Directed by James Mangold.
Lead actors, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.
Find the trailer at; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA8cUdmyvMc
In designing a Western it is easy to gravitate to the iconic imagery established in many of the films from the golden age of Westerns. However, Jim established early on that this was going to be a contemporary movie set in the past and he wanted to avoid clichéd images of the western genre.
From Jim’s previous films, I knew the camera work was going to be close, focusing on weaving the complex relationship between the protagonists. With this in mind the sets and locations had to be backdrops for the performances, not a character in itself. One way of doing this was by choosing a palette for the film of muted earth tones, masculine and sparse. A desiccated landscape was important; a drought was forcing the main character, Dan, to escort Wade to the train out of need for money.
As a design overview I wanted the environments to start with wide open plains, becoming more constricted and emphasizing their claustrophobia as the gang bore down on Dan, Ben and their group. This culminated in the Tunnels where the gang was almost upon them.
On our interior sets we wanted to build mood; for example the Evens Ranch needed to be womb-like, as did the Contention Hotel room, to accentuate the feeling of leaving a safe haven to navigate the dangers of the outside world.
Under the umbrella of the broader design ethos for the film we approached each set with extensive research and on a basic level we asked what if we were, let say, Dan or the folks of Bisbee, 'what materials would we have to build with?': For instance Dan is not only poor, but lives in an environment with no trees, so all the materials at hand would be either local or imported by cart. Therefore we went with mud adobe walls and limited amounts of lumber that could be brought in by cart.
As a side note, mid way through shooting the gunfight we had 3ft of snow on 'Contention'! In a true frontier spirit the team joined together, grabbed shovels and dug the town out. Jim also deftly improvised his shots to adapt to the conditions. From this adversity I believe a better movie was made.