It’s taken 10 years to get God­less to the small screen. Wri­ter­di­rec­tor Scott Frank ex­plains why

Empire (Australasia) - - Preview - WORDS MARK SAL­IS­BURY

SCOTT FRANK LOVES the Old West. “As I got older I re­alised so many of my favourite films also hap­pened to be West­erns,” ex­plains the Os­car-nom­i­nated screen­writer of Out Of Sight and Lo­gan. The lat­ter of those, of course, owed as much to Shane as Stan Lee. “What I love is that moral­ity is al­ways in the grey ar­eas; there are a lot of clas­sic themes that are fun to write.”

And so, in 2000, Frank be­gan writ­ing one of his own, pro­duc­ing a screen­play called God­less that he hoped Out Of Sight’s Steven Soder­bergh would di­rect. But Soder­bergh had is­sues. “He said, ‘I love this script, I don’t like horses,’” Frank re­calls. “We talked to other di­rec­tors and it al­most came to­gether with a cou­ple.” At one point Sam Men­des was at­tached with Kate Winslet and Har­ri­son Ford in the lead roles, but when the project fell apart due to bud­getary con­cerns, God­less lan­guished in de­vel­op­ment hell.

A decade later, Soder­bergh, who signed on as pro­ducer, raised the idea of do­ing it as a TV se­ries — with Frank, who’d di­rected his own scripts for The Look­out and A Walk Among The

Tomb­stones, di­rect­ing. When Net­flix signed on, Frank ex­panded his script into seven episodes. This re­tooled God­less stars Down­ton Abbey’s Michelle Dock­ery as an out­cast, wid­owed rancher in La Belle, an iso­lated town with few able-bod­ied men fol­low­ing a min­ing dis­as­ter. Sheltering Jack O’connell’s wounded out­law, she’s un­aware his for­mer men­tor, the ruth­less Frank (Jeff Daniels), is lay­ing waste to the Old West in an at­tempt to find him and ex­tract his bloody re­venge.

Film­ing in New Mex­ico, says Frank, was “ex­haust­ing and ex­hil­a­rat­ing”, with in­ac­ces­si­ble ter­rain, change­able weather and tem­per­a­men­tal horses a daily chal­lenge. Although, hav­ing rid­den since he was young, Frank would oc­ca­sion­ally sad­dle up and ride out into the vast land­scape to is­sue his cast di­rec­tions. “Some­times it was eas­ier to get on a horse,” he ex­plains. Un­less you’re Steven Soder­bergh, of course.


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