Director Sam Peckinpah, who revolutionized cinema with an alpha male strut that spilled over to his films and characters and was an A-list influence to scores of directors who followed, passed away 30 years ago today.
Cinema had not seen such a spitfire, gritty kind of man as Sam Peckinpah before his films rapidly exploded on screen or in many ways since. Although he wasn’t the first director to infuse a sense of machismo, and not just on the sleeve, but right in the viewers face, a bloody knuckle sandwich to the senses, he remains one of the more well known rebels of Hollywood in an era when studio systems pretty much ruled and dictated final directions. Peckinpah, a tough, hard edged man by nature, had skirmish after skirmish with studios over his final visions, which almost cost him his career. Somehow, however, he didn’t get totally blackballed by the industry, although his reputation was even then, already encased in cement.
Two landmark motion pictures have hit the 45th anniversary milestone this year, and both of them were instrumental in helping usher in the kind of norms, sensibilities, and somewhat radical attitudes that were beginning to burgeon in Tinseltown as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s.
One of them, The Wild Bunch, took screen violence and the western narrative to an entirely different level; the other, Midnight Cowboy, not only became the first X-rated motion picture to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but it also exemplified a kind of realistic film in which the narrative doused its characters in strife, pain, and struggle, and didn’t offer a seamless resolution at its denouement, but rather the contrary. Its kind of downer tale also became a style and staple for many of the films which followed it into the mid 1970s such as Scarecrow, The Last Detail, etc.
Warren Oates, the gruff, everyman character actor best remembered for his film roles as the dim-witted but intimidating half of the Gorch Brothers in The Wild Bunch and the aptly named Sgt. Hulka in the Bill Murray Army comedy vehicle Stripes, would have been 85 years old today. Oates had succumbed to cancer back in 1982.
Oates seemed to be a chameleon in his roles, a merry-go-round of styles in a various litany of genres; he played famed real-life gangster John Dillinger (in Dillinger), did turns in Sam Peckinpah projects like the aforementioned The Wild Bunch and Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, and did stints with other famed directors like Terrence Malick (Badlands), William Friedkin (The Brinks Job), and Steven Spielberg (the panned at the time, but semi-cult comedy in today’s climate 1941).
According to sources, Will Smith is in negotiations to both produce and star in a remake of the 1969 Sam Peckinpah classic western, The Wild Bunch, which followed a group of aging outlaws setting out for one last big score in 1913 as the ways of the old west are dying and the new ways are settling in.
Instead of using this premise, it’s said that Smith’s version—which will be through his Overbrook Entertainment along with Jerry Weintraub, who worked with him to produce the Karate Kid remake—would be modern and follow a disgraced DEA agent who assembles a team to go after a Mexican drug lord and his fortune.
While his brother, Ridley, may be the better known and more respected of the two, it appears as though Tony Scott has nabbed him one hell of a project to call his own. Well, kind of.
Deadline is reporting that Scott will helm a remake of the classic film The Wild Bunch for WB. Â The Sam Peckinpah classic follows the story of a group of aging outlaws who “try for one last score on the Texas-Mexico border.” The film starred William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, and Warren Oates.
The film is one of three projects Scott is currently hard at work on including a project called Hell’s Angels, which will be his next, as well as a sequel/reboot of his beloved film, Top Gun. Â Now, two films, his long talked about remake of Potzdamer Platz and the John Grisham adaptation, The Associate would appear all but dead, as they’ve been waiting in the wings for what feels like years now.