Shoot 'em Up: Scott Rosenberg talks "Cowboys and Aliens"

The determined cowboy marches into the Town Square at high noon for a showdown with an outlaw. It's a classic scene in many Westerns. However, this outlaw is an intergalactic marauder with a ray gun strapped to his side instead of a six shooter. This scene might appear in "Cowboys and Aliens" an upcoming graphic novel and feature film from Platinum Studios. CBR News recently spoke to Platinum Studios head Scott Rosenberg about "Cowboys and Aliens."

The idea for "Cowboys and Aliens" came to Rosenberg when he was reflecting on the classic childhood game "Cowboys and Indians." "I was thinking how it wasn't cool and fun anymore," Rosenberg told CBR News. "Some of the things that propelled it was that anyone could play it without having to run to the store any buy stuff. It's really something where you let the imagination go and it just dawned on me, hmm . . . 'Cowboys and Aliens' that would be pretty fun."

Once the idea came to him, Rosenberg sought out people to help him develop a story around it. Rosenberg chose writer Fred Van Lente and artist Ian Richardson. The three began to develop the "Cowboys and Aliens" graphic novel for Platinum. "Cowboys and Aliens" will play an important part in the Platinum Macroverse line, a series of graphic novels that are loosely interrelated.

"Cowboys and Aliens" takes place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, just after the Civil War. A group of Cowboys and a tribe of Indians are engaged in a bloody dispute. In the midst of their conflict an alien armada invades Earth. "It's up to the Cowboys and Indians to put aside their differences and their differences are about as extreme as you can get, especially at this point in time, to battle to save the planet," said Rosenberg.

The western setting of "Cowboys and Aliens" makes for an interesting take on the genre partly because at that time, no one had even thought about alien life or the possibility of invasion. "The Old West in particular had no frame of reference," said Rosenberg. "There was just no discussion about that sort of thing. So, to the Cowboys it's something that's doing something bad and they have to take care of it. The Indians are actually a bit more circumspect about it because they have more mystical beliefs and they're more apt to understand that there is something out there and it could really be a problem."

Rosenberg is keeping the description of the alien marauders a secret. He did say that the aliens would be shown a little bit more in the graphic novel than the feature film. The graphic novel will explore the aliens background and culture in more detail.

With "Cowboys and Aliens" setting being the real-world Old West there's a possibility that real Western legends might appear to show the alien invaders how the west was won. Rosenberg was reluctant to reveal which figures would appear and in what way, but he did say, "We're going to have a little bit of fun with legends and history."

There will be plenty of fun and action in "Cowboys and Indians," but there will also be an exploration of some serious issues. "One of the things we're mixing in is we're not at all going to skirt the issue of how we treated the Indians," said Rosenberg. "Because in movies, typically, they want to show the Indians as 2-D characters or as they're doing something bad and it doesn't matter if we're wrong to begin with. They're fighting us so we have to fight them. But it's not really a fair depiction of how it was. They were here first and we drove them out with pitchforks basically. We carted them off to camps. Which of course happened to some of us 100 years later. It was wrong and we're actually embracing that and showing it and discussing it."

The film version of "Cowboys and Aliens" is in the early stages of development with Sony. The project had previously been in development with Dreamworks for a number of years. " We have a great relationship with them, but on 'Cowboys and Aliens' it turned out that the kind of take we wanted and the take they wanted were different. Ours was a little bit more popcorn and theirs was kind of an unspooling mystery of the Old West and all that. Which I think in its self is pretty cool, but if it's called 'Cowboys and Aliens' it kind of feels like someone is going to expect popcorn. Frankly, I like that in it. So, we asked them and contractually they didn't have to, but because of the relationship, they said okay and we were able to move to Sony."

It was recently announced that Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Donnelly, the writers of "Sahara," the upcoming film adaptation of the Clive Cussler novel, would be penning the "Cowboys and Aliens" screenplay.

Platinum and Sony have begun evaluating candidates to direct "Cowboys and Aliens" "On the directors, we're having that discussion right now with Sony to figure it out. My guess is a few months before we have an official name," said Rosenberg. Although the treatment for "Cowboys and Aliens" was fleshed out in great detail, Platinum and Sony are waiting till they have a final script before they begin the casting process.

There will not be many differences between the "Cowboys and Aliens" graphic novel and the film version. Some of the characters will be different but, according to Rosenberg, the big difference is that the story in the graphic novel will be bigger. The graphic novel format allows for more layers and history to be added to the story.

"Cowboys and Aliens" is a sci-fi western, a film genre that hasn't seen much play in Hollywood. This will lead to inevitable comparisons to the only high profile sci-fi western film of previous years, the critically panned "Wild Wild West." The resulting failures of that film actually shut down development on "Cowboys and Aliens" for a few years. "We had read the script to 'Wild Wild West' way before it came out and honestly we thought we must just be wrong and everyone else must be right. Because, we thought the script was like the movie where you can't get into the characters. You just don't care and it's just, I don't know, horrible would be a good word to describe it," he said. Even though "Cowboys and Aliens" will be filled with alien technology and western action, Rosenberg wants the film to feel real. "When it goes to camp and things happen against character and against realism and people just can't get hurt is doesn't seem real to me. And even if it's something fun I like to keep it real."

Sony has not announced an expected release date for "Cowboys and Aliens." They perceive it as a big budget blockbuster right for the summer or Christmas film seasons. Platinum hopes to publish the graphic novel close to the film's release date. "We discussed it with Sony and we probably don't want to stretch the comic beyond next summer," said Rosenberg. "So, it may end up being before that but we're going to see how the timing goes on the movie over the next few months."

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