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Will 'Django' Bring 'The Color Of Lightning' Back From The Dead?

by Sergio
January 26, 2013 11:24 AM
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The Color of Lightning

You know how it usually works in the film business. Once a film becomes big success then everybody else jumps on the bandwagon trying to cash in on it.

So now with Django Unchained being a huge box office success, not only here in the U.S., but worldwide, where it's a big hit even in places you wouldn't expect, like Russia, you would think that studios and production companies everywhere are searching for their own Django - a western or period movie dealing with racial conflict.

Then again maybe not...

For example take The Color of Lightning which Fox put in development 3 years ago, with Ridley Scott attached to direct.

The film was based on the 2009 novel by Paulette Jiles, and was to be adapted by Brokeback Moutain screenwriters Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana.

The novel, as the synopsis says, is a story of "revenge, dedication and betrayal set mainly in Kentucky and Texas near the end of the Civil War. Britt Johnson is a free black man traveling with a larger band of white settlers in search of a better life for his wife, Mary, and their children, despite the many perils of the journey itself. After a war party of 700 Comanche and Kiowa scalp, rape and murder many of the whites, Mary and her children get separated from Britt and become the property of a Native named Gonkon. Britt must wait through the winter before he can set out to rescue and reclaim his wife and children, only to discover that not only does he not have enough money to bargain with the Indians but also that his own family’s fate has as much to do with land disputes and treaties as it does with his determination to get revenge."

Sounds sort of Django-esque doesn't it?

Of course the film, like practically two-thirds of all film projects that are announced, was shelved for whatever reasons, and Scott went on to other things, such as (unfortunately) Prometheus.

But do you think that Fox just might be reconsidering Lightning in the wake of the success of Django? 

So far, there's been no word in the trades, but it could be possible. Then again, maybe not. It also could be very likely that Django is being seen as a fluke, an anomaly.

I recall after the Coen brothers' 2010 western True Grit made over $250 million worldwide, I thought for sure that it would bring about a return of the western. No such luck.

With the exception of Django, there have been none - though Lynne Ramsay, the director of We Need to Talk About Kevin, is about to go into production with a western, Jane (not Jane's) Got A Gun with Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender.

Django could be seen as just another fluke; and, besides, it was a Quentin Tarantino film, which means studios could say: "Hey, it was a movie by Quentin. He could make a film about the Yellow Pages and people would still come to see it."

And there weren't any World War II movies that came in the wake of Inglorious Basterds either.

So what do you say? Is Django going to bring more of the same, or that's it?

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  • Donella | January 27, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    The Coen Brothers' successes with No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010) provided a bandwagon for Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012) to jump on since No Country for Old Men and True Grit were released to great acclaim years prior. True Grit was released December 2010. The next April, Tarantino turned in a Western script. However, Coen movies usually have a Western feel to them going back to Blood Simple and Raising Arizona.

  • Donella | February 11, 2013 5:01 PM

    Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood from 2008 fits the Western genre. So several western-themed movies 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2010 prior to Tarantino's 2012 Django Unchained means the bandwagon was already rolling for a while.

  • Donella | February 11, 2013 12:30 PM

    I almost forgot Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (2005) for which he won the Oscar for Best Director. So a string of high-profile, critically-acclaimed Westerns in 2005, 2007, and 2010.

  • QBN | January 27, 2013 4:02 PMReply

    Nah.. it reads as if the Native "Indians" are the villains here, no interest in that personally, and it would no doubt be perceived as racist/offensive to Natives. If they changed it so that the main brotha teams up with the Natives to kill Whitey then it'd be more Django-esque. I'd watch that..

  • WHAT? | January 28, 2013 4:16 PM

    WHAT? And Agent K & Donella, your point is? Let's not forget the central point that Monkeysuit brought to the floor " [ any plot or verbiage] that purports Indians and blacks against each other (the smallest relationship between both) would be symbolically dishonest and offensive. The SAME way portraying a black [person] owning slaves would be."

    So Donella, your point? Your point seems to justify slavery because a few Cherokee and blacks owned slaves. And lets be real, the few blacks who did "own" slaves solely to reunite their families, are so few (minuscule to say the least) that to even mention them only muddles the conversation.

  • Agent K | January 28, 2013 3:46 PM

    I think most people don't understand that.

  • Donella | January 28, 2013 3:24 PM

    Quite a few of the Blacks who "owned" slaves were actually working within an immoral but legal system to reunite their families.

  • getthesenets | January 27, 2013 10:30 PM


    If I offended you, that clearly wasn't my intention.
    I mentioned an uncomfortable but true story about a Haitian hero, to show you thatI am well aware of uncomfortable truths about Black people. If Glover's film is done the way it's supposed to be will cover the reality of what TL's experiences were and how they shaped him into the man that he became.(and how HIS life pre revolution was different from ,say Dessalines)

    " a FEW more over a hundred years later decided to drop blacks from the roll"is a disingenous statement though. Examine the history of the controversy and it's a bit more complicated than " a few more Cherokees decided to drop Blacks from the roll"

    I didn't mean to single out Cherokee Nation, but that was just athe most visible case of what I was saying about complex relationship between African people and Indigenous people.

  • monkeysuit | January 27, 2013 10:00 PM

    There are much more instances of alliances b/w Indians and blacks than there is hostility. My point in bringing up the black slave owners and Buffalo Soldiers is to say there will always be people within oppressive groups who will participate in their own or other's oppression. So like QBN said, a plot that purports Indians and blacks against each other would be symbolically dishonest and offensive. The same way portraying a black hero owning slaves would be. I thought the point of your comment was to counter QBN as if to justify such a plot just because a few Cherokees owned slaves and a few more over a hundred years later wrongfully decided to target black Cherokees to relieve the burden of their already thin resources.

  • getthesenets | January 27, 2013 9:26 PM


    You did NOT read me write that Native Americans were oppressive towards Black people. What you did read me write was about the complex relationship that Black people in this country with the ,plural, Native American nation(S)
    Some were and are hostile towards African people..some were not..

    and I am fully aware that during the slave trade era that there were Blacks who owned enslaved people. (I hope that Glover's film covers the fact that the great Toussaint L'ouverture himself, was a planter who had land and enslaved people working for himearlier in his life and how complex his life really was)

    I am also aware of Black soldiers participating in the oppression of Native groups.

    Individual Black planters/slavers and some regiments of Black soldiers are one thing.What I made reference to is something else. If you read it again, you will see that I was not painting with a broad brush but if you read the accounts and books it might just surprise you.

  • monkeysuit | January 27, 2013 8:49 PM

    @GETTHESENETS There are some African Americans who owned slaves too. And let's remember the Buffalo Soldiers before we imply that Native Americans were oppressive toward blacks.

  • AccidentalVisitor | January 27, 2013 8:01 PM

    The Native Americans aren't treated as villains in the book. There aren't any mustache-twirling antagonists in the novel. There is however conflict between the two nations and some heavy brutality that occurs as a result. And it is based upon true events.

  • getthesenets | January 27, 2013 4:39 PM


    different native american groups treated Africans's documented..some hid runaway enslaved people..othe groups in fact "owned" slaves also.

    I don't have any problem with Native people but our relationship with the different tribes is complex. A year or so ago, lot of Blacks who claimed to be part Cherokee were excluded from the official rolls of that group. I think the measure was reversed

  • AccidentalVisitor | January 27, 2013 3:44 PMReply

    "Sounds sort of Django-esque doesn't it?"

    Yes....and no. I read the book a few years ago and it is pretty far from Django in terms of how the story plays out. By the way the black guy, Britt Johnson, was a real person and this novel is based upon his story. Also it is widely accepted by historians who focus on the American west that Johnson's story was the inspiration for the classic John Ford/John Wayne movie "The Searchers". Of course there weren't any black folks in that film.

  • CareyCarey | January 26, 2013 11:58 PMReply

    After re-reading this post, a few things caught my eye. You mentioned the film "We Need To Talk About Kevin" and it's director, Lynne Ramsay. You said she's going into production on a western starring Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender. That's interesting on two fronts. That film didn't make much money and it was picked up by the same distributor who has the rights to Andrew Dosunmu's film, Mother Of George. Huuuummmm. In describing "Kevin", one reviewer said this-->"As filmaking, this is high art. As storytelling, it's a bit muddled and quite a downer". Well, well, well... what's really going on? Are the producers of "Jane Got A Gun" putting their money on the names Portman & Fassbender?

    But the questions remain. Is a films success directly related to the genre, the director and/or the actors in said film? Then again, maybe the film's budget plays a significant role? Nawl, a few of this years Oscar nomination were made on very low budgets. Heck, one was made for less than 5 Million. And who can forget The Help with a budget of 25 Million. Yep, it's now counting it's money at the tune of over 200 million.

    Anyway, I think it's all about name recognition. I mean, at least that opens doors. But if your skin happens to be black and you're a director sporting a black cast, that opening is a sliver. So, even with the success of Django, it will be interesting to see how McQueen's "12 Years" does at the box office.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | January 26, 2013 10:33 PMReply

    The western was sort of replaced by the modern action film and neo-westerns such as "No Country for Old Men." Successful westerns these days take the genre in a new direction, but don't fall asleep at the controls like with "Cowboys and Aliens" (great premise, bad execution). But if there's one subgenre that never goes out of style in all of storytelling, it's the revenge tale.

  • Miles Ellison | January 26, 2013 10:29 PMReply

    They'd have to throw in some Lost Cause mythology to even get this made. And that would mean minimizing the black character's story.

  • getthesenets | January 26, 2013 7:14 PMReply

    this seems like a more interesting story on paper than what Django was about.

    BUT...."free Black man" and white guys in Kentucky and Texas during the Civil War?

    wouldn't the white guys be fightng for the confederates, especially if they are assumed to be poor? and just roaming with a Freeman?


  • CareyCarey | January 26, 2013 2:33 PMReply

    Sergio, you asked the question and you came up with the best answer. "Hey, it was a movie by Quentin. He could make a film about the Yellow Pages and people would still come to see it".

    Yes sir, and that statements says more than meets the high. Quentin's name turns head not because of the subject matter he chooses, but because of his writing talent, vision and the excellent actors he attracts to his films. Not to mention his unmatched ability to get the best performances out of his actors.

    Off point but related: I've seen the off camera directions, encouragements, patience and assistance given to the young star of The Beast Of A Southern Wild by the film's director. Her success is a direct reflection of his ability to convey his vision to her and then, draw that performance/image out of her.... settling for nothing but the best.

    Tarantino is not only a good writer, he possess those same skills. He has his thumb on human emotions and gets the best from his actors. And those who move aside their in-differences with his subject matter and his alleged motives, appreciate all his skills as a director/writer, and thus immensely enjoy his films.

    Having said that, it's not about the subject... many stories on wars, the wild west and "slavery" have been told, some mediocre and some great, but the defining factors will always be those in control, in conjunction with those they can attract and afford to help them in the process.

  • Curtis20 | January 26, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    I think Django is a huge hit everywhere because its a great movie. It could help other the films like but I don't think it will.

  • Troy | January 26, 2013 2:16 PM

    Yes I believe the author said it doesn't. Meaning QT does nothing to advance the film industry. However I'm not sure of what open the doors for Kill Bill but quite a bit of completely ironic super white women movies and television shows came out. With the support of many black and other minority women. Like a super white woman means black woman are super too. I think black women are extraordinary but to follow the plainest weakest demo on earth is baffling.

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