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James Mangold's Classic 3:10 to Yuma

Published September 4, 2007 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Lionsgate
3:10 to Yuma Poster 3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma is a classic western. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) helps bring Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to a prison train to earn money to pay off the bank. It's not good guys and bad guys though. That's not really what the old westerns were about, says 3:10 director James Mangold.

James Mangold Talks 3:10 to Yuma

"The traditional westerns are really mis-typed as bad guy, good guy movies," said Mangold. "Who's the bad guy and good guy in Shane? Shane's a killer, but he saves the family. Jack Palance wants someone off his property. Is he bad, is he good? Everything is gray. The Searchers, is John Wayne a good guy or a bad guy? I think that's one of the great misconceptions about the westerns and why they're dead. And I'd hope, actually you guys to avoid printing what isn't really true except for the worst Gene Autry movies, is that there really was never the black hat, white hat western. John Wayne was a dark figure. 3:10 to Yuma (1957), that's not a movie about clear cut good guys and bad guys."

Westerns could also be metaphors for politics of the time. Mangold accepts that and encourages such interpretations today. "One of the things the western gave us an opportunity to do, and I don't think it's particularly obtuse, is explore a lot of issues today in the context of the post Civil War period in America and allow you to see them allegorically instead of directly. And it makes the film less preachy. It makes the film less of a kind of political didactic experience and much more of a film where you experience, 'Wow, I didn't know that voluntary militia men were drawn into the Civil War even if they didn't want to be.' I would always joke with Peter Fonda that he was kind of playing Dick Cheney, that the kind of use of God to justify violence on both sides. That Ben Wade will justify violence using a kind of anarchy or kind of almost libertarian philosophy of survival of the fittest and at the other side of the spectrum you have Peter Fonda, who's kind of using violence justified by law and order. Both of them are quoting the bible to justify their actions. I think that a lot of that becomes a way to play out things without making political points but actually drawing an audience into something where they just might be left thinking in a way that we haven't divided people."

A fan of the original, Mangold did not just refilm the old 3:10 to Yuma script. "We changed more than the end. I mean, we changed the beginning, I could riffle them off. Dan Evans doesn't have one leg in the original and he's not a Civil War veteran and his son doesn't travel with them. There's an awful lot. There's a huge journey, a three-day journey that doesn't exist in the original film. The son isn't present in the ending in the original. I think what you should do is watch the original ending and see I think that's one of the weaker areas of the original and one of the more implausible frankly. We felt we were making a commentary on what we felt was kind of a more evocative and realistic appraisal of what might actually have happened."

Since 3:10 to Yuma is not one of the legendary classics that everybody has seen, Mangold was freer to bring his own interpretation to it. "I think that the word remake has come to mean one thing and I think it's very different in the case of films like ours, which is that there's this very cynical kind of remake in Hollywood where you have a brand of a toy or a TV show from the '70's or whatever it is and you take some modern stars and 70 million dollars and you throw it all together and you have asses in seats because everyone recognizes the brand. With 3:10 to Yuma, your point is that there's probably one percent of one percent of America is even aware of the title. So we weren't getting any kind of innate cynical advantage, which is usually implied when you're saying remake. We have a genre that no studio believes anyone wants to see anymore, we have a story no one's ever heard of before. No one knew who starred in the original so in a way we really had our work cut out for us."

3:10 to Yuma has a wide release on September 7th.

For the trailer, posters and more movie info, go the 3:10 to Yuma Movie Page.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Lionsgate

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