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Revivals: The Return of Schwarzenegger and the Western

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood March 7, 2011 at 9:14AM

Remakes and reboots are a dime a dozen these days, but roots run deeper for some more than others. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 63, is getting back to work. And having been pronounced dead, the western genre is being welcomed by a new generation in both classic and hybrid forms.
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Thompson on Hollywood


Remakes and reboots are a dime a dozen these days, but roots run deeper for some more than others. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 63, is getting back to work. And having been pronounced dead, the western genre is being welcomed by a new generation in both classic and hybrid forms.

- Schwarzenegger's return to film after playing governor of California for eight years could take various forms: the still-fit one-time action hero has been offered approximately 15 studio films. He says they're "obvious ones from The Terminator to remakes of Predator and The Running Man and all of those things. Then also a lot of original stuff too. But I am also packaging a comic book character right now. I’m going to announce that sometime by the end of March or the beginning of April.” ThePlaylist agrees with our take on Old School Action Stars. They write: The Expendables and Red are proof that "moviegoers seem to love watching withered geezers make things explode." For Arnie they suggest he commit to Commando 2 and Kindergarten Cop 2: The Graduation.

Thompson on Hollywood


- Hero Complex looks at the search for the new Old West. There's Rango, ripe with references (including non-western Chinatown, pictured); Cowboys & Aliens in which Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford fight aliens on the frontier; and classical western True Grit, which was a big enough hit to rejuvenate the ailing genre.

Rango director Gore Verbinski tells Hero Complex: “There’s something we love about the rise of that silhouette of the gunslinger and the way they make that ultimate choice of reaching for the gun at their hip." Hero Complex calls True Grit "the rare classicist in the crowd" of our current crop of Western-themed films, because, according to Verbinski, "studios see the western as limited in audience potential unless it’s simply loaning its iconography to a genre hybrid." Thus while western themes can be popular, they need to be part of a cocktail. Verbinski adds: “There’s a fear of going straight genre with a western so you see a lot of the genre splices, you know, like a lot of sci-fi films are really westerns. But I think audiences are open – or more than open, they’re probably a little hungry again — for that simpler time and telling a simple story. I think that’s why True Grit has done so well; that and the fact that it’s wonderful.”

Rango's pairing of Johnny Depp and Verbinski won't be their last Western riff. The pair is planning a revival of The Lone Ranger with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney, in which Depp will play Tonto. Depp says: “Gore is a rare beast and I think we’ve come up with some bits that are going to really turn the thing on its head in a way. We’re going to drop the bottom out of what’s expected of the Lone Ranger. The idea of Tonto being the sidekick is out of the question. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to places that westerns don’t usually go.”

By the time The Lone Ranger comes out, westerns may have gone everywhere.

This article is related to: Box Office, Directors, Genres, Headliners, Hollywood, Daily Read, Media, Remake, Fantasy, Animation, Action, Books, Western, Classics, Johnny Depp


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.