Exclusive: “BONE TOMAHAWK” writer et al. talk Ridley Scott’s “WRAITHS”Books/Art/Culture,Movies/TV,News Shawn Macomber
When producer Dallas Sonnier first approached screenwriter/author S. Craig Zahler (pictured above) about putting together a no-holds-barred Western as the latter’s feature directorial debut, the initial suggestion was that Zahler adapt his own novel WRAITHS OF THE BROKEN LAND.
Ultimately, Zahler chose to pen a separate-yet-kindred screenplay rather than hack WRAITHS down to fit within indie strictures, and considering the critical acclaim the resulting BONE TOMAHAWK has garnered (including ours), it’s difficult to quibble with his decision. Now, word has come down that 20th Century Fox has secured the rights to the brutal, clever, Kurt Russell/Joe Lansdale-endorsed WRAITHS, with Ridley Scott signed on to direct and Scott’s THE MARTIAN scripter Drew Goddard adapting the saga of an outlaw family tracking their two sisters, who have been forced into prostitution.
Zahler is, naturally, ecstatic over this turn of events. “WRAITHS OF THE BROKEN LAND is my favorite of the five Western pieces I’ve written,” Zahler tells FANGORIA, “and Ridley Scott has the resources to throw its huge and hideous setpieces and heartfelt drama on the big screen.”
This is a triumph not only for Zahler, but also for WRAITH’s publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press, and its founders Jennifer Barnes and her husband/author John Edward Lawson. Their dogged small-press faith in transgressive “fiction that foams at the mouth”—read our interview with Barnes from a few years back here—has been validated in a massive way.
“I think I was only three pages into the manuscript before I knew I wanted to publish WRAITHS,” Barnes says. “I couldn’t believe no one else had picked it up—a Western/horror crossover is considered a hard sell, I suppose, but by the end I was convinced. It’s one of those books that you watch in your mind as you read, perfect for a film. In fact, when I wrote the back-cover description, I even mentioned cinema and a few movie genres. Ever since then, I’ve watched Zahler’s star rise with complete confidence. One of last year’s highlights was seeing BONE TOMAHAWK, which took my breath away. Having Ridley Scott sign on for this project is beyond amazing, but also makes complete sense to me.”
“For my generation, the films of Ridley Scott—ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, LEGEND—helped shape our imaginations and inspire us to pursue a career in the arts to begin with,” Lawson adds. “To know that a filmmaker with his track record for bringing literary works to theaters will be handling WRAITHS OF THE BROKEN LAND is unreal, especially when the entire creative team responsible for so carefully translating THE MARTIAN from page to screen is helping him. People might look at this and say, ‘What? RDSP does Westerns?’ But the fact is, we only work with authors who are doing work that crosses boundaries, and WRAITHS is no different. Over the last decade and a half, we’ve built up credibility with readers and reviewers, and the reward for us is the faith authors put in us based on that reputation. We get to work with some of the best writers out there, just because we’re willing to take a gamble on material others consider ‘difficult to market.’ Now, though, the tables have turned.”
Zahler next directs Vince Vaughn through a BRAWL IN CELL 99 and writes the PUPPET MASTER reboot. Both WRAITHS OF THE BROKEN LAND and Zahler’s subsequent 2014 novel CORPUS CHROME, INC. are available from Raw Dog Screaming Press; two other Raw Dog releases made our Top Books of 2015 list.