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Monday, 24 November 2008

Ridley Scott talks about Cormac McCarthy's Western, Blood Meridian, and Tripoli

Ridley Scott has been interviewed by Empire magazine recently. He spoke about Body of Lies but also gave some news about his adaption of Cormac McCarthy's Western, Blood Meridian, and the difficulties of adapting a book that is steeped in violence and which deals with seriously un-PC topics.

"It's written. I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel. If you're going to do Blood Meridian you've got to go the whole nine yards into the blood bath, and there's no answer to the blood bath, that's part of the story, just the way it is and the way it was. When you start to scalp Mexican wedding parties that'll draw the line. One scalp of coarse black hair is pretty well either Mexican or Indian, and there was no difference to the scalp hunters in Arizona at that time, who didn't draw the line."

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 novel by Cormac McCarthy. Wiki states, "The novel tells the story of a teenage runaway named only as "the kid", who was born in Tennessee during the famously active Leonids meteor shower of 1833. He first meets the enormous and hairless Judge Holden at a religious revival in Nacogdoches, Texas: Holden falsely accuses the preacher, Reverend Green, of pedophilia and intercourse with a goat and incites a mob to chase him out of town.

After a violent encounter with a bartender establishes the kid as a formidable fighter, he joins a party of ill-armed U.S. Army irregulars on a filibustering mission led by a Captain White. Shortly after entering Mexico, they are attacked and massacred by a band of Comanche warriors. Few of them survive. Arrested as a filibuster in Chihuahua, the kid is set free when his acquaintance Toadvine tells the authorities they will make useful Indian hunters for the state's newly hired scalphunting operation. They join Glanton and his gang, and the bulk of the novel is devoted to detailing their activities and conversations. The gang encounters a traveling carnival, and, in untranslated Spanish, each of their fortunes is told with Tarot cards. The gang originally contract with various regional leaders to protect locals from marauding Apaches, and are given a bounty for each scalp they recover. Before long, however, they devolve into the outright murder of unthreatening Indians, unprotected Mexican villages, and eventually even the Mexican army and anyone else who crosses their path.

Throughout the novel Holden is presented as a profoundly mysterious and awe-inspiring figure; the others seem to regard him as not quite human. Like the historical Holden of Samuel Chamberlain's autobiography, he is a child-killer, though almost no one in the gang expresses much distress at his committing these acts. According to the kid's new companion Ben Tobin, an "ex-priest", the Glanton gang first met the judge while fleeing for their lives from a much larger Apache group. In the middle of a blasted desert, they found Holden sitting on an enormous boulder, where he seemed to be waiting for the gang. They agreed to follow his leadership, and he took them to an extinct volcano, where, astoundingly, he instructed the ragged, desperate gang on how to manufacture gunpowder, enough to give them the advantage against the Apaches. When the kid remembers seeing Holden in Nacogdoches, Tobin tells the kid that each man in the gang claims to have met the judge before he joined forces with Glanton."

Scott also passed on a few tidbits about the background and setting for another proposed film, Tripoli, a William "Kingdom of Heaven" Monaghan-scripted tale of high adventure in 19th century North Africa, as a US diplomat teamed up with the dispossessed heir to the throne of Tripoli to challenge the heir's usurper brother.

There is lots more to read in the interview over atEmpire.

Have any of you read Blood Meridian? No Country for Old Men was a brilliant movie and The Road was a great book, so I imagine Blood Meridian is a cracking read and seems to be another movie in the slow Hollywood build up of Westerns in recent years. I also like the sound of the mysterious Holden being viewed by some as not quite human (a bit like Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men). Who could you see playing the monstrous and hairless Judge Holden?
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