Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. The gunfight happens very late in the film. Were you trying
to re-define violence in the movie, or were you simply putting
A. I wasn't trying to put it off. The staple of the Western
is that you've got to have the gunfight and I promised that I
I just like to invest in the characters and the story. The plot
swings on a very quiet moment, you know, maybe one that's not
even recognisable to whoever watches it, which is simply that
the open range creates the plot of the movie.
It gets the wagon stuck, the wagon can't move, the cattle scatter
and clearly its going to take five to six days to gather up these
animals, which was a historical event.
The West is not fairy tale, it's what happened, and in doing that,
they realised that they are going to have to get supplies, and
so when one man leaves to town, that's when the shoe drops, ever
so quietly, but it drops and during that time we get to know these
Hopefully, that's what I like to invest in, who they are and their
sense of humour, and also try to create moments of violence.
But potential violence can be as satisfying as violence. For instance,
when the four men appear on the hill, with their faces covered
like cowards, they are very threatening; there's the awesome promise
of violence at that moment, and in this movie we resist creating
a gunfight there, we simply have them evaporate over the hill
and by doing that, in a way it's creepier.
It's creepy when people kind of loom over you, and out of that
comes the common sense between the two other characters, that
they should go and meet this violence head on, and, of course,
they go find him in the trees and I think that the way men arbitrate
their problems there is quite interesting.
I styled that scene a little bit after the Oxbow Incident, where
they come upon those horse thieves, and how Robert Duvall takes
charge at that particular moment, but I think the threat of violence
always existed in the West, simply because men wore guns and that
threat existed, and so the shoot out will always be the staple
of the Western.
If you don't have it, you don't really have a Western - you have
some other genre. So I did want to put my stamp on the violence.
I wanted to show the vulgarity of violence. I wanted to show the
chaos of it. I didn't necessarily want to do it in slow motion,
or in close up.
I wanted you to feel the ground between the combatants, because
often, if you feel the ground between me and a person against
the wall, you can tell the ballet that exists there has a real
kind of ugliness to it, and certainly when Charlie kills the man
whose holding Sue, he does it at a point blank range, and I kind
of wanted to debunk the theory of the hero - that Charlie is willing
to shoot somebody in the foot, he's willing to draw first, he's
willing to shoot somebody point blank.
He's even willing to kill a mortally wounded man with the idea
that he doesn't want to face him again, but I think what happens
is, because we've invested in who Charlie is, as a character,
we don't actually hold that against him, we've actually come to
realise that he's been trying to tell us who he is.
But, of course, when Sue sees it point blank, she's a little horrified
and that's what Charlie didn't want to reveal.
Q. After quiet a lot of negative reaction to The Postman,
did you feel the need to prove yourself with Open Range?
A. I wasn't aware of how The Postman was received. I liked
Postman, but I'm a realist and know that there were some that
didn't, and a lot of people who did, but it won't ever be considered
a commercial success but there might be a revisionist view of
it someday, with people who look at it for what it is, and how
it was done, but I've not been really in step with trying to anticipate
what's the smartest move to make, what's in vogue in terms of
What would be the easiest, simplest step. In my own country, the
genre is just not well thought of, and I go and make it.
If my career is up against the wall, which I don't believe that
it is, but if someone would see it that way, and I can see why
they might, they'd just want to go 'why Kevin, why would you make
I just believe in the genre. I am also a realist. I don't feel
I need to make it for the mass audience, although I do believe
it could find a mass audience.
I believe it has an entertainment value and I made it for that
reason. I didn't make it as a valentine to myself, or to the West.
I made it as a really solid piece of entertainment.
Q. Your film reminds me a lot of Lonesome Dove and Robert
Duvall was in that. Was there any kind of indicator from that
part that you thought would make him excellent in this role?
A. No, but clearly he was great in that particular piece and
I gave him top billing in this particular movie.
I needed for the Boss character to be the age he was. I needed
someone to be formidable and there are only a few actors that
can carry that kind of formidability into a role and I felt the
role was a big enough departure from Lonesome Dove that Robert
would be attracted to it.
Clearly, I am not going to suggest that there's no connection
- its not like he's unrecognisable to that part. Certainly he
fits it like a glove.
This story is different and I felt that he would understand the
sense of humour that I would have wanted for that character and
the sense of authority, and he would be a character that Charlie,
who is clearly a dominating, aggressive kind of character, would
yield to and have the respect for.
They have a very interesting relationship, those two, in their
age difference. There was a lot of respect, at least that's what
I wanted to convey.
It was on the page and I thought Bob would understand how to do
that and he did. I mean, there's a scene in the cafe, where I
don't even say a word, when he does all the talking and I think
it's really appropriate and he was very happy to do this role.
Q. Kevin, you spend a lot of the film getting very wet and
very muddy which must have presumably brought about its own problems.
Could you mention those?
A. It did, yeah. We flooded the town and one of the reasons
I wanted to deal with that was because I felt it wasn't born to
For instance, it did create our plot turn. I think one of our
obligations in the Western is to slow people down. Not to slow
the movie down, so it's not entertaining, but that they actually
start to create the dilemmas that you realised people faced.
I mean, the West is not a fairy tale. It was settled by Europeans,
it was settled by resourceful people. It was settled by incredibly
violent people and sociopaths.
Right across the board, the awesome promise of the West was fuelled
by people who didn't even share the same language, and when you
combine that with the weather, there are a lot of things that
can kill you in the West.
Rivers, swollen rivers and even in the town, if you notice there's
a big rut going down the street, I put that in because I just
wanted to point out that these little cities are also not fairytale
They became the Chicago's. They became St. Louis. But they were
often built in the wrong spot. Nature tells us where to build,
and so for those guys it was an ordeal just to figure out how
to get a cup of coffee.
I just hope that those moments are kind of engaging for people.
You don't dwell on it, but see the difficulty involved.
Then you come into the cafe itself, with its French roots, and
you see that the whole town is in there because, of course, these
people wanted to be social with each other. You'll notice there
were women in there ,but there weren't women in the saloon, so
you know I thought that the rain dictated the same way as in a
haunted house, when you're always wondering 'how come these people
don't get out of this scary house?'
In this instance, you realise that the rain created elements where,
they can't go anywhere else, they can't really get very far, and,
in actuality, you want to place yourself 150 years back and simply
realise that it's very easy to track somebody in the mud.
You can't really hide. It's like trying to walk away in the snow.
So there was one moment, actually, that was cut out of the film,
where you actually see the bad guys tear down the telegraph wires
and that's simply to actually cut off all communication for what
they are going to do. No one seemed to understand that that's
what they were doing.
It's funny how something that's written down, and you think as
a director, that would play very logically. It also makes the
bad guy smart. That's one reason why Sir Michael Gambon is in
I liked the idea of Robert Duvall's character coming up against
somebody very formidable. I don't like movies where the hero is
knocking down a buffoon, you know. So yes, the rain was a character
and it was an element that everyone who came to the West had to
deal with and, it killed people.
Q. At the time of Dances with Wolves you said you thought
you were born 30 years too late with the kind of movies you wanted
to make. You've given us a really good Western now. Are there
other types of movies that you'd like to make?
A. I probably came 30 years too late for the industry too!
I'm not a sequel guy. I'm not doing it exactly right, this trying
to stay on top thing.
I don't feel any special pressure to revive the Western or to
set it straight, or to finally give a history lesson.
I think a movie really has to wrap itself up in entertainment
and a Western is a very hard thing to do because most people think
of it as a simple art form.
They even think of the time as being simple when, in fact, I would
argue that it is not. We are in a time that is much more simple.
For example, if you have a problem, a real problem, you can get
the police to handle it. Or if you have a problem, you can get
a lawyer, or an agent, or a PR person to actually put a spin on
a real bad situation, or your behaviour when in fact, in the West,
you had to arbitrate your problems yourself.
You often found yourself in a moral position where it put you
outside the law. That is not a cliché, it was fact of life,
Because we know that powerful people usually control the law,
and people who control the law, if they are not incredibly evolved,
and most people are not, then they begin to distort the law for
their own uses and when they do that, small people get stepped
on and those small people either accept it, but then there's always
those few, sometimes like a Charlie or a Boss who can't abide
that at a certain point.
And Charlie, who is clearly equipped to actually handle violence,
you see early on that he is not sure that starting this violence
with these men over cows is really worth it, being a man who has
seen a lot of violence, but because his friend can't abide by
that they have a relationship that is forged.
These relationships were forged ever so quietly, as you realise
the men don't even know that much about each other.
They simply know they can trust each other and I think that's
where the Western's real appeal is. It's a very refreshing quality
to know that the man or the woman to the left or right of you
will stand by you in the most critical of times, and I think that
will always be the appeal of Westerns.
Q. Your movie tackles some of the classic themes from Westerns
but at several points in the story it goes in a different direction
than films like "High Noon" and "Shane". Is
that something you were very conscious of doing? Of being revisionist?
A. Not revisionist. I'm only being revisionist in the sense
when I think human behaviour has been avoided. I didn't make Dances
as a revisionist piece, I simply acknowledged that these people
had a sense of humour and could be worried about things, could
be confused, have different opinions about the very same thing.
For instance, in Dances, the two Indians, when they discover the
white guy at the fort, they have very different opinions of him.
One's thought it that he must be an incredibly powerful guy, probably
their best warrior, because who with any sense is going to send
just one guy out unless he's completely a bad ass.
And then the other thinks, bullshit this guy is lost. This guy
is out here by himself. He's an idiot, and that I found could
be very charming and also very realistic and not revisionist at
I just addressed how men look at things when they don't have any
kind of reference, and a native culture running into white people
has no reference, they have a culture and so they begin to apply
it to their own.
In Open Range, it's just as important for me to know that, for
instance, the Annette Bening character, that she noticed that
a man would pick up mud from her carpet.
There is not a lot for her to look at in her life, and she's clearly
made up her mind that she is not going to settle for the most
powerful, or the best guy in the town.
Something has happened in her life that we didn't explore on camera,
but that she is going to wait for some kind of love and the Charlie
character, it's not what he says, it's what he does.
I tried to invest in the little details of things. Something that
sets the tone for the movie in a language is when Robert Duvall's
character says to this younger boy: "A man's trust is a valuable
thing Button. It's worth more than a handful of cards."
That sentiment, to me, is not a Western sentiment, that's a sentiment
that probably fathers have told sons about through every century,
in terms of what to look for in a man and maybe how to behave.
So from a revisionist stand point - no, I just tried to simply
invest in behaviour.
For instance, when the boy is messing around while two men are
working hard behind a wagon, that's probably happened in every
century too, and I think that if you are not afraid of those moments,
and I think most people actually are, because they don't think
they are entertaining, or that they have any value, because they
are not driving a plot forward, then I think that's where I fall
out of step.
I happen to think those are good moments and they end up adding
up to something where it becomes a character where you don't want
to see killed.
You have invested in him as a person, so I like that, and the
moments I like in some of the movies and some of the directors
you are talking about are clearly when behaviour really reveals
Because all those movies that I really love, Searchers, Liberty
Bound, they are flawed, just as Dances is flawed, just as Open
Range is flawed. It's when it's not flawed, where there become
moments and things that you never ever forget and you actually
see yourself as a man and you wonder, Jesus, would I have conducted
my self this way under those circumstances.
Q. Why are Arsenal your favourite team and how does football
A. When I came over and made Robin Hood I got a chance to
go see a football game and it happened to be Arsenal.
They invited me as their guest and I didn't know what to expect,
and I was blown away. I didn't realise how emotional it can be
in the stands. I didn't realise that people sang and did all that
and I was moved by it.
I thought that we are missing an opportunity, in America, even
though we are fans, and we love our teams and we root hysterically
loud, there is something communal about the way that they sing
in British football.
I was quite taken with it and I'd never seen another game until
yesterday, and I would suggest that our allegiances are tied to
where we were born.
So my mythical relationship with Arsenal is because they asked
me. Because they were kind to me and that was my first game, just
like the Beach Boys said you've got to be true to your school.
I've been true to Arsenal, so I have been tied in an amusing way
to that team. So ,when I came in on Saturday, I simply asked how
Arsenal was going.
Maybe I could take my friends to see them on Sunday, because it
was such an impressive thing, and well, it turns out that we were
two hours away, and Winchester generously offered to have a helicopter
take me up there, and I don't know that any of us could have resisted
that invitation and I went.
I'll just tell you simply number one, because of how they've treated
me but also, more importantly, because I wanted the friends who
were with me to see a British sport and British fans in action.
It's really a scene and a positive one and I wanted them to see.
I wanted to share that.