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Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana To Adapt ‘The Color Of Lightning’ For Ridley Scott

Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana To Adapt 'The Color Of Lightning' For Ridley Scott

Also Penning Comanche Drama ‘Empire Of The Summer Moon’ For Scott Cooper

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, the Oscar-winning co-scribes of Ang Lee‘s “Brokeback Mountain,” are set to reunite to adapt two separate period Westerns novels, both being produced under the Scott Free banner with Ridley Scott himself attached to helm one and “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper attached to the other.

The first novel, which will potentially team Scott with 20th Century Fox, is Paulette Jiles‘ “The Color Of Lightning,” described as a “a lively exploration of revenge, dedication and betrayal set mainly in Kentucky and Texas near the end of the Civil War” that follows the story a freed slave named Britt Johnson who must plot the revenge for his family’s capture by a Comanche and Kiowa war party. The story is said to be loosely based on true story, which also inspired the John Ford-John Wayne 1956 teaming for “The Searchers.”

Where does this project lie on Scott’s radar? The director has a plethora of things waiting in the wings including the “Alien” prequel, the adaptation of Joe Haldeman‘s 1974 novel “The Forever War,” Jordan Belfort‘s autobiographicalThe Wolf Of Wall Street,” the Gucci project with Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie, the long-gestating adaptation of Aldous Huxley‘s classic “Brave New World,” the movie based on the board game Monopoly and many others. Our guess is this latest project will become just another entry on that ever-growing list but, nevertheless, here’s a detailed synopsis of the Jiles novel:

As the Civil War winds down, freed slave Britt Johnson moves his wife and three children to Young County, TX. He dreams of starting a freight business, and his wife wants to teach school. But when the Comanche and Kiowa come raiding, Britt is not there to defend his family; his oldest son is killed, and the rest of his family and neighbors are taken captive. Britt spends a long winter plotting how to rescue them. Samuel Hammond, a Quaker man from Philadelphia, is sent to the region to be the new Indian Agent. He holds high ideals about nonviolence and teaching the Indians an agrarian lifestyle. Riveting suspense builds as Britt journeys north toward Indian country and encounters many Indian captives who do not want to be re-Anglicized.

The second project, meanwhile, is a look at the other side of the coin — a Comanche drama centering on a charismatic leader named Quanah Parker who “skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century.” Cooper is reported to be attached to the adaptation which likely makes it the same film veteran actor Robert Duvall discussed earlier this year, mentioning it as one of his potential projects with Cooper.

Duvall himself could even play the leader Quanah, who despite his quintessential American background (he was born to a woman named Cynthia Ann Parker, a blue-eyed honey-haired child who was kidnapped by the Comanches when she was nine and incorporated into the tribe), helped the Comanches grow into ferocious warriors and acted as the primary impediment to Western expansion. Sounds like an outstanding role tailored for Duvall. Here’s the full synopsis of the S.C. Gwynne novel, courtesy of Amazon:

In this engrossing chronicle, award-winning journalist Gwynne traces the rise of the Comanche people from their roots as primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to their mastery of the horse and emergence as the feared power brokers of the area. At the center of the narrative is the charismatic Quanah Parker, who skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century. Quanah was the son of a Comanche warrior and a woman named Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at the age of nine and chose to stay with the Comanches. Quanah was a brilliant, feared war chief who guided his people in adapting to new realities after their final suppression by the U.S. Calvary. An outstanding addition to western-history collections.

Scribe McMurtry is also the author of the Duvall-led acclaimed miniseries “Lonesome Dove” which makes the whole teaming of McMurtry, Duvall, Cooper and Ossana a reunion of sorts. The helmer, though, has a couple of other projects in the works too including a remake of Pablo Trapero‘s 2010 thriller “Carancho,” the iconic rivalry story between “The Hatfields And The McCoys” with Brad Pitt and Duvall attached, a film adaptation of Bob Dylan‘s “Brownsville Girl” also with Pitt, a film based on slave rebellion leader Nat Turner, and an adaptation of William Styron‘s “Lie Down In Darkness” initiated by the Styron family with Jennifer Lawrence gunning for a lead role.

It remains to be seen whereabouts these McMurtry and Ossan-scripted projects lie in Scott and Cooper’s plans but we’re definitely hoping for the best. The Western genre is one Hollywood could afford to mine a lot more — and hopefully the success of the Coens’ “True Grit” will make studios more amenable to genre — and with talent like this circling the wagons, its certainly exciting. [Deadline]

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