The original 3:10 to Yuma, released in 1957, is one of those Westerns that, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you might catch on AMC while flipping channels, get sucked into, and, at the end of it, wonder, “How the hell have I never heard of this movie before? It should be a classic like High Noon!”
You would be right on target, because the original is that good and that forgotten by the public — but director James Mangold has resurrected the Elmore Leonard title with a remake starring Russell Crowe as a murderous outlaw and Christian Bale as the poor rancher and Civil War vet who agrees to transport him to the titular train.
The two actors recently spent the day at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel promoting their efforts, and who should be one of the first to sit down with the tired, mumbling men, but the San Antonio Current. Crowe, who showed up in some fashion of winter vest, was entirely sedate and spoke with a slow Australian drawl while Bale — oft teased about his role in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series — spent most of the proceedings sitting next to his new friend with what might have been a Cheshire Cat grin on his face, but just as probably an impersonation of Christian Slater impersonating Jack Nicholson (complete with raised eyebrows that never move).
Russell, you’re known as an actor who loves to research and prepare for period roles. What sort of work went into 3:10 to Yuma for you?
Russell Crowe: Well, I think that we should decide not to talk about preparation just this once because then it all just becomes about preparation and not about the movie. The thing is that I was working on another movie right up to this and then promoting another film in Europe, and so I didn’t really do that much preparation. But, as you might know, I have a working farm and so there were a lot of things on this movie that are just part of my day-to-day.
Every male actor wants to star in a Western, to play a cowboy. What was the experience like for you two?
RC: You’ve been silent for a while, Batman. I’m going to do that all day, man.
Christian Bale: `Laughing` I was kind of guessing that was going to happen. `The` canyons and being out in the high desert, that was nice. Just being out riding your horses and shooting your guns, that’s a lot of fun.
RC: It was really cold.
CB: It got to be bloody freezing, especially some of the night shoots.
RC: Just terrifyingly cold.
CB: Then we had like the worst winter storm in recorded history come in.
RC: We were surrounded by four-and-a-half feet of snow doing scenes where we’re talking about the drought. It was one of those sort of movie experiences. Peter Fonda started something that I think that `the Screen Actors Guild` should pick up on. One day he actually said that he couldn’t act in period costume on location below 13 degrees.
CB: Which is superb. I’m having that put in my contracts from now on.
Christian, that means you followed up a jungle shoot for the Vietnam War-era Rescue Dawn with an equally hellish shoot. Do you like to abuse yourself?
CB: I kind of like movies where I get to just be dirty and crawling in the mud. With Rescue Dawn, it was all that primordial stuff, and with this one it was all about wearing the same clothes day after day and getting sweaty and dirty, exposure to the sun. It’s meant to be like that. Westerns are meant to be dirty. They shouldn’t be all nice and clean.
Had you two met before, and what sort of relationship did you forge on this film?
CB: No, we had never met before. Whenever people asked me what I was doing next and I said that I was going to be working with Russell, they would kind of look at me and go, “Oh, right, you’re going to be in for a tough ride with him.” `Laughing` It was absolutely true.
RC: Right from the first time that we did a reading, I could see that he had a sense of humor and was very balanced about what the job is and all that sort of stuff. Once you’ve worn the cape it must be hard —
CB: This isn’t going to go away all day, is it?
RC: — keeping your feet on the ground. You can tell that there’s a lot of base jealousy coming from me about the fact that he gets to wear the cape.
CB: I bought him his own special rubber outfit.
RC: Which I appreciated greatly.
CB: You’ll be seeing him in the meat district of Manhattan.
RC: We found it very easy to get on. And some of the days — I mean we talked about Peter pulling up at 13 degrees — but actually some of the days were minus 15. So it’s really nice to have an easy repartee when you’re trying to do complicated things in rough conditions.
CB: Even though your jaw can’t move because it’s too cold to talk.
Christian, can you talk about working on the new Batman movie?
CB: Russell is actually going to be in the new Batman movie, which is a big surprise that I want to reveal to everyone right now.
Rumor has it you’ve signed on to do The Justice League after the Batman movies.
RC: What about The Green Lantern?
RC: What about —
RC:: Come on, you look so good in a cape. •