Peter Fonda plays a bounty hunter after notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) in the gritty Western drama 3:10 to Yuma. Ben Foster co-stars as a member of Ben Wade's gang who's perhaps even more of a ruthless killer than his boss. Although they are on opposites sides of the law in the movie, Fonda and Foster came together to talk about working with Crowe, Christian Bale, and horses on director James Mangold's film based on an Elmore Leonard story.
Peter Fonda and Ben Foster Press Conference
Peter, we heard you kind of led a little uprising on the set with the weather situation and the costumes. Was it really that bad?
Peter Fonda: “Yes. First, costumes and weather were a concern and we have a fabulous costume designer by the way. Fabulous costume designer. Arianne [Phillips] is just fabulous so we were very lucky. Well, everybody in the shoot was fabulous, too, but I think this film was originally supposed to be shot in July and August, which would have been just fine with me. But we had serious weather problems, very, very cold days, below zero days. It had its hardships, which also gave us something to play with as actors.
I thought I had a lock on it because I took my surf top, you know my surf suit top, thinking these fools don't know what it gets to be like in Sante Fe, New Mexico. No chance did that help me at all. My hands were about to drop off. My feet were about to drop off. We had hand warmers. I said, ‘This is a joke,’ and I'd bitch at them. I would go, 'Oh you idiots. Take your North Face downy jackets off. Take your caps off, take those big downy mitts, you'll find how fast you get this shot.'
And then it would take them forever loading up a Panavision Camera and I use Arricam, which is just a cassette that you'd slam it on and it loads itself. I love that. I'd say, ‘This is a great advertisement for Arricam, how to get it together fast, guys. We're cold up here on horses. There's no where to go.’ 'Action.' Mm-hmm, never thought about how cold it was. 'Cut.' ‘My god it's cold up here. Will you get this thing going?’
Ben had a whole other take on it. And by the way, Christian, of course, [being] from London had ice in his veins and did not know it was cold.”
If you've seen it, can both of you talk about what the original meant to you and how you perceive this as an update of it?
Peter Fonda: “Well, the original meant a lot to me because I happen to like character-driven stories especially dealing with something that's supposed to be shoot them up and kill. People die. But in the original, it seemed to me that Bisbee and Contention were 10 minutes apart. And because Jim Mangold took this journey from these two, where all this stuff happened that was not in the original, it gave us the ability to take a journey in the story in life.
I think journeys are tremendously important in Westerns. Obviously they were to me when I made The Hired Hand and the surges in Red River and all about these journeys. Even My Darling Clementine was a journey up to the point in making it into the OK Corral. This journey gave us a chance to develop character, to discuss each other and to learn, and for the audience to get into each other's character - for both Ben's character and my character.
For my character, this is where you come out and learn more about me and Ben Wade [played by Russell Crowe] and that we have some background together, because my character wasn't in the original film nor in Elmore Leonard's story. This is a way for Ben Wade to play off the same side of a different coin. We're both stone cold killers, but Ben's at the moment in his life thinking, ‘What am I doing? This is a journey I might not want to be on.’ My character is, 'I'm on this journey for the whole long run. I'm going to get this SOB to Yuma…and on into hell.' As I say…that's my thing. That's what I'm going to do. And I don't want to talk about what Ben's does but in Ben's trip, journey, you get an idea of his character build, his character is incredible dénouement fabulous. My dénouement was a whole other thing. 'Did they put that rip cord on properly because I'm cooked if they don't.'”
Did you see the original film?
Peter Fonda: “He's going to talk and I'm going to drink at the same time.”
Ben Foster: “He made me. No, I didn't see it. I have to be pretty specific about what I'm putting in my system while prepping a job. You try to get yourself as open as possible and you start living, ideally, in the subconscious availability so I didn't want to repeat or reference that at all. I was going in different directions for prep work.”
It’s such a scary character. Where did you go to find him? Did you help create the look of your character?
Ben Foster: “Yeah. We had a great time developing Charlie. Going over a lot of photos of outlaws with Jim [Mangold] and Arianne, our brilliant costume designer, we came to the conclusion that outlaws were rock stars of their day, very flamboyant dressers. And at least my take on Charlie is that he's the prince and Ben Wade is in fact the king. So if we're going in a rock and roll angle and tipping the hat to the Civil War, there is an actual white leather coat very similar to that one in a museum that we found, and that felt kind of glam rock to me. We kind of went down that direction.
It was just watching a lot of Bowie and how he would move, and then studying like wildcats because those are native to the land in which we're living in. You have to look at predators within your own environment.
In terms of being, how you get there, because it's weird being on, it's odd talking about that. I know you guys have all heard it, where it's, 'I don't play a bad guy. I'm doing my thing.' But at the end of the day you've got to love the person you're playing to the bone. You've got to fight for that person and the only way to do that is to understand their beliefs and their life. And that, for Charlie, is Ben Wade. So if you can find that place in yourself in which you would do anything for someone that you love, you can get close to wrap your head around it. Then when you're in an environment like that and you're against the elements, you have to kill to survive. So it becomes very simple.”
Page 2: On Horses and Westerns