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Capone sits down with COWBOYS & ALIENS director Jon Favreau!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

As a feature director, Jon Favreau has only directed six films, but most of those works have taken great strides in pushing geek culture a little more into the mainstream, certainly no more so than his first entry in the IRON MAN films, which set the stage for what could end up being one of the great comic book event films of all time, THE AVENGERS. But even with works like ZATHURA, ELF, and his latest, COWBOYS & ALIENS, Favreau has never pretended to be anything more than a mainstream director who knows and respects his audience.

Having come from an acting background, he seems to be a favorite among the actors that he has worked with, and from all I've heard, his sets are some of the most fun to be on due in large part to his unbridled energy and commitment to making the filmmaking process fun. I've interviewed Favreau before, but always as an actor, so this was my first chance to join in a discussion about directing and the decision-making process that goes along with that task.

The night before this roundtable interview with a group of online journalists, I got a chance to have an extended, off-the-record chat with Favreau about COWBOYS & ALIENS and many other things that helped me pull together some slightly more informed questions the following morning. We covered everything from the role of faith in the film to producer Steven Spielberg's specific contributions to the creature designs (both of which I ask about below), but we also talked about why he wanted to hold the film's world premiere at Comic-Con, why HBO's "Game of Thrones" was so important (especially for his ELF star Peter Dinklage), and even a bit about Ron Howard's approach to THE DARK TOWER project (assuming that ever happens).

But the purpose of the following day's interview was COWBOYS & ALIENS, a film that is a great deal of fun indeed. Please enjoy Jon Favreau…

Jon Favreau: There are a lot of tired people here.

[Everyone Laughs]

Question: To start things off, at what point did you make the story decision to not knock yourselves out doing things like developing a language for the alien parts with subtitles, developing characters within that organization, letting us know above their hopes, our dreams, our aspirations and just going with mysterious monsters? Which is not a knock, it’s just curiosity.

JF: Look, the title is COWBOYS & ALIENS, so you can get away with a lot if you chose to. If you think of cowboy movies here and alien movies here, we could have made it the union of both and done whatever was convenient at any given meld, and I think that’s what most people would do, especially if you went broader and more comedic. “Do whatever is the most fun in the moment.”

We really wanted to challenge ourselves with making it the intersection of the two genres. It had to work for both. If it only worked for one, we booted the idea and so you will see a lot of the set pieces feel like they could be in a western. We tried to echo what would be in a western. Even in a big action sequence, we didn’t want it to feel much bigger than a cavalry charge at the Alamo. We didn’t want it to be a huge, huge alien-invasion battle, we wanted to try and keep that same texture.

So in answering your question the first thing we had to set out and do was decide what kind of western we were going to do, if it was just a western, and what kind of alien movie. The type of alien movie we seized on, I guess maybe because of when I grew up, but the moment just before CGI hit there was I think a Golden Age of that kind of movie, because you were dealing with animatronics, you were dealing with like the Stan Winston, [Rob] Bottin era of THE THING, ALIEN, and even ALIENS. And we really looked and examined closely what was done right before you could do everything with a computer, because I think once ALIEN 3 came out, you just showed them swimming and it was just different, and you were showing off the technology.

I know with IRON MAN it worked very well, because we looked at TOP GUN when we looked at how to cover him flying. We looked at what the last big practical flying movie was to see the way you cover it, what lenses you use, how to discipline the cinematography, not because anybody would notice it overtly, but subconsciously you feel its more real. So we decided to look at films like ALIEN, ALIENS, PREDATOR, and even JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, and a lot of the Spielberg stuff to play up the tension. In those movies, you really play it on the verge of horror and you spend less time explaining the culture of that, because you want to keep them this distant, evil, shadowy, primal force, and then as you slowly reveal them and make them vulnerable, then that starts to…

If you think of the way PREDATOR plays out, you don’t even see the thing. It’s a shadow, then it’s a ripple, then it’s a movement, music, sound, and then the aftermath of what it does, and eventually the armor comes off, you see it and then they end up fighting. If that happened earlier in the film, you would lose people. So although we have our own internal logic of how it works, the way the technology works, why they do what they do, it would never be obvious to these people, and we just reveal as much as we need to to allow the characters to be able to face them. I could talk for a half an hour about why they travel in the type of craft they do, what type of creatures they are, how they were developed, what other creatures exist where they are from, what they are there for, why they are there, and trying to site the mythology of alien encounters way back to Egyptians in the pyramid times and those shared understandings of why aliens might come here. So we tried to maintain some internal logic, though in the film we don’t want to burden the audience with that, but we wanted to create a consistency for ourselves.

Question: You talked about the cinematography and disciplining the cinematography in IRON MAN. And you talked about choosing 2D specifically for this film. I noticed in the scene where he’s carrying Ella it looked, I don’t know if it was color reversal…

JF: Yeah, it was color reversal. Good eye.

Question: So were you really paying a lot of attention to selecting different stocks and using different techniques to serve the story? How much did you and Mathew Libatique talk about that?

JF: A lot. The minute we decided to go with film, and we tested digital 3D, and just for the record I love 3D, I have nothing against it; I think it’s here to stay. I can’t wait to work in 3D and I was really compelled by the test, but it has to serve the story just like casting, just like performances, dialog, everything has to serve the story, otherwise you are being indulgent, And I also felt there was a lot of pressure where everybody was rushing to do 3D I felt like, tactically, and we have to think that way to, at the end of a summer when everything is 3D, even things that maybe shouldn’t be, and everything is of a similar genre and everybody is exploring the same types of stories and sequels and reboots that it would make this movie even more fresh. So at the end of a summer where people are just bottlenecked with movies every weekend, it was a great opportunity to do something that might pop and be refreshing and I feel even more strongly about it now.

That being said, once we decided to go with film, which you can’t do if you are going to shoot native 3D, it’s just not feasible. You have to shoot either digital or convert film. Once we decided to shoot anamorphic, which I don’t think Matty had done before nor had I, we were really embracing what the film could do, and there are gong to be both flashbacks and also a decision about what the alien vision should look like, and we looked at a lot of flashbacks from the western. That’s one of those intersection moments, if you look at like FIRE IN THE SKY and you look at a lot of… When people remember alien encounters or abductions they have spotty memories, even MEN IN BLACK, and even if you look at ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST or THE WILD BUNCH, there’s great use of flashback. So we wanted to create a language that would work for both, and Matty had done some reversal work in INSIDE MAN I believe, and so we had worked tests of it, because we didn’t want to go with a vignetted sepia wash. We didn’t want anything to ever feel kitsch. We didn’t want it to feel like a wink about the western; we wanted to do something that made you feel like what you saw, but we didn’t want it to be a pastiche.

So a reversal felt like it gave it a other worldly quality. It sent the message to the audience “You are looking at something different.” It became challenging with visual effects in the flashback, because already it makes it look unreal, so to have different things that we had to do became more challenging, because even if you show something real in reversal it feels a little unreal, but that was the only challenge, and Matty was really the steward of that and he’s got a great aesthetic eye and even to the point of there’s a little Hipstamatic free pack that we did for a tie in for any iPhone people, Hipstamatic is a really cool program, and if you have it, you can get a free lens pack that Matty worked on the alien look and the cowboy look for it. Even on that, he was very instrumental in creating an aesthetic for it, and I think it really works quite well in the film. So yeah, the answer is yes.

Question: Before Daniel Craig was cast as Jake, Robert Downey Jr. was originally cast. I’m curious, how much did the character change between actors?

JF: Well when I read the first draft of the script that I was shown, I had met with… Just the whole history of this, first I heard about it I think when it was announced it was picked up before the comic book had ever been written, I think it was just an image. I don’t even think it had a title. It was very compelling. I remember hearing “COWBOYS & ALIENS” and thinking its cool or interesting or at least being curious as to “What’s this going to be?” Years later when we were shooting IRON MAN, [Mark] Fergus and [Hawk] Ostby, the writing team that had come onto it--I had developed the JOHN CARTER OF MARS script with them and then brought them on to work on IRON MAN when that didn’t pan out. They did a good job writing on that and then they had a meeting with Steven [Spielberg] about COWBOYS & ALIENS, which I was like, “Wow, really? Tell me about it.” “It sounds pretty cool, we're going to go pitch it.” Then they got hired. Then I hadn’t heard about it, then during IRON MAN 2, Robert said, “Yeah I might be doing with Fergus and Ostby COWBOYS & ALIENS.” Now I was really curious about it, I was like “What is it?” I didn’t really hear much about it again, then finally when I was at Comic Con promoting IRON MAN 2 I ran into [Alex] Kurtzman and [Roberto] Orci, who were the producers and wrote the latest draft of the script, and they were just talking to me about “Hey we should get together. We should meet.” I was curious, still. I said, “Tell me about this.” “We just finished the draft, come on over…”

They sent me the draft, and it was really, really strong. The only thing that was a little off for me was that the main character was a little chatty. The gag has to be you play one straight and the other straight, and then let it get crazy when they come together, don’t play a funny western. Don’t have a fast-talking gunfighter, then it becomes a different thing. That’s the comment, that’s the fun you are having, that’s the twist, but you don’t want a twist before the aliens come I felt. Then also SHERLOCK had taken off, and Robert was in two franchises now, and so he couldn’t do it, because SHERLOCK 2 was going to be shooting in the same window. So by the time I had come on as a director, he was already drifting and so the first person I cast when I came in was Daniel, who I really liked. You know, there’s not a lot of people that could play this role. Most people his age--he’s my age--feel more like kids, they don’t feel like guys who've experienced enough to feel remorse and need redemption. They feel like people who are just coming of age. So he had that history to him and he was a really good foil, and then when we got Harrison it really made a lot of sense.

Question: Talk a little bit about getting Harrison. How do you go to Harrison Ford and pitch COWBOYS & ALIENS?

JF: Well, it was a little more surreptitious than that whole thing. We were already going through lists of actors, and he was somebody who when we first discussed it didn’t… the people who knew what he was up to and what he had been doing and had approached him or had worked with him on other movies said “He’s not going to be into it. He’s not going to be looking to do a supporting role. He’s not going to be looking to do a film like this.” There was a myriad of reasons, we never even went out to him. Then through mutual contacts I found out that people asked, “Well why didn’t you ever go to Harrison?” I said, “It’s not a realistic thing,” and to be honest when you are dealing with a movie of this size and you are dealing with stars, you don’t want to start sending scripts to people, getting passed on it, and then next thing you know somebody feels like a second choice or the movie might lose momentum. It’s a very small, weird, gossipy town, and you have to be very decisive when you make moves to set things up, because you don’t want to insult anybody.

I said, “We didn’t want to do that.” It also takes several weeks sometimes to get an answer, and then I had heard from somebody who was close saying, “He’s looking to work with filmmakers like you on interesting projects with interesting stories.” I had known that he liked my work, so I said, “Well look if this is a realistic possibility, this would be the best news ever, but it can’t turn into…” Sometimes, you're encouraged to make offers, let's put it this way, because it makes the representatives look good even if they know they don’t want it, but they can say, “Hey look, I got you five offers.” So they might give you a false positive. I didn’t know where this was coming from. When I later talked to his representatives who I had known for many years, I’ve been around for a while now, it was pretty clear that it was… They didn’t say, “He’s definitely going to want to do it,” but they said they could get a quick answer and see if its something he’d be into.

So I said, “Alright.” We got the script over to Harrison. There was a very quick turnaround, he read it, and sat down and met with me. Now, all of this talk now of “I read it, I didn’t like it,” he never said any of that to me at the beginning, but I knew that he was a guy that was very scrutinizing and, well you know, you guys sit down with him. It’s when you first sit down with him, first of all you are sitting across from Harrison Ford, which, even if he was the warmest guy, even if he was Santa Claus, that would still be… But he’s also standoffish at first, and he’s a man of few words and he’s got his own rhythm to him and he asked a few questions, and me and Bob Orci were there and just so happy to even meet the guy. Even if it didn’t work out, this was going to be a memorable moment. “This is going to be a story forever” even if he didn’t want to do it, I would have been talking about it in a junket no matter what.

[Everyone Laughs]

JF: And then he started asking more and more questions, and as we answered them and I think he saw our enthusiasm, and I walked him through all of the drawings I do and from IRON MAN I knew you know you’ve got to do drawings that reflect the mood of every scene in every moment. Because with IRON MAN, we didn’t always have pages. Sometimes it was a drawing that I would hang up at the monitor and say “Here’s Tony’s workshop, this is the feeling I want when you are working on… You are working on a half-built suit. It’s after you’ve been shot out of the sky.” The words changed so much in that movie, it was always the image that I could show my DP, I could show the actor.

And I had a lot of those for the mood of the town with lanterns, as people were coming out of the town after the town attack, and what that felt like, and I wanted the light coming from the windows and it be very dark and you could barely make things out, and each of the sequences had that moment to it. And I had the key frame of Jake jumping onto the back of the speeder, which was very clearly inspired by what he had done in INDIANA JONES and what was done in STAGECOACH. So you started to get a sense of what the tone of the film was, and as we answered more and more questions, he asked more and more, and next thing I knew he was on. So it was a very quick process, and at that point also he had spoken to Steven after that. But Steven was more of a closer than somebody who opened up the conversation. What’s great about having Steven is there is nobody in his category. If he makes a phone call or he feels passion for something, nobody is immune to that. It’s infectious and authentic.

Question: As a follow up, from TRAFFIC to A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES [both film Ford famously left after being announced as part of the cast], Mr. Ford is notorious for being invested in the writing process of a film to a point where he’s no longer involved in it. Was that a concern? Did that happen?

JF: He was very involved. The script was pretty strong. We made some significant changes to the character, but I think having Harrison in your movie, that's the elephant in the living room, you can’t ignore what it is, so you can’t have him whipping a guy at the beginning of the movie. Right now, he’s got the guy tied up the horses. He had a bullwhip, that was like his thing, he had a whip. He can’t have him with a whip.

[Everyone Laughs]

JF: Or you are making a very different comment and it becomes OBLIVION then, right? It’s on DVD now, where you have George Tekai saying all of his buzz lines from STAR TREK. You’re commenting, it’s becoming a comment on another movie; you're already inheriting his body of work. It’s like John Wayne, in THE SEARCHERS you know him from STAGECOACH, it’s the same. “You’re not the same guy, but you're kind of the same guy.” So to overtly say, “Okay, I’m going to make it seem like you're bad Indiana Jones” I don’t think would have served the film; it would have taken you out of it. And have what you could get away with with him being dark and how much you are accepting of his redemptive aspect, because of who he is and the affection that the audience feels, you just play that hand differently.

Question: As far as the script is concerned, if we can stay on that topic, there’s an old "Twilight Zone" episode where and inventor using a time machine brings a man from the old west to the future, and I was curious about working with the screenwriters and also what your method was in directing to bring a balance to a culture of people that are suddenly thrust with completely unbelievable technology--magical technology to them.

JF: It’s a much more acute example of what you deal with in every aspect of storytelling, which is, “What would it really be like if…?” I think if you could do that, if you could answer that question effectively, and I think Neil Simon said it to as a playwright, he says “This is what this is really like." They're all facets of the same gem. Find the reality of that moment and play it as smart as you can, whether it’s ELF, “What would it really be like if you grew up in a Rankin/Bass Christmas special and then you went to New York?” “Who should his dad be?”

The tendency is always to want to plain down the rough edges, to me you want to sharpen them and make it more extreme and then see what happens. So with the western, “What would it really be like if that saw them?” There were a lot of discussions, and nobody was unable to raise their hand and give a suggestion, whether it’s the kid or Harrison Ford. “What do you think it would be?” “Well, it would be demons.” “Well it’s not APOCALYPTO, where it's like a magic thing, but they probably would use that terminology, but they are kind of savvy to technology. They would sense it’s technology of some sort.” Then what would the American Indians feel? “Every piece of technology that they have seen has been something from over seas that has been used to exterminate them." So it’s probably something related to the white man. And Sam Rockwell is like, “Tell them they took our people too!” There’s that frustration of them trying to get together, but to really be able to quiet your mind and say, “What would it really by like if this were to really happen?”

That was IRON MAN too like “How would it really go down? What would be the first thing you would do?” That’s also why I like the first SPIDER-MAN a lot, the beginning especially, which is like, “Okay, if you have it, you’ve got to learn to use it.” To jump past that point and have him rescue people right away or fight crime to me is robbing the audience of the delicious experience of the learning curve of any of these things, and to me it’s that transition that makes it exciting.

Capone: To some of the points you just made about the Indians and the Sam Rockwell character, there’s a lot of discussion about faith and the soul as sort of the thing that fortifies them and that keeps them from losing all hope and inspires them.

JF: Isn’t that wonderful?

Capone: Yeah, that’s something maybe back in John Ford’s day they might have gone to that, but in the modern western that’s kind of been absent. I liked that touch.

JF: Maybe, it's where I am in my life, but I think its fear and faith is a huge, huge thing and I think its part of being halfway through your life, hopefully half through your life where you're as close to both ends, and you sort of just get the whole picture and life is scary. “Do you believe that there’s something more than just what you see on the surface?” People coming together, whether its in the western, to carve out of the wilderness a place where you can raise a family, back when civilization was seen as very pure and a good thing, and you're bringing order to the chaos and the darkness and you're bringing light to the darkness.

Now it's changed as we see civilization maybe as a scarier thing, and then you get into like the Orwellian and STAR WARS. But if you keep it just as the metaphor of what it represents in the western, people are coming together and sacrificing, and a lot of these people are grizzled world-weary people who have seen and dealt out death and to have them be able to redeem themselves through acts of selflessness to me is a big, big part of the western. With the alien movies, they always seem to be about death and mourning, because it's such a heard thing fro us to deal with directly in a movie, but people are still fixated on; it's always in the back of our mind, whether its COCOON or E.T. dealing with divorce or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, which is a metaphor for I think a loss of the dad who goes off in the spaceship and even what J.J. [Abrams' SUPER 8] just did. It’s always on some level you are dealing with people crossing over to the other world and how they contend with it, and if they could find the bittersweet happiness in that.

So to me, those spiritual themes seem to exist natively in both of the genres and to not have it be… and also his memory loss is a metaphor for trauma. When you suffer a loss, you always go through that and you have to come to terms with it before you can move on, and the gunfighter movie is always about they come to this purgatory, they deal with a situation, and they're able to move on. I don’t know that the audience ever really sees that, and that’s certainly not the way we are going to market it, but you asked.

[Everyone Laughs]

Capone: It seemed pretty overt to me.

JF: I think it depends how old you are. I don’t think my kid would know about it. I think he would just like to see them blowing the hell out of aliens. But for us, we have to have an internal logic to the whole thing and the thing that brings an integrity to the mash up.

Question: Along that same line, there are some really optimistic stuff as far as the racism of the time.

JF: Yes.

Question: Where did that come from?

JF: We're not revisionists historians here. There is a lot of talk about people killing people and the Apaches and the scalps. I mean, it's like we started off with images from the Blood Meridian right off the top. It’s a dark world, and Harrison Ford’s story about what he has witnessed as a child with the atrocities committed upon the settlers, and the Indians are saying all of these terrible things have come from the white people, and they're all right. But instead of making it like--they're all playing nice together and they happen to be friends off the bat--even Harrison Ford and Adam Beach, who clearly have a very strong bond, stronger in many ways than he does with his own son, he’s conflicted about that feeling. Yet in his heart, he still looked after him like a son and was seen as such. So, I think what's fun is that you start them as far apart as you can, and then I think it was Reagan or somebody during the Cold War said, “The only way the Russians and the Americans are going to get along is if aliens invade.”

[Everyone Laughs]

JF: And a common enemy brings these people together, and that I think came from what I was playing with as I was working on a version of JOHN CARTER OF MARS. There was this sense of very proud stiff-necked people set in their differences that reluctantly come together, and through that union are able to overcome odds and make the world a better place is a very moving theme.

Question: Following up though, how much guts does it take to say to a motion picture studio, “I want to make a $100 million movie about people making a moral choice to be better?”

JF: Look, your first job is to sell popcorn, so you can never lose sight of the fact that you have to make money back for the people who are giving you money. That being said, my boss is Steven Spielberg. He’s a guy who's far more concerned with that very thing than he is… He's very comfortable with how commercial something is going to be. He made a Holocaust movie that you feel uplifted by without ever betraying the reality of the Holocaust. That to me is the highest degree of difficulty I could come up with, so people relate so much to what he puts out there that the commercialism of it is not the thing that he finds to be the challenge. I think what he finds to be the challenge is “How can you bring an integrity to what you're doing while you are doing something that’s commercial?” So that’s the advantage of having a filmmaker as the head of a studio, and I’ve never experienced anything like it, and it was really quite eye opening and I learned a lot.

Question: Was he involved on a story beat level?

JF: Sure.

Question: Was it that you would look back every now, and it was him that was carrying you?

JF: No, no he would look at the script. He was involved in pre-production, he especially got involved with like alien design and he had a lot of insight to offer, and then he came in for close to a week in post production and sat with us and challenged things or gave suggestions, always in a very supportive way, always with the pretext of, “If you want it, its here. If you don’t want it, there’s always a different way to go about it, but this is what I think.” Of course, the vast majority of things that he said were very just sophisticated and eye opening, but while we're shooting, neither he nor Ron were around and they both made themselves available in the beginning, they were both making their own movies, and at the end they came in and really helped in the most important phase, I contend, in the process they really got involved in.

Question: What alien features did Spielberg suggest?

JF: We had one design that we really liked, and it was very similar with all of the materials on the Kraken in CLASH OF THE TITANS. Even though the scale was much different, it was like “Whoa, that’s similar,” just the way the teeth were and we had actually six eyes at a moment. He always was making sure that the alien had some aspect that was anthropomorphic enough to make you able to feel a personal connection between Jake and the alien that he had issue with especially, and that also comes from THE SEARCHERS. It’s a storytelling thing more than an alien thing, but he had certain instincts about that that he was always gearing us towards, and he was right, he was dead right.

Question: The casual moviegoer is going to see the title, and they're going to be like “COWBOYS & ALIENS, no contest, aliens, because they can travel through space. They can be…”

JF: I read Twitter; I know what they say.

[Everyone Laughs]

Question: So my question is, What was the process like developing a superior race that was also vulnerable?

JF: It’s all about plausibility, right? You don’t want to do this with a deus ex machina. By the way, you could totally get away with a deus ex machina in an alien movie, look at WAR OF THE WORLDS. I mean, they caught a cold and died. So that’s okay, that’s part of our history, but we wanted to make it that… That’s the fun. Isn’t that what movies are always? It’s David and Goliath; there’s no way that kid’s going to play football for Notre Dame… There’s no way…”

[Everyone Laughs]

JF: But it’s plausible, and the fact that its actually based on a true story makes it even more plausible. But the plausibility of 300 Spartans making that stand, isn’t that always the story that you want told? You want to say, “How the hell are they going to get out of this one?” and then you want to know how Robin gets out of the giant clam. Am I dating myself more? On the "Batman" TV series. You always want that cliffhanger. You want to think it’s over and all is lost ,and you want the storytellers to, through ingenuity, bring you out of it in a way that you say, “You know what? I enjoyed it enough and it's plausible enough that I buy it, and that held my attention for a moment.”

Look, it’s up to you guys to tell me, but I feel like we’ve earned the thing, there was enough of a balance, there’s enough game balance to it that it makes sense. I think the suggestion that Steven had made before I came on board to have… He says “A guy walks into a bar with a blaster.” That was his thing. Now, had that suggestion not come into it--and I don’t think that’s even in the comic--if that was not part of it, I don’t think you could have tipped those scales, and also the fact that [the aliens] are a scout party and the fact that they're probably an inferior race that hibernates during sub-light travel to get to a certain planet, so that you can’t just call on the radio and call in an air strike.

Question: So is that a real thing that you were like “Well, they would be asleep…”

JF: There was something really interesting about PLANET OF THE APES that everybody jumps now, because its too hard of a thing to deal with, “Okay, we’ve got to go destroy the Death Star, let's go into a low birth for four years and get to it.” But in PLANET OF THE APES when they first came to the planet, and my parents were explaining to me, “That person is old, because their thing cracked and they aged in the suspended animation.” Let’s put it this way, I think there’s other life out there, I think the reason they are not here is because it's too far away. It’s like the ocean, and also I was thinking like the conquistadors or like the settlers or the Europeans traveling across broad oceans to get here, we wanted to keep that metaphor alive for the western part of it and also for the metaphor of higher technology coming just like we did to the Native Americans, they're doing to us,” which I thought was a theme from the comic that was interesting. “Now what happens when a lower-tech race has to defend itself from higher-tech settlers?”

But I thought if they were traveling from a far distance, that would explain why there weren’t others coming as soon as you messed with one, and probably through genetic engineering could you come up with a specific race that’s geared towards collecting information, scouting, being tough, and creating a hive in this thing. But there’s probably smarter aliens further back. I don’t think they are all like this. That’s where my head was.

Question: You made the gold as the resource that they're after, and obviously it works, because it’s a western, but is there a back story of why they want gold?

JF: Again, this is only because you asked, unfortunately your readers might not care as much, and I’ll sound like… A few things, one is that if you look at the mythology of aliens, there's a lot about gold, it’s about them coming for gold. Whether i'ts an oversimplification, but if you think of like the CHARIOT OF THE GODS, there’s this recurring theme of gold. If you also say in addition to no faster-than-light travel, that nobody has created transmutation, gold is created in very trace amounts in supernova, so it would be very rare anywhere and rarity would lead to value. It’s also a useful, malleable, ductile material that might be used by higher orders of technology, and if we ever go any place else, it would be like OUTLAND, we’d be belters, we'd be mining for resources from other places, so they probably would have the same logic.

Then also, most importantly, it works very well for the metaphor of TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and the gold. It’s again, the intersection of where those two things lie, and we address it pretty square on and it's going to be something. It’s either going to be “They're here to eat us,” which seems silly to me. It’s the best choice of all of the choices, and the one that I felt is the most poetic and then to study us, because we wanted to get into the whole… They wanted to examine us, vivisection mythology of aliens as well. So we wanted to encapsulate as many of the images of what people think aliens do when they're here and then also make it a bit horrific. It all connected. It seemed to overlap and connect in a good way.

[As the publicist breaks the interview, someone asks about setting things up for a sequel.]

JF: I don’t know what the sequel would be except what the reviews are going to be, which is “So disappointing. Not as good as the first one.” That’s all I know.

[Everyone Laughs]

JF: I know [a sequel] would be disappointing compared to this one. [laughs]

-- Capone
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Readers Talkback
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  • July 30, 2011, 1:14 a.m. CST


    by CreepyThinMan

    There can be no real creativity because the money men want to ensure that anything resembling originality is squashed and instead replaced with high concept shit like Cowboy's and Alien's. I hope this fucking bombs. Same thing with that rancid piece of shit Battleship.

  • July 30, 2011, 1:22 a.m. CST

    All right, so what's the big deal -- there's millions of clowns!

    by MooseMalloy

  • July 30, 2011, 1:36 a.m. CST

    Hope I can see this tomorrow!

    by tomandshell

    Last movie of a crowded but fun summer of movies.

  • July 30, 2011, 1:37 a.m. CST

    Were you all drunk in this interview, or just drunk transcribing it?

    by ShiftyEyedDog

    Seriously, there are so many grammar errors, wrong words, and nonsensical phrasings, I thought I was developing dyslexia!

  • July 30, 2011, 1:42 a.m. CST

    If you need me to explain why you're IQ is under 80. (har har har)

    by golden tribw

    I'm amazed you got both first and second posts since it took you five minutes to catch it.

  • ... crafting movies seems so much fantastical and awesome. I respect these filmmakers.

  • July 30, 2011, 2:56 a.m. CST

    So THIS is why everyone on this site loves C&A

    by Citizin_insane

  • July 30, 2011, 2:57 a.m. CST

    Alien3 does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    ALIEN 3 does not 'show them swimming' - that was ALIEN RESURRECTION. Favreau you want to pretend you're down with the geeks - you need to get shit like that right fatboy!

  • July 30, 2011, 3:44 a.m. CST

    The Battleship teaser trailer is out

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter Looks shit actually. But should still have posted it AICN.

  • July 30, 2011, 4:42 a.m. CST

    favreau what were you thinking?

    by doom master

    i was not impressed by this mashup. its nice that its finally done so we can all get a taste of what its like, but now i know why it was never done in the first place.... Please move on to something else, sir. All you managed to do was make Ford look older and more tired than he already looks....

  • Seriously old news, dude. That came out Wednesday. The news is so old it's been pushed off the front page.

  • July 30, 2011, 5:01 a.m. CST

    They contracted the ''other movies'' syndrome.

    by justmyluck

    Many references to OTHER Western and Sci-Fi movies from the roster of COWBOYS & ALIENS' team paraded through AICN. What's missing from all these interviews was the a simple, "I wanted to tell this story because...". Yep, you need that, somewhere. If not, at least do some Project Bluebook or old West research in libraries instead of watching other flicks. Go to the source for the riches. Reading Favreau's (earnest) comments make the C&W endeavor seem like a massive juggling of big talent. Fine, but you're thirsting for one huge 'MEH' with, "I'm in it for the money" (Ford) and, "...your first job is to sell popcorn." (Favreau). Filler.

  • July 30, 2011, 5:23 a.m. CST

    A list of pre-digital, dual 35mm, 3-D films

    by justmyluck Are these cameras all gone, or is it just a matter of C&A needing multiple cameras for multiple units with modern video tap, remote focus and such?

  • July 30, 2011, 8:13 a.m. CST

    How Can You Not Like Jon Favreau??

    by Rebeck2

    The guy is a geek through and through. He has a wonderful sincere enthusiasm for what he does and he's a huge movie fan himself. (And I get the sense, of ALL types of movies, not just superheroes or sci-fi) He's always very open and friendly in interviews and gives articulate, thoughtful, funny, self-effacing answers. His response on the hiring of Harrison Ford was incredibly honest - not something you usually get from a big ticket director. Hey, I like this guy. I would love to work with him myself and whether or not C&A is his best or not, I know 9 out of 10 times a guy this in love with movies and this excited about what he does (much like the Beard himself) will make great entertainment. There's nothing cynical in Favreau, he is making movies he wants to see himself, which is all we can ask. So...yeah, I disagree with all the experienced filmmakers on this talkback who are spewing venom at him.

  • July 30, 2011, 10:10 a.m. CST


    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Ahh thanks. im used to them not posting stuff until out for ages. I couldnt see it on the page. It cant have been commented on much either. What a crap looking trailer. This however looks quite interesting. Empire gave it 4/5 and they;re usually closer ton what I like than they do here. Attack the Block is a resounding Ok. I like it, and its inventive, but its not the best film of the year by a long shot

  • July 30, 2011, 11:42 a.m. CST


    by Vilmar

    <A HREF="">hoe word ik gelukkig</A>

  • July 30, 2011, 2:02 p.m. CST

    I'll never know why this site maligns Spielberg for Indy IV

    by JAGUART

    When you can feel Lucas' infantile smearings all over it.

  • July 30, 2011, 2:32 p.m. CST


    by Pixelsmack


  • July 30, 2011, 2:54 p.m. CST

    I really hope no one reads these TB's on AICN and takes them seriously...

    by Andrew Coleman

    You guys are bitching now about people liking their movies in interviews? Like haven't you guys grown tired of being bitter all of the time? Holy shit... If you don't like this movie because "It doesn't make sense" or you need it explained to you... Then you should probably never watch any movie ever again. Holy shit you people are fucked up. Get some help and get a therapist. I mean mad about an interview... This site and the angry losers who post here is a joke. If someone can tell me where real movie fans and nerds went I'd be thankful. Because AICN now seems dominated by bitter losers.

  • July 30, 2011, 3:10 p.m. CST

    Pixelsmack - dont give up.

    by Boborci

  • July 30, 2011, 3:10 p.m. CST


    by Rebeck2

    Amen, Brother. A-fucking-men.

  • 20 years of the greatest cat in history. Genetical masterpiece he was. We were Calvin and Hobbs. I'm literally losing half of my fucking soul today. I just want you all to know that you are going to bear the brunt of my pain manifest as the most scathing and horrendous talkbacks ever directed randomly at strangers. There are sounds that I make because of a symbiotic relationship with this beast over the last 20 years. Expressions that derive from this beast. I'm still here and so is he. But damn. Does it have to suck this bad? Please attack me with retarded trolling comments. Say something ludicrous and infuriating quick! This sucks so fucking bad.

  • July 30, 2011, 3:23 p.m. CST


    by Rebeck2

    Had a cat named Murphy for 20 years - toughest funniest little motherfucker and a good friend - put him down last year. I know all too well.

  • July 30, 2011, 3:26 p.m. CST

    Jon. I'm going to see your movie to escape today.

    by UltraTron

    I'll love you forever for 2 full hours of forgetting today

  • July 30, 2011, 4:18 p.m. CST

    hollywood needs more test screenings.

    by vulturess

    blandness is bank because it always leaves the masses full and wanting more at the same time.

  • July 30, 2011, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Where's the THUNDERCATS TB???

    by performingmonkey

    Awesome debut episode!! Better than the '80s series?? I think so.

  • July 30, 2011, 6:22 p.m. CST

    Saw the movie

    by Phimseto

    Liked it, but can't escape the disappointment that I wanted to do more than just like it. Actually, by the end of the film, what I really wanted to see was a sequel that was just a straight-up western with the same characters dealing with the boom town and rail barons. That would be fasnciating stuff. Just the one conversation between Ford and Carradine's characters at the end hinted out how cool it would be to return to those characters. Alas, it's something we will never see.

  • July 30, 2011, 9:20 p.m. CST

    Really, Really Liked It

    by tomandshell

    I was quite satisfied and definitely got my $7.50 worth. Enjoyed the performances by a great cast, nice location cinematography, terrific production design and costumes. The two hours just flew by for me. It was very much what I'd hoped it would be.

  • July 30, 2011, 10:12 p.m. CST

    The script was pretty stong?

    by Flippadippa


  • July 30, 2011, 10:23 p.m. CST


    by Anthony Torchia

    I HATE CLOWNS! They are pointless and evil and stupid and I hate every smarmy wink, every false tear, every fake stumble. KILL THEM ALL! KILL THE FUCKING CLOWNS!

  • July 30, 2011, 11:59 p.m. CST

    If you need me to explain why you're IQ is under 80.

    by catparade

    classic first post.

  • July 31, 2011, 12:15 a.m. CST

    ooh, might get its ass handed to it by THE SMURFS.

    by Subtitles_Off

    THAT'S gotta hurt. Fanboy gotta boo-boo on his owie.

  • July 31, 2011, 2:55 a.m. CST

    Even being close to THE SMURFS is bad enough.

    by justmyluck

    When you're calling something COWBOYS & ALIENS, to cue the SNAKES ON A PLANE-type audiences, you can't expect a mad rush for tickets, can you? Sure, it was trying to riff on ''Cowboys & Indians'', but even some B-level thematic name like WEST WARS or RANGE RAIDERS or THE SKY DEVILS would have helped immensely. I don't think C&A will tank entirely, but considering the talent involved, this isn't going to be good for any of them. Which is a bummer, because even a ''popcorn selling'' Favreau effort deserves better.

  • July 31, 2011, 5:15 a.m. CST

    Capone sits down with COWBOYS & ALIENS director Jon Favreau!!!

    by CaptainJeanLucPicard

    *Providing that we all gave amazing kiss ass reviews before hand........

  • July 31, 2011, 10:02 a.m. CST

    Oci & Kurtzman

    by Caerdwyn

    Need to stop getting work in the 'wood. Seriously.

  • July 31, 2011, 11:18 a.m. CST

    Capone sits down...

    by Subtitles_Off

    on a hemorrhoid pad. Seriously. This thing wasn't even screened for real critics. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Capone gets paid, yadda-yadda. Spare me.) They thought AICN could save it? THE SMURFS, dude. THE SMURFS! And, please, where's the Captain America obit? Considering its second-week competition was D.O.A., is anybody really gonna claim the bronze medal is some kind of sign of success for that thing? Let's all mob together with some candles and hand-made posters and have a huddling weep-fest for Fanboy Nation. Gone too soon, and even Amy Frickin' Winehouse got more tears.

  • July 31, 2011, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Who cares how much money a movie makes?

    by Yelsaeb

    Cowboys and Aliens could only make five cents, it'd still be an awesome movie. I have nothing but a heap of praise and a little bit of complaints for it. The praise outweighs the complaints a whole lot, though. I really did love every moment of it.

  • It was great! It was a western with aliens and Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig with Jon Favreau directing. I loved it. Who gives if it wasn't explained in microscopic, crappy expositon scene detail. It avoided all that and just said they're here from another world for gold. That's all that needed to be said. Just don't over think it and enjoy it. That's what I did, and its one of my favorite movies of the year!

  • July 31, 2011, 3:24 p.m. CST

    subtitles_off, you're starting to sound like Blenderbender

    by Mattman

  • Great cast, a good colelction of character which any good writer and director could go to town with. and all wasted in this stupid usless alien bullshit. And as the Orci guy himself said, the alien bullshit exists so they could make a western to be acceptable to today's audiences. Because, like, they alos put aliens in TRUE GRIT to make it palatable to today's audiences, right? Jesus, how can people be this gullible to such cynical studio moviemaking?