The 3:10 To Yuma writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas say their working relationship is "like a marriage", but that doesn't mean they share an antique writers' desk a la George Clooney and Grant Heslov on Good Night, And Good Luck.
"We work separately," Brandt says. "One of us writes a section and we e-mail each other back and forth. It's something we've developed over time. If one of us is going to make a major change we call the other one and check it's OK. By the time we've finished the first draft we've rewritten a lot of each other's material."
James Mangold's Western is a remake of Columbia Pictures' 1957 film based on Elmore Leonard's short story about a rancher who escorts an outlaw to a prison train. So Haas said it took a relatively short time, four months, to write the first draft. "We made the decision not to change the original for the sake of it, but we wanted to see how we could make it more modern."
Much like the characters' journey, the remake took a while to reach its destination. Originally set up at Columbia with Tom Cruise attached, the project finally landed at Lionsgate with the sizzling lead pair of Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. "We like to put our stamp on something if it's not our original idea," Brandt says. "We explored the rock star status of the outlaw Wade's character and developed the character of the rancher's older son."
Brandt and Haas have been firm friends since their college days in Texas, and their eclectic film credits stretch back to 2 Fast 2 Furious and include Catch That Kid and Universal's upcoming action thriller Wanted. The comic book adaptation stars James McAvoy as a man who inherits extraordinary skills from his father, an elite assassin he never knew, and sets out to avenge his death. Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman also star and filming just wrapped.
They are also adapting the James Siegel novel Deceit, which is again set up at Universal and centres on a disgraced reporter who stumbles upon a huge story. Beyond that, Haas likes to fill his spare time writing novels and Brandt is lining up his directorial debut Miamiland, a con artist story that The Spice Factory is financing.
Brandt and Haas attest to a deep kinship with their fellow writers. They made headlines in Hollywood recently for their role in Writing Partners, a nine-strong collective that has struck an unprecedented deal with Twentieth Century Fox.
"Collectively we each owe Fox an original script," Haas says. "Fox gets all of our next originals for a reduced price, and we retain creative control. Fox cannot hire writers without our permission and has to give us creative input on actors and directors. If they don't make the film the rights revert to us. If they make the film we get the full fee and gross participation in the back end. It's the glass ceiling that we've always tried to crack."
"We're honoured to be with these writers and to be considered in the same class," Brandt says, referring to Writing Partners colleagues such as Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine), Stuart Beattie (Collateral) and John August (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory). "We hope this will trigger other writers to make similar deals."