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The Story Behind 3:10 to Yuma

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.

Derek Haas on having a good agent and growing up on the classic Westerns.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."


A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."