THE VERY LONG RIDERS
It’s taken 10 years to get Godless to the small screen. Writerdirector Scott Frank explains why
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.
GODLESS IS ON NETFLIX FROM 22 NOVEMBER