Charlie’s Angels, with Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu; and Frank Darabont’s Oscar®-nominated The Green Mile, opposite Tom Hanks. Rockwell also appeared in DreamWorks’ box-office hit Galaxy Quest, opposite Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub.
His additional credits include Everybody’s Fine, opposite Robert De Niro; Frost/Nixon, opposite Frank Langella; Joshua, opposite Vera Farmiga; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, opposite Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def and Martin Freeman; and the Warner Bros.’ comedy-drama Matchstick Men, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Nicolas Cage. He has also appeared in Woody Allen’s Celebrity; Michael Hoffman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer; John Duigan’s Lawn Dogs; John Hamburg’s Safe Men; Saul Rubinek’s dark comedy Jerry and Tom; Tom DiCillo’s Box of Moonlight, opposite John Turturro; Peter Cohn’s Drunks, with Richard Lewis, Parker Posey and Faye Dunaway; Paul Schrader’s Light Sleeper, with Willem Dafoe; Uli Edel’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, with Jennifer Jason Leigh; and his feature film debut in Victor Salva’s Clownhouse, while he was still a student at San Francisco School of the Arts.
Rockwell won critical praise, as well as the Berlin International Film Festival’s Silver Berlin Bear Award and Movieline’s Breakthrough Performance of the Year Award, for his portrayal of Chuck Barris in George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He starred opposite Clooney, Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts in this adaptation of Barris’ memoirs. His other awards include Best Actor at the Sitges International Film Festival of Catalonia, for his performance in Joshua, and the Decades Achievement Award from the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival.
On stage, Rockwell was seen in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, opposite Eric Bogosian, at The Public Theater. Philip Seymour Hoffman directed the LAByrinth Theater Company production. Rockwell has also appeared in Face Divided as part of The Ensemble Studio Theatre Marathon series, as well as the off-Broadway production of Goose-Pimples, which was written by noted film writer/director Mike Leigh. He has also appeared in The Dumb Waiter and Hot L Baltimore for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, both of which were directed by Joe Montello.
ADAM BEACH (Nat Colorado) came to the attention of both audiences and critics as Victor Joseph in the award-winning film Smoke Signals, adapted by writer Sherman Alexie from his award-winning semi-autobiographical collection of interconnected short stories titled “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.”
Beach has played opposite Nicolas Cage in Windtalkers, the John Woo-directed story of the World War II Navajo code talkers, and received much critical acclaim for his powerful starring turn as Ira Hayes in Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Paul Haggis and produced by Steven Spielberg.
He has also received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his portrayal as Charles Eastman in the HBO film adaptation of the world-renowned book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” In addition to film, he’s worked extensively in television, appearing on HBO’s fourth season of Big Love as the manager of the Indian casino; as a series regular on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, playing the role of Ice-T’s partner, Chester Lake; and in the CBS miniseries Comanche Moon, written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. Beach currently has a recurring role on ABC’s new series Combat Hospital.
Beach was born in Manitoba, Canada, and began acting in Winnipeg when he was a teenager. His work is strongly rooted in his Native heritage, bringing a unique and diverse perspective to his craft. He received the Best Actor Award from the American Indian Film Festival for his role as Frank Fencepost in the screen adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s “Dance Me Outside.”
His commitment to his spiritual development through traditional grass dancing enhances his work. Beach spends his spare time playing hockey and generously donating his voice and enthusiasm in support of Native youth. He also sings and plays guitar in his own band, Jesus Murphy.
Acclaimed by many as one of the top actors of his generation, PAUL DANO (Percy Dolarhyde) is currently preparing for He Loves Me, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ first film since Little Miss Sunshine. He Loves Me also stars Zoe Kazan, who wrote the screenplay.
Earlier this year, Dano completed work on Paul Weitz’s adaptation of Nick Flynn’s memoir “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City,” with Robert De Niro. The Focus Features release tells the story of a young writer (Dano) who takes a job at a homeless shelter and discovers his long-absent father (De Niro) searching for a bed. He also co-stars with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels in the time-travel thriller Looper, which recently sold to FilmDistrict at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the Endgame Entertainment production follows a group of killers who send bodies of their victims back in time.
In April 2010, Dano appeared in Kelly Reichardt’s critically acclaimed period piece Meek’s Cutoff (Oscilloscope Pictures), which follows a team of families who enlist mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them through the Cascade Mountains. In the forthcoming independent film For Ellen, Dano plays a struggling musician who embarks on an overnight journey to confront his former wife for custody of their child. Dano serves as executive producer and stars in the film, alongside Jon Heder.
Dano most recently appeared in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s The Extra Man, with Kevin Kline; Knight and Day, with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz; and Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.), Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak.
In 2007, Dano garnered a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor, opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, for There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the Upton Sinclair novel “Oil!”. He played the charismatic young preacher and nemesis to Day-Lewis’ oil prospector.
In 2006, Dano starred with Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear in the Oscar®-nominated box-office hit Little Miss Sunshine, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. His performance as an angst-ridden physical fitness/Nietzche devotee, who has taken a vow of silence, earned him the Broadcast Film Critics Association award for Best Young Actor and a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male. The ensemble earned Screen Actors Guild and Broadcast Film Critics Association awards.
Dano won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance for his portrayal of a teenager forced to navigate his adolescence virtually unsupervised in Michael Cuesta’s coming-of-age drama L.I.E. (2001). His additional film credits include The Good Heart, with L.I.E. co-star Brian Cox; Gigantic, opposite Zooey Deschanel; a cameo appearance in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock; Rebecca Miller’s The Ballad of Jack and Rose, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Catherine Keener; Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation; D.J. Caruso’s Taking Lives; The King, with Gael García Bernal and William Hurt; Explicit Ills; and Weapons.
Growing up in Manhattan and Connecticut, Dano began his career on the New York stage with supporting roles on Broadway in Inherit the Wind, opposite George C. Scott and Charles Durning, and A Christmas Carol, with Ben Vereen and Terrence Mann. In 2007, he returned to the stage in The New Group’s off-Broadway production of Things We Want, directed by Ethan Hawke and co-starring Peter Dinklage, Josh Hamilton and Zoe Kazan. Late last year, he co-starred with Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def in Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway production of A Free Man of Color, John Guare’s freewheeling epic set in 1801 New Orleans. George C. Wolfe directed the play.
NOAH RINGER (Emmett Taggart) made his film debut in 2009, starring in The Last Airbender, as the young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must put his childhood ways aside and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the world.
Ringer, who is an accomplished martial artist, started his training at age 10 and earned his First degree black belt at the age of 12. He currently holds the 2009 title of American Taekwondo Association Texas State Champion in his age group in five different categories: traditional forms, traditional weapons, sparring, extreme martial arts forms and extreme martial arts weapons. Ringer earned his Second degree black belt in October of 2010.
Ringer was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, where he currently lives with his parents and his two dogs. His hobbies include acting, martial arts, golf, ping-pong, reading, basketball and performing card tricks.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Multitalented director, writer and actor, JON FAVREAU (Directed by/Executive Producer), helmed the mega blockbuster hits Iron Man and Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey, Jr., for Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios. He also directed New Line Cinema’s acclaimed holiday smash hit Elf, starring Will Ferrell, as well as Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Zathura: A Space Adventure, a children’s adventure film starring Tim Robbins. He made his feature film directorial debut with Artisan Entertainment’s Made, a script he wrote and starred in, opposite Vince Vaughn.
Favreau established himself as a writer of considerable talent with the acclaimed hipster comedy Swingers. In addition to his tremendous success on the big screen, Favreau has served as the creator, producer and host of the critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated IFC series Dinner for Five.
Favreau’s additional feature film credits as an actor include the upcoming Welcome to People, Couples Retreat, I Love You, Man, Four Christmases, The Break-Up, Something’s Gotta Give, Wimbledon, Daredevil, Rocky Marciano, Love & Sex, The Replacements, Very Bad Things, Deep Impact, PCU and Rudy. His television credits include Seinfeld, a recurring role on Friends and a special appearance on HBO’s critically acclaimed The Sopranos, in which he played himself. Additionally, he has lent his voice to Zookeeper, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and G-Force.
Together for more than 18 years, creative collaborators ROBERTO ORCI (Screenplay by/Produced by) and ALEX KURTZMAN (Screenplay by/Produced by) have established themselves as one of the leading writing/producing teams working in film and television.
Kurtzman and Orci began their career writing for the popular television series Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess, where they quickly became head writers at the age of 23. Next, they wrote for J.J. Abrams’ Alias, and eventually served as executive producers on the show.
In 2005, the duo made their feature film debut with Michael Bay’s sci-fi thriller The Island, followed by The Legend of Zorro. In 2006, they reteamed with Abrams to write the third installment of Mission: Impossible, which was embraced by critics for adding depth and humanity to the series and grossed more than $397 million worldwide. In 2007, the pair wrote Transformers.
After signing a feature-film deal with DreamWorks Studios, Kurtzman and Orci produced the 2008 thriller Eagle Eye.
The year 2009 was a momentous year as they were involved in writing or producing some of the year’s biggest films. Kurtzman and Orci, along with scribe Ehren Kruger, wrote the Transformers sequel. To date, the Transformers franchise has grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide. The pair wrote and executive produced Star Trek, which grossed more than $385 million worldwide. The WGA recognized their work with a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Their novelization of the film was a New York Times best seller. Additionally, they also executive produced the romantic laugher The Proposal, and co-created the television series Fringe, with J.J. Abrams.
In 2010, the duo launched Hawaii Five-O on CBS to positive reviews and ratings. Along with writer/producer Peter Lenkov, Kurtzman and Orci have revamped the classic series, which stars Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. Also on their television slate is Transformers Prime, an original computer-animated series for The Hub, the Discovery/Hasbro kids’ cable channel. The show premiered to positive reviews in late November of 2010 and has recently been picked up for a second season.
In the beginning of 2011, the duo signed a three-year overall television deal with 20th Century Fox. Up first on their television slate is the graphic novel “Locke & Key,” which they will produce alongside DreamWorks Television. The Mark Romanek-directed pilot stars Miranda Otto. Additionally, they are producing the hour-long drama Exit Strategy, written by David Guggenheim. The show stars Ethan Hawke and Tom Sizemore, and the pilot will be directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Among their upcoming projects is Welcome to People, which will mark Kurtzman’s directorial debut. The film, starring Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine, is written by Kurtzman, Orci and Jody Lambert.
Currently, Kurtzman and Orci are producing and scripting a second installment of Star Trek, with Damon Lindelof. The film is set to open in June 2012.
Through their production company, K/O Paper Products, Kurtzman and Orci continue to produce a growing slate of movies and television shows.
Kurtzman and Orci both live with their families in Los Angeles.
Despite being advised that his brain would rot, DAMON LINDELOF (Screenplay by) spent the majority of his childhood watching television. After a brief flirtation with movies by way of a film degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Lindelof hopped in his car and traveled west. Treating Los Angeles as a de facto grad school, Lindelof worked for a literary agency, Paramount Studios and, finally, as a creative executive for producer Alan Ladd, Jr., before reminding himself that his true passion was television. Shedding his suit and tie for a T-shirt and Birkenstocks, Lindelof took a job as a writer’s assistant on Kevin Williamson’s ABC drama Wasteland. Shortly thereafter, fortune smiled upon him and he was made a staff writer. Shortly after that, misfortune smiled upon him and the show was cancelled.
Lindelof went on to write for the CBS staple Nash Bridges, for its final season (coincidence?), and then moved on to NBC’s new drama Crossing Jordan, where he wrote and produced for three seasons. Then Lindelof got Lost. Within 12 weeks of complete insanity, he and co-creator J.J. Abrams managed to make a completely weird, ridiculously untenable and vastly expensive pilot for ABC that centered on the survivors of a plane crash in the South Pacific. Despite this, Lost won Golden Globe and Emmy awards for Outstanding Drama Series in its freshman season. Lindelof concluded Lost after six seasons and still doesn’t quite understand what it all meant.
A lifelong Trekker, Lindelof also produced Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, which was released in May 2009. Lindelof is currently writing and producing the sequel to Star Trek and a movie he promised not to talk about, which may or may not involve Sir Ridley Scott. In his spare time, Lindelof also wrote this bio.
MARK FERGUS (Screenplay by/Screen Story by) and HAWK OSTBY (Screenplay by/Screen Story by) co-wrote the blockbuster Iron Man and were nominated for an Academy Award® for their work on the film Children of Men. In addition to their work on Cowboys & Aliens, they’ve most recently completed a live-action version of the iconic animated masterpiece Akira, which is being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, and an adaptation of James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride,” for Arad Productions and Universal Pictures. They’ve just commenced work on the reboot of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, for producer Graham King.
Fergus directed Guy Pearce, Piper Perabo, William Fichtner and J.K. Simmons in the thriller First Snow, from an original script by Fergus and Ostby. Fergus grew up steeped in the movies of John Ford and Steven Spielberg—and to meld those two sensibilities in Cowboys & Aliens was not only the creative challenge of his lifetime, but also an immense honor.
Ostby hails from the dangerous fish-infested, harpoon-happy slums of Oslo, Norway. Deprived of the most basic filmed entertainment, he fled to the United States by way of India, Malaysia and Singapore in the late ’80s. After “studying” in Boston, Ostby was extradited to New York, where he met co-writer and fellow conspirator Mark Fergus. In 2010, Ostby did not win the Pulitzer Prize and was not recognized by the Nobel Committee. He currently ekes out a Kaczynski-like existence deep in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and only communicates with the outside world through a complex network of bullfrogs.
STEVE OEDEKERK (Screen Story by), the Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy Award-winning multihyphenate, has built an extraordinary career, experiencing vast success in writing, directing, producing, acting, stand-up comedy and computer-generated animation.
Oedekerk has written and directed films that have grossed more than $1.9 billion at the worldwide box office and $3.8 billion in television and home media. Those films include such blockbusters as Bruce Almighty, the Ace Ventura franchise, The Nutty Professor and Patch Adams. He received an Academy Award® nomination for his creative leadership and producing role on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (Nickelodeon’s first CG-animated property). With the addition of the CG-animated feature Barnyard, along with its Emmy Award-winning television series, Oedekerk has created a successful template for turning hit animated feature films into long-running hit television series. Having just completed the screenplay for the upcoming live-action/VFX, stereoscopic spectacle Stretch Armstrong, for Universal Pictures, Oedekerk is currently prepping his next round of blockbuster feature films and television series.
Further expanding on the Jimmy Neutron franchise for Nickelodeon Television, Oedekerk executive produced 63 episodes of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and 52 episodes of the Emmy Award-winning Back at the Barnyard. The Jimmy Neutron television series was initially released with $100 million of sponsor support, and Back at the Barnyard continually lands in the top-20 ratings of all cable television shows, reaching as high as the top five. The new and raucous Planet Sheen, a spin-off of the popular Jimmy Neutron franchise, aired on Nickelodeon in 2010 and has already been honored with the prestigious Pulcinella Award for Best Children’s Series. Oedekerk also starred in his own television special for NBC and produced an animated Christmas special for ABC, and his six Thumb titles (including Thumb Wars and Thumbtanic) have aired on both Showtime and Cartoon Network.
Also excelling in the coveted youth demographic, Oedekerk has created cult franchise properties whose audience continues to grow with each passing year. From his initial indie feature film, High Strung, to writing, directing and starring in the wild retro-martial-arts comedy Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Oedekerk has a steadily growing base of Oedefans, who religiously await, track down and tune in to his future, right-brained creations.
With more than two decades of film and television production experience, Oedekerk is also chief executive officer of Omation Animation Studios, a 40,000-square-foot production facility in San Clemente, California. Founded in 2000, Omation has been responsible for theatrical feature films, an IMAX 3D feature film, a theme park ride and more than 150 episodes of CG-animated and trendsetting styles of television. Omation Animation Studios has produced the CG-animated feature film Barnyard for Paramount Pictures; The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron television series; the Back at the Barnyard television series; the Planet Sheen television series; Santa vs. the Snowman 3D (the first stereoscopic 3D-animated feature film) in IMAX 3D; Santa’s Polar Blast ride film; and six Thumb parody series for DTV. Omation is currently developing its next CG-animated feature film and producing the raucous Dirk Derby Wonder Jockey television series. Omation has garnered two Emmy Awards, two Annie Awards and one Pulcinella Award.
Always in pursuit of the future of entertainment, Oedekerk has always lived on the cutting edge of storytelling, production and technology. Oedekerk continues to explore new and unexplored ways of making the impossible possible.
SCOTT MITCHELL ROSENBERG (Based on Platinum Studios’ “Cowboys and Aliens” by/Produced by) is chairman of Platinum Studios, an entertainment company that controls the world’s largest independent library of comic-book characters and adapts them for film, television and all other media. As chairman, Rosenberg has played an integral role in creating the largest independent library of titles in comic-book history. The Platinum Studios library includes thousands of characters that have been published in millions of books all over the world, including anchor titles such as “Cowboys and Aliens” and “Unique.”
In 1997, Rosenberg established Platinum Studios following a successful, high-profile career as the founder of Malibu Comics, a leading independent comic book company that was sold to Marvel Comics in 1994. During his time at Malibu, Rosenberg led many successful comic spin-offs into toys, television series and feature films, including the billion-dollar film and television phenomenon “Men in Black,” as well as “Youngblood,” the first independent comic to debut at No. 1.
After running Malibu Comics, Rosenberg went back to his roots and created the Platinum Studios Macroverse, an enormous universe of characters that spans billions of years and multiple dimensions, consisting of characters that he created dating as far back as when he was a kid. “Cowboys and Aliens” hails from this universe.
Rosenberg began his career in the comic-book industry at age 13, when he started a mail-order company. He became known for picking early hits, as many of the writers, stories and characters he selected were not originally chart toppers. Based on his retail success, Rosenberg began publishing his own independent comic-book titles, which led to the creation of Malibu Comics in 1986.
Since that time, Rosenberg has been recognized as a pioneer and a leader in the comic-book industry. He recognized that comics were on the verge of one of many revolutions that would allow openings for new, smaller publishers, and that the advent of the Macintosh computer (circa 1986) and other technological advances of that time would soon allow those smaller companies to look bigger, minimizing their costs and maximizing the quality of their output. He then brokered an industry-changing deal in 1992, when the seven top-selling artists defected from Marvel Comics to form Image Studios. Rosenberg signed the artists to a label deal at Malibu to distribute Image Studios comics until their new company was up and running. In addition, Rosenberg worked with Adobe and its Photoshop software to develop the leading standard system for the computer coloring of comic books.
Today, Rosenberg produces and develops comic-book properties for all media, including a slate of high-profile, live-action feature films, television series for major networks, direct-to-DVD features, direct-to-Web content and many other avenues. His vision has allowed Platinum to develop the business model of the future in which properties are developed simultaneously for multiple distribution models, maximizing profitability, visibility and availability for everyone involved, from the creator to the consumer.
Rosenberg has been happily married since 1992, and lives in California with his wife and two daughters.
Academy Award®-winning producer BRIAN GRAZER (Produced by) has been making movies and television programs for more than 25 years. As both a writer and producer, he has been personally nominated for four Academy Awards®, and in 2002, he won the Best Picture Oscar® for A Beautiful Mind. In addition to winning three other Academy Awards®, A Beautiful Mind won four Golden Globe Awards (including Best Motion Picture—Drama) and earned Grazer the first annual Awareness Award from the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign.
Over the years, Grazer’s films and television shows have been nominated for a total of 43 Oscars® and 131 Emmys. At the same time, his movies have generated more than $13.5 billion in worldwide theatrical, music and video grosses. Reflecting this combination of commercial and artistic achievement, the PGA honored Grazer with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures in 2001. His accomplishments have also been recognized by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which, in 1998, added Grazer to the short list of producers with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On March 6, 2003, ShoWest celebrated Grazer’s success by honoring him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In May 2007, Grazer was chosen by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” In January 2009, Grazer and his creative partner, Ron Howard, were honored by the Producers Guild of America with the Milestone Award. In November 2009, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts honored them with the Big Apple Award, and in May 2010, they were honored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center with its Humanitarian Award.
In addition to A Beautiful Mind, Grazer’s films include Apollo 13, for which Grazer won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures and received an Oscar® nomination for Best Picture in 1995, and Splash, which he co-wrote as well as produced and for which he received an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 1984.
Grazer also produced the film adaptation of Peter Morgan’s critically acclaimed play Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards® including Best Picture, and was also nominated for the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures by the PGA.
Grazer is currently in production on the comedy Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy; in preproduction on Hoover, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio; and is in development on The Dark Tower, a film and television series based on the Stephen King novels. He is awaiting the release of Restless, a coming-of-age story, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper.
Grazer’s most recent film is The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. His other feature films include the hit drama Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett; the adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel “Angels & Demons,” starring Tom Hanks and directed by Oscar® winner Ron Howard, which opened in May 2009; the drama Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie; the Ridley Scott-directed drama American Gangster, starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington; the big-screen adaptation of the international best seller “The Da Vinci Code”; the tense drama Inside Man, directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster; Flightplan; Cinderella Man; the Sundance Film Festival acclaimed documentary Inside Deep Throat; Friday Night Lights; 8 Mile; Blue Crush; Intolerable Cruelty; Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas; The Nutty Professor; Liar Liar; Ransom; My Girl; Backdraft; Kindergarten Cop; Parenthood; Clean and Sober; and Spies Like Us.
Grazer’s television productions include FOX’s hit Golden Globe- and Emmy award-winning Best Drama series 24, NBC’s Peabody Award-winning series Friday Night Lights and FOX’s Lie to Me, starring Tim Roth. He is also an executive producer on NBC’s breakout hit Parenthood, based on his 1989 film. His additional television credits include FOX’s Emmy Award-winning Best Comedy Arrested Development, CBS’s Shark, NBC’s Miss Match, The WB’s Felicity, ABC’s Sports Night and HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon, for which he won the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries.
Grazer began his career as a producer developing television projects. It was while he was executive producing television pilots for Paramount Pictures in the early 1980s that Grazer first met his longtime friend and business partner Ron Howard. Their collaboration began in 1985 with the hit comedies Night Shift and Splash, and in 1986, the two founded Imagine Entertainment, which they continue to run together as chairmen.
Academy Award®-winning filmmaker RON HOWARD (Produced by) is one of this generation’s most popular directors. From the critically acclaimed dramas A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13 to the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, he has created some of Hollywood’s most memorable films.
Howard directed and produced Cinderella Man, starring Oscar® winner Russell Crowe, with whom he previously collaborated on A Beautiful Mind, for which Howard earned an Oscar® for Best Director and which also won awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. The film garnered four Golden Globes as well, including the award for Best Motion Picture—Drama. Additionally, Howard won Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Howard and producer Brian Grazer received the first annual Awareness Award from the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign for their work on the film.
Howard’s skill as a director has long been recognized. In 1995, he received his first Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award from the DGA for Apollo 13. The true-life drama also garnered nine Academy Award® nominations, winning Oscars® for Best Film Editing and Best Sound. It also received Best Ensemble Cast and Best Supporting Actor awards from the Screen Actors Guild. Many of Howard’s past films have received nods from the Academy, including the popular hits Backdraft, Parenthood and Cocoon, the last of which took home two Oscars®. The Museum of the Moving Image honored Howard in December 2005, and the American Cinema Editors honored him in February 2006. In January 2009, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) honored Howard and his creative partner, Brian Grazer, with the Milestone Award. In November 2009, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts honored them with the Big Apple Award, and in May 2010, they were honored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center with its Humanitarian Award. In June 2010, the Chicago International Film Festival honored Howard with its Silver Hugo Career Achievement Award.
Howard is currently developing The Dark Tower, a film and television series based on the Stephen King novels. He is also awaiting the release of Restless, a coming-of-age story, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper.
Howard’s latest film was the comedy The Dilemma, starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.
Howard also produced and directed the film adaptation of Peter Morgan’s critically acclaimed play Frost/Nixon. The film, which was released in December 2009, was nominated for five Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, and was also nominated for the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures by the PGA.
Howard’s portfolio includes some of the most popular films of the past 20 years. In 1991, Howard created the acclaimed drama Backdraft, starring Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell and William Baldwin. He followed it with the historical epic Far and Away, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Howard directed Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise and Delroy Lindo in the 1996 suspense thriller Ransom. Howard worked with Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Kathleen Quinlan on Apollo 13, which was recently rereleased in the IMAX format.
Howard’s other films include his adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novels “Angels & Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code,” starring Oscar® winner Tom Hanks; the blockbuster Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Jim Carrey; Parenthood, starring Steve Martin; the fantasy epic Willow; Night Shift, starring Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton and Shelley Long; and the suspenseful Western The Missing, starring Oscar® winners Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones.
Howard has also served as an executive producer on a number of award-winning films and television shows, such as the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon; FOX’s Emmy Award winner for Best Comedy Arrested Development, which he also narrated; and NBC’s breakout hit Parenthood.
Howard made his directorial debut in 1978 with the comedy Grand Theft Auto. He began his career in film as an actor. He first appeared in The Journey and The Music Man, then as Opie on the long-running television series The Andy Griffith Show. Howard later starred in the popular series Happy Days and drew favorable reviews for his performances in American Graffiti and The Shootist.
Howard and long-time producing partner Brian Grazer first collaborated on the hit comedies Night Shift and Splash. The pair co-founded Imagine Entertainment in 1986 to create independently produced feature films.
STEVEN SPIELBERG (Executive Producer), one of the industry’s most successful and influential filmmakers, is a principal partner of DreamWorks Studios. In 2008, he and partner Stacey Snider joined with Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to form the new DreamWorks. This new entity is a continuation of DreamWorks Studios, which was founded in 1994 by Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
Spielberg is also, collectively, the top-grossing director of all time, having helmed such blockbusters as Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones franchise and Jurassic Park. Among his myriad honors, he is a three-time Academy Award® winner.
Spielberg took home his first two Oscarsâ, for Best Director and Best Picture, for the internationally lauded Schindler’s List, which received a total of seven Oscarsâ. The film was also named the best picture of 1993 by many of the major critics organizations, in addition to winning seven BAFTAs and three Golden Globe Awards, both including Best Picture and Best Director. Spielberg also won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for his work on the film.
Spielberg won his third Academy Award®, for Best Director, for the World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, which was the highest-grossing domestic release of 1998. It was also one of the year’s most honored films, earning four additional Oscars®, as well as two Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture—Drama and Best Director, and numerous critics groups awards in the same categories. Spielberg also won another DGA Award and shared a Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award with the film’s other producers. That same year, the PGA also presented Spielberg with the prestigious Milestone Award for his historic contribution to the motion picture industry.
He has earned Academy Awardâ nominations for Best Director for Munich, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He also earned DGA Award nominations for those films, as well as Jaws, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun and Amistad. With 10 to date, Spielberg has been honored by his peers with more DGA Award nominations than any other director. In 2000, he received the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press’ Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Kennedy Center Honors and numerous other career tributes.
More recently, Spielberg directed the worldwide hit Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and was a producer on Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, both directed by Clint Eastwood, and a producer on 2011’s Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams.
Spielberg is currently in postproduction on the 3D film The Adventures of Tintin, which he directed. It is produced in collaboration with Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy and based on the iconic character created by Georges “Hergé” Remi. The film is due for release in December 2011.
He also directed War Horse, which is currently in postproduction. The film is based on an award-winning novel that has been adapted into a major stage hit in London and Broadway, where it won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Play. From DreamWorks Studios, War Horse is also scheduled to open at holiday time in December 2011. This fall, he will be directing Lincoln, which will be released in the fall of 2012.
Spielberg’s career began with the 1968 short film Amblin’ which led to his becoming the youngest director ever signed to a long-term studio deal. He first gained attention for his 1971 telefilm Duel. Three years later, he made his feature film directorial debut on The Sugarland Express, from a screenplay he co-wrote. His next film was Jaws, which was the first film to break the $100 million mark.
In 1984, Spielberg formed his own production company, Amblin Entertainment. Under the Amblin banner, he served as producer or executive producer on such hits as Gremlins, The Goonies, the Back to the Future franchise, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, An American Tail, Twister, The Mask of Zorro and the Men in Black films. Amblin also produced the hit series ER, with Warner Bros. Television.
In 1994, Spielberg partnered with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to form the original DreamWorks Studios. The studio enjoyed both critical and commercial successes, including three consecutive Best Picture Academy Award® winners: American Beauty, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. In its history, DreamWorks has also produced or co-produced a wide range of features including the Transformers blockbusters; Clint Eastwood’s World War II dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, the latter earning a Best Picture Oscar® nomination; Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers; and The Ring, to name only a few. Under the DreamWorks banner, Spielberg also directed such films as War of the Worlds, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Spielberg’s success has not limited to the big screen. On the heels of their experience on Saving Private Ryan, he and Tom Hanks teamed to executive produce the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, based on Stephen Ambrose’s book about a U.S. Army unit in Europe during World War II. Among its many awards, the project won both Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Outstanding Miniseries. He and Hanks more recently reunited to executive produce the acclaimed 2010 HBO miniseries The Pacific, this time focusing on the marines in WWII’s Pacific battle with the Japanese. The Pacific won eight Emmy Awards including Outstanding Miniseries.
Spielberg also executive produced the Emmy-winning Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Taken and the TNT miniseries Into the West.
Apart from his filmmaking work, Spielberg has also devoted his time and resources to many philanthropic causes. The impact of his work on Schindler’s List led him to establish the Righteous Persons Foundation with all his profits from the film. He also founded Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which became the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education in 2005. In addition, Spielberg is the chairman emeritus of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
DENIS L. STEWART (Executive Producer) reunites with Jon Favreau on Cowboys & Aliens after serving as executive producer on the blockbuster Iron Man 2. Prior to that, he was co-producer on Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which marked Stewart’s fourth film with Indiana Jones producer Frank Marshall, having served as production manager on Eight Below, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.
Stewart is a 30-year film veteran and worked as a production manager on Spider-Man 2 and 3, Munich, Bewitched, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Panic Room. Before that, he worked as first assistant director on more than 20 feature films including Amistad, Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Chamber, Executive Decision, The Mask, Random Hearts and Fair Game. He is currently executive producing Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring Jeremy Renner.
BOBBY COHEN (Executive Producer) is president of feature production at Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s K/O Paper Products, where he is currently producing Kurtzman’s directorial debut, Welcome to People, starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Previously, Cohen was president of Red Wagon Entertainment, working alongside Dough Wick and Lucy Fisher. There, he served as executive producer on such features as Sam Mendes’ Jarhead; Rob Marshall’s Academy Award®-winning screen adaptation of Arthur Golden’s beloved novel “Memoirs of a Geisha”; Barry Sonnenfeld’s hit comedy RV, starring Robin Williams; and Nora Ephron’s Bewitched, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.
In 2008, after leaving Red Wagon, Cohen reunited with director Sam Mendes to produce the award-winning and Oscar®-nominated Revolutionary Road, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. He also went on to executive produce the romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe, starring Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin and Elizabeth Banks, and co-produced Don Roos’ Happy Endings, which was the opening night selection at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Its ensemble cast includes Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Coogan, Tom Arnold, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Ritter and Jesse Bradford.
Earlier in his career, Cohen was the senior vice president of production at Miramax Films. During his tenure at Miramax, Cohen served as executive producer on Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, and 54, starring Mike Myers, Neve Campbell and Salma Hayek. In addition, he was the executive on many other films including Clerks, Wide Awake, Smoke, The Pallbearer, Scream and Beautiful Girls.
After stepping down from his position at Miramax, Cohen founded Cohen Pictures, which had a multipicture deal with Miramax. During that time, he produced the comedy View From the Top, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Candice Bergen, Kelly Preston, Mark Ruffalo and Mike Myers. He was also a co-producer on the romantic drama Bounce, starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. He executive produced the romantic comedy Down to You, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Julia Stiles, and Lasse Hallström’s The Cider House Rules, starring Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine. The latter film took home Academy Awards® for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (for Caine).
Cohen began his career at the Writers & Artists Agency in New York. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
RANDY GREENBERG (Executive Producer) is considered one of the best minds in strategic and creative marketing and distribution in the global entertainment industry today. In addition, Greenberg has run multimillion-dollar entertainment divisions for large global entertainment companies. For the past 22 years, Greenberg has been involved in the green-lighting, marketing and distribution of more than 200 films, and his campaigns have produced more than $5 billion in theatrical revenues. Greenberg runs a boutique consultancy that handles entertainment operation for clients as well as negotiating rights deals, financing deals, talent deals, production deals, licensing/merchandising deals, studio distribution deals and foreign sales agent deals.
This year, in addition to Cowboys & Aliens, Greenberg also executive produced Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, with Hyde Park Entertainment, Platinum Studios and Omnilab Media.
Prior to starting The Greenberg Group, Greenberg was long considered “the international guy” as he was head of international theatrical operations for Universal Pictures; vice president of international theatrical marketing for MGM; and senior account executive at Dennis Davidson Associates (DDA), handling international public relations for various film production companies including Carolco Pictures, Morgan Creek, Avenue Pictures, Miramax and Interscope Pictures, among many others.
While he was at Universal Pictures, Greenberg’s international division produced six international box-office releases that grossed more than $100 million during a single year, breaking a company record and tying an industry record. Greenberg spearheaded and drove the record-breaking overseas releases of such films as The Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park III, American Pie 2, The Fast and the Furious, The Bourne Identity, Red Dragon, 8 Mile, Hulk, 2 Fast 2 Furious, American Pie: The Wedding and Intolerable Cruelty.
While at MGM, Greenberg helped strategize campaigns for such films as The World Is Not Enough, The Thomas Crown Affair, Stigmata, Tomorrow Never Dies, Ulee’s Gold, The Birdcage, GoldenEye, Get Shorty and Rob Roy.
On behalf of his clients at DDA, Greenberg strategized and worked on the international publicity campaigns for such films as Stargate, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Basic Instinct, Cliffhanger, The Last of the Mohicans, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Total Recall and Field of Dreams.
Greenberg began his career working for the Edwards Cinemas circuit (now part of Regal) as an assistant manager and as an intern in production accounting for Warner Bros. Pictures. Greenberg has a BSBA in marketing/finance from the University of Denver; is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Film Information Council, the Marketing Executives Networking Group and the American Marketing Association; and is an instructor for UCLA Extension.
RYAN KAVANAUGH (Executive Producer) is a successful producer and highly regarded expert in film finance as CEO and founder of Relativity Media, LLC. As a producer, Kavanaugh’s personal production lineup includes Neil Burger’s Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro; Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, an epic action-adventure film in the vein of 300; and David O. Russell’s The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Kavanaugh is currently in preproduction on The Untitled Snow White, a nontraditional retelling of the famous fairy tale, starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, as well as Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven. He also executive produced the critically acclaimed, eight-time Oscar® nominee The Social Network. His recent films include Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me and Mamma Mia!; Lionsgate’s Brothers and 3:10 to Yuma; The Weinstein Company’s Nine; Sony Pictures’ Grown Ups; and Screen Gems’ Dear John.
Kavanaugh was honored with the 2009 Hollywood Producer of the Year Award at the 13th Annual Hollywood Awards gala, and Daily Variety recently published a special issue that honored Kavanaugh as a “Billion Dollar Producer.” In 2010, The Hollywood Reporter bestowed its Leadership Award to Kavanaugh and dedicated a special issue in his honor. Kavanaugh has been named Variety’s Showman of the Year 2011 and was honored at the Cannes Film Festival.
Kavanaugh created business and financial structures for a number of studios, production companies and producers and has introduced more than $10 billion of capital to these structures. Past structures/deals include Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Marvel and many others. Kavanaugh has acquired a wealth of strategic assets including the marketing and distribution operations of Overture Films and reaching a first-of-its-kind television pay deal with Netflix. In addition, Kavanaugh forged a marketing, promotional and production partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand.
With Kavanaugh at the helm, Relativity is an established media and entertainment company that is engaged in creating, financing and distributing first-class, studio-quality entertainment content and intellectual property across multiple platforms, as well as making strategic partnerships with, and opportunistic investments in, entertainment-related companies and assets. Relativity has produced or financed more than 200 motion pictures, generating more than $15 billion in worldwide box-office revenue and earning 60 Oscar® nominations. Kavanaugh was recently named one of Fortune’s “40 Under 40 Most Influential People in Business.”
MATTHEW LIBATIQUE, ASC (Director of Photography) studied at the prestigious American Film Institute, where he earned an MFA in cinematography. Black Swan marked Libatique’s fourth feature collaboration with director Darren Aronofsky, following Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain. They began their careers together collaborating on the short film Protozoa. For his work on Black Swan, Libatique received nominations from the Academy Awards®, the BAFTAs, the American Society of Cinematographers, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Film Independent Spirit Awards, to name a few.
Prior to Black Swan, Libatique shot director Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, the sequel to the box-office hit Iron Man, on which he also served as cinematographer. Last year, he was director of photography on My Own Love Song, a comedy-drama with Forest Whitaker and Renée Zellweger.
The Independent Spirit Awards honored Libatique with a nomination for his work on Pi and awarded him their Best Cinematography trophy for Requiem for a Dream. The latter film also brought him nominations from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society.
Libatique’s career began in 1995 as a cinematographer in the music video industry. His work has appeared on MTV for artists such as The Cure, Usher, Death in Vegas, Erykah Badu, Incubus, Tupac, Moby, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and The Fray. Libatique earned the Music Video Production Association Award for Best Cinematography in 2002, for Matchbox 20’s “Mad Season.” Working in the commercial and music video industry, he has combined forces with talented directors such as Floria Sigismondi, Dante Ariola, Brian Beletic, Phil Harder, Terry Richardson, Mark Pellington, Traktor, Kinka Usher, StyleWar and Noam Murro.
His other feature film credits include Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland and Phone Booth; Gothika, for Mathieu Kassovitz; Abandon, for Stephen Gaghan; and Everything Is Illuminated, directed by Liev Schreiber. He has also collaborated with director Spike lee on three films: Miracle at St. Anna, She Hate Me and Inside Man.
Libatique is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American Society of Cinematographers.
Award-winning production designer SCOTT CHAMBLISS has designed for motion picture, television and theater productions in both New York and Los Angeles.
Chambliss collaborated with Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams on Star Trek. His work with Abrams spans two decades and includes Mission: Impossible III, as well as the hit television series Alias and Felicity. Last year, Chambliss designed Phillip Noyce’s Salt, starring Angelina Jolie.
For several consecutive years, Chambliss was nominated for both an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction and the Award for Excellence in Production Design by the Art Directors Guild, for his work on Alias. In 2002, he won the Emmy and, in 2003, he won the Guild Award.
Chambliss began his career as an associate designer with Tony Walton on a number of Broadway productions including Anything Goes, Macbeth and Grand Hotel.
He also wrote and illustrated the graphic novel “Maahvelous!: Princess Puut and Dali Do Venice,” a richly exotic tale of two friends’ travels abroad. Its sequel, “Fromage d’Amour: Princess Puut in Love,” has recently been published.
DAN LEBENTAL, ACE (Edited by) has been editing in Hollywood since 1990, the year he edited his first feature. That film was followed closely by the Hughes brothers’ Dead Presidents (1995). He also collaborated with the brothers on From Hell (2001) and contributed extensively to their documentary, American Pimp (1999). Lebental met Albert and Allen Hughes while editing music videos.
After more than 15 years in the industry, Lebental has cut more than 20 feature films (both indies and tent-pole studio features) in a wide variety of genres as well as television dramas, documentaries and shorts. His enthusiasm for good stories is matched only by his total dedication to the craft of cutting, his world-class technical expertise and his undisputed love for driving motorcycles.
Lebental’s studio portfolio includes Marvel Studios’ blockbusters Iron Man and Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey, Jr., which both opened No. 1 at the U.S. box office and have grossed more than $1 billion combined.
Lebental’s collaboration with director Jon Favreau also brought audiences movies including New Line Cinema’s Elf (2003) and Columbia Pictures’ Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005). Lebental met Favreau as an actor, while he was cutting Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things (1998), and they have worked together ever since. In addition to editing the majority of Favreau’s movies, Lebental also edited the first season of Favreau’s television show, Dinner for Five, and edited the pilot episode of Favreau’s In Case of Emergency.
Throughout his career as an editor, Lebental has also maintained and developed a close professional relationship with actor/producer Vince Vaughn, for whom he cut Universal Pictures’ The Break-Up (2006), Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights—Hollywood to the Heartland (2006) and Couples Retreat (2009).
Lebental is currently mentoring USC film students in film editing practice as well as lecturing on film postproduction at different international conferences. In addition to mentoring students throughout his career, Lebental takes pleasure in supporting a new generation of editors.
JIM MAY (Edited by) most recently edited Joe Carnahan’s The A-Team, starring Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson. May has teamed up with Stephen Sommers on four films: serving as an editor on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Van Helsing, and as a visual effects editor on The Mummy and on Deep Rising. He has also worked with producer Jerry Bruckheimer on three projects: serving as co-editor on Kangaroo Jack, as an additional editor on the Oscar®-nominated epic Pearl Harbor and as visual effects editor on Armageddon, which received an Oscar® nomination for Best Visual Effects.
More recently, May edited a variety of films in different genres, including the thriller Horsemen; Andrew Adamson’s blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; the horror films The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and The Hitcher; and the futuristic animated film Battle for Terra (as additional editor).
May’s other motion picture credits (in various capacities) include Frank Oz’s fantasy film The Indian in the Cupboard (as VFX editor); Steven Spielberg’s Oscar®- winning Jurassic Park; James Cameron’s Oscar®-winning Terminator 2: Judgment Day; and John McTiernan’s Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. May also edited the short film The Same, which won the Best Editing award at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival, and the independent feature Cookers, which collected Best Film and Best Editing honors at the 2001 Milan International Film Festival.
A native of Denver, Colorado, May attended film school at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Following graduation, he entered the specialized world of visual effects editing during tenures with such renowned VFX companies as Industrial Light & Magic, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Boss Film Studios.
MARY ZOPHRES (Costume Designer) recently received an Academy Award® nomination for her work on True Grit, her 10th consecutive collaboration with the Coen brothers as costume designer, following Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading and A Serious Man. Earlier, she was assistant costume designer for the Coens on The Hudsucker Proxy.
She has been the costume designer on several movies for Steven Spielberg including The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can, for which she earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Costume Design, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Zophres’ other films credits include the Farrelly brothers’ first three movies: Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary; Timothy Hutton’s Digging to China; Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday; Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World; Brad Silberling’s Moonlight Mile; Bruno Barreto’s View From the Top; Nora Ephron’s Bewitched; Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces; and Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs.
She earned a degree in art history and studio art from Vassar College before beginning her professional career working in the fashion industry for Norma Kamali and Esprit. She began working in the film industry as the extras wardrobe supervisor on Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. Zophres recently worked as costume designer on Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey, Jr.
HARRY GREGSON-WILLIAMS (Music by) is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers, whose scores span the spectrum of high-profile projects from action to drama to animation—each infused with the emotional punch and atmospheric intensity that mark his distinctive musical style. He worked on all four installments of the blockbuster Shrek franchise. He garnered a BAFTA nomination for the score for the first Shrek, and received Golden Globe and Grammy Award nominations for his score for Andrew Adamson’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Gregson-Williams recently scored the critically acclaimed The Town, marking his second collaboration with director Ben Affleck. Gregson-Williams first worked with Affleck as the composer on the Oscar®-nominated Gone Baby Gone. He has also worked multiple times with other directors including Joel Schumacher on the films Twelve, The Number 23, Veronica Guerin and Phone Booth; and Tony Scott on Unstoppable, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Déjà Vu, Domino, Man on Fire, Spy Game and Enemy of the State. He also recently scored the documentary Life in a Day, directed by Kevin Macdonald.
His long list of film credits also includes Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Adamson’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian; Seraphim Falls; Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven; Beeban Kidron’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason; Aardman’s animated smash Chicken Run; Return to Sender and Smilla’s Sense of Snow, both for director Bille August; Antoine Fuqua’s The Replacement Killers; and Antz.
Born in England to a musical family, Gregson-Williams earned a scholarship from the music school at St. John’s College in Cambridge at the age of seven. By age 13, his singing had been featured on more than a dozen recordings, and he then earned a coveted spot at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He started his film career as an orchestrator and arranger for composer Stanley Myers, and went on to compose his first scores for director Nicolas Roeg. His subsequent collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer resulted in Gregson-Williams providing music for such films as The Rock, Broken Arrow, Armageddon, As Good as It Gets and The Prince of Egypt and subsequently launched his career in Hollywood.