As the title suggests, Cowboys & Aliens is no ordinary western. An intriguing example of genre-meddling, directed by actor-turned-director Jon Favreau (who helmed Iron Man and is perhaps best known as Vince Vaughn’s buddy in Swingers), the action caper also stars Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. Set in 1873, the film’s frontman is 43-year-old Brit actor Daniel Craig as wanderer Jake, who stumbles across a small town in Arizona where he is identified as a wanted outlaw. But before he can be sentenced, aliens attack. It’s certainly a stretch for the imagination and will no doubt have western purists raising their eyebrows, but if you’re into big-budget effects, bombastic action sequences and tongue-in-cheek humour, Cowboys & Aliens is likely to be the hottest Dubai release this weekend.
What was it like to work with director Jon Favreau for the first time?
He’s a lovely guy and a major collaborator. All he wants to do is get as much input as possible – not just from the actors, but from the crew as well. We figured a lot of things out together before we started and continued to figure it out when we were shooting. He keeps a very happy set. It was quite difficult at times because the conditions in New Mexico could get quite fierce – we had micro storms come in, we had flooding at one stage and you were constantly reminded of where you were. To have Jon at the helm to jolly it along and keep everybody ticking over was a real asset on a shoot like this.
Sounds like filming was tough at times. Did you enjoy it?
I had a great time – I think we all did. We socialised a bit, which I haven’t done on a movie for a long time. We were stuck in Santa Fe and we got together and managed to bond as a unit. It was really good. I’ve been on movies where, at the end of the day, you’re knackered and all anyone wants to do is go home. But on Cowboys & Aliens we socialised and that was really nice.
Jon Favreau said that his house was the venue for the barbecues during the day and your place was the venue at night…
I don’t know what he’s talking about. [Laughs]
He also said that you had some sing-songs and played guitar and ukulele…
Yes, it was the full cowboy experience. [Laughs]
At what point did they show you the aliens?
Right at the beginning. We had mock-ups and models made, and then you have to go, ‘Okay, I know what I’m supposed to be looking at and now it’s up to the CGI people…’ And then comes the hard bit on set, where you have to go away and imagine it and pretend. I must say they’ve done a blinding job. It looks fantastic.
How much practice did you have to put in with the guns and your draw?
I did a lot of practice with the guns. There was a guy that worked with us in New Mexico. I took a gun and a belt home with me and I practised when I was watching TV, when I was eating… [Laughs]
Steven Spielberg is an executive producer on the film. You’ve worked with him a couple of times as a director (Munich, the upcoming Tintin), but did you have a lot to do with him on Cowboys & Aliens?
Steven was around. This is a movie that he wanted to direct, but he was doing other things and so Jon came on board. But yes, Steven did keep sending me DVDs of cowboy movies [Laughs]. They were great. At that point, of course, I’d already done Tintin, which is the second time I’d worked with him. Steven is lovely and we just had a lot of fun on that.
Will there be more Cowboys & Aliens films?
I don’t know, I think we’ll have to see how it does. I’d love to do another cowboy movie and whether it’s this or something else I don’t know, so it’s all in the lap of the gods at the moment.
What’s the next project you’re working on?
That will be the next Bond movie, which we’ll start in October or November. I’ve kind of already started preparing for Bond. The script is in really, really good shape and I’m sure there will still be changes because that’s just the way it is, but if we shot the script we have at the moment we’d be in a good way. I’m very excited about it and I’m delighted that Sam (Mendes) is going to direct it.
Cowboys and Aliens is in UAE cinemas now.
Harrison Ford has his say
Known and loved for his role as horse-riding, gun-toting archaeologist Indiana Jones, 69-year-old American actor and producer Ford has had no problem slipping into his Cowboys & Aliens role as old-school rancher Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde. We quizzed him on the movie…
On his character, wealthy cattleman Colonel Dolarhyde
‘He’s unabashedly a product of his environment and he doesn’t explain or make amends, or apologies, for the b****** that he is. That kind of role can almost be too liberating and you have to guard yourself against doing party tricks, because the danger is that you’ll begin to embroider on the theme and spin off up your own butt.’
On co-star Daniel Craig
‘I’m not a great film buff, but I knew his work and he’s wonderfully capable. And he’s knowledgeable without being pedantic about it. He knows the nature of film acting very well.’
On actor-turned-director Jon Favreau
‘Jon was wonderfully generous in collaboration, which was interesting to me from the very beginning. I came on early enough so that there were still problems to address, things that were of concern with the character and the film overall, and he’s wonderfully collaborative.’