Paul Schrader has been making movies for over 40 years, and at 72, has no plans to slow down. Just a few weeks after securing his first Oscar nomination for “First Reformed,” the veteran filmmaker has started talking up his next project, “Nine Men From Now.” At his final Q&A for Oscar season, following a New York screening for Academy members moderated by this writer, Schrader said he had secured financing for the project and planned to shoot it this summer. He put his vision for the Western project in rather colorful terms.
“Basically, if you took a script from 1956 that Budd Boetticher made with Randolph Scott, and you asked Terry Malick and David Lynch to come in and take a shit on the script, you would have the movie I’m making,” he said.
The Boetticher project in question, “7 Men from Now,” starred Scott as Ben Stride as a lawman tracking down the seven men responsible for a lethal robbery, but Schrader explained in an interview with Deadline that he has envisioned the scenario in more high-concept terms: Scott’s character and the story’s main antagonist would be played by two actors who switch roles halfway through. “So, all of a sudden, nobody in the story actually knows it, but all of a sudden they are playing the opposite roles,” Schrader said at the time.
Schrader first conceived of the script over 20 years ago, according to records at the University of Texas at Austin. Though he had originally envisioned the roles to go to “First Reformed” star Ethan Hawke and regular Schrader collaborator Willem Dafoe, Hawke is no longer attached to the project, which Schrader described at his Q&A as “a neo-meta western.” Both the shooting schedule and distribution plans have yet to be finalized for the project, but Schrader is in a good position to jump into his next project on the heels of his Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for “First Reformed,” which grossed $3.8 million at the box office and won him new fans. It also gave Schrader his opportunity to finally make a movie in the “transcendental style” of filmmaking that he wrote about in a book first published in 1972 (and reissued last year). For “Nine Men From Now,” he seems intent on continuing to deconstruct film history through his own narrative techniques.
For now, however, he’s ready to put “First Reformed” behind him. “Welcome to the last picture show,” he told the audience at his final Q&A. “Independent film can have a very short life, sometimes as little as three or four days. We are now at the end of the 16-month life of this film, in one form or another, being a part of the public conversation. It’ll all come to an end in another week or so. I’ve been pulling this stone behind me for a long time. I’m ready to move on.”