Derek Haas co-wrote the screenplay 3:10 to Yuma, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. He also co-wrote the film Wanted, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. The Silver Bear is his first novel. Derek lives in Los Angeles.
Topic: The story Behind 3:10 to Yuma
Derek Haas: That was actually good agenting, we shared an agent with the Director, Jim Mangold, and we found out from our agent that one of Jim’s favorite movies is 3:10 to Yuma, the original 1957 version, which I had seen as a kid. I grew up in Texas and my Dad’s a huge western fan, I myself am a huge western fan. So when we heard that he liked that movie, Michael and I went and rented the movie again, thought about how you could modernize it and update it. Went in and met with Jim and Kathy Connors his producing partner and just had two or three conversation with them about here’s what we could do. We didn’t want to just remake the 1957 movie which was based on an Elmore Leonard short story, too. We saw what was missing in the original movie. The original movie is almost like a two-act play and we thought what was actually missing was the middle chapter of that, of putting these two guys on the road. Two guys who come from opposite ends of the spectrum and then said why don’t we take the character Christian Bale who ends up playing Dan Evans, take his son who is barely hinted at in the original movie and put the son on the road and tell the movie like it’s a morality tale for the son’s soul. That to us was how best we could modernize it, Michael already cited those old Nike commercial with Charles Barkley, where he said, ”I’m not a role model.” And we said, ”how does a blue-collar dad in America right now compete with all of theses messages and these athletes and these million dollar salaried players?” The dad’s just trying to put food on the table and the kid is worshiping some guy who is telling him the opposite message. We thought that would make a great…you know, let’s put it back in the Old West, and put it between a gunslinger and a rancher and put that on the road and that’s where that all came from.
Question: How do you develop characters?
Derek Haas: No, 99% of the time you’re not, you’re just writing with a faceless character in your mind and then when casting happens sometimes that does affect the way that you do re-writes. We have a movies called Wanted that opens next week and we spent months coming up with dialogue for this one character to kind of explain the history of this group of assassins that the movie moved around. Morgan Freeman gets tasked to play that part and all of a sudden we realize we don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining, because if Morgan Freeman says it, he’s played God in two movies, he could tell you the sky is green and the grass is blue and you’d believe it. It definitely affects the way you do the subsequent drafts, but then you are writing it could be anybody. We’ve seen it enough times when you’re thinking OK I’m gonna write this for a young guy who is coming out of college and they end up casting somebody much older so you just have to tell the story the way you want to tell it and then adapt after the casting happens. Now we’re doing an adaptation of a Robert Ludlum book called the Matarese Circle and we have Denzel Washington attached to play one of the leads going in, so we know that before we ever type fade in, you know it’s going to be Denzel. Definitely in your mind you picture it differently than had we not cast him. Now whether or not he ends up doing the movie you never know, so there could be a re-write coming in the future.
Question: What are you writing now?
Derek Haas: Wanted was a limited edition comic book, six issues, that they ended up compiling into a graphic novel. Written and created by this guy named Mark Namara and J. G. Jones, and these two guys wrote this really outlandish, acerbic, nihilistic book that was like nothing Michael and I had seen. We had just been given the first issue of the book by Universal who had snapped up the rights to it. Universal asked us if we wanted to adapt it, we said, “yes,”and we started working just from that first issue. The second issue came out while we were working and that sort of formed the first act of the movie, usually movies are told in three acts. The intro was those first two issues. The third issue came out and went in a totally different direction then where we were going and so we said we wanted to keep going in the direction we were going and the Studio agreed. So we wrote a script based on this kid who gets out of college and is working in cubicle and his girlfriend is sleeping with his best friend and his boss yells at him, and he is looking around saying, ”"Is this all there is?”, which I feel all of us went through when we got out of college, or a lot of us did, unless you were lucky. Then he is walking through a grocery store and the most beautiful woman in the world walks up to him as says, “I knew your father,” he says, “My father left the week I was born.” She says, “No, your father died yesterday, he was the greatest assassin of all time, we think it’s genetic, we’re bringing you in.” Then we’re off and running. So that’s the movie, and we’ve got this great director who’s Russian, Timor Bekmomadov, who is a visual madman. If you’ve seen the trailers at all or by the time you see this in the movie you can see what he did for us.