The criminal duo of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ may be household names, but the men tasked with bringing them to justice are not; that’s a problem that Highwaymen hopes to solve. Following the efforts of the Texas Rangers who tracked down and killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in the 1930s, the John Lee Hancock (The Alamo, The Blindside) directed feature has finally been given the green light.
Now all the period drama (co-financed by Media Rights Capital and Universal Pictures) needs is a pair of leading men to portray the aforementioned Rangers, with Liam Neeson and Woody Harrelson apparently being eyed by the filmmakers.
The announcement comes courtesy of Deadline, with a projected start date of first quarter 2014. Neeson is being sought to play the central role of retired Ranger Frank Hamer, the lead investigator of the team assembled to track down the Barrow Gang. At this point it’s unclear which of the other men in Hamer’s ‘posse’ Harrelson is being eyed for, but neither has been attached thus far.
The film will be based off of a script by John Fusco (Young Guns, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2) who is no stranger to westerns – an important quality if Highwaymen will be following Hamer through more than just the tail end of his career. And while casting may not be confirmed, there’s no question Neeson has the experience as a no-nonsense killer that the role will demand.
Frank Hamer (bottom right) and his ‘Posse’
While not immortalized on film as often as other great American lawmen (Eliot Ness, Wyatt Earp, etc.) Hamer is nevertheless a man that writers would have invented – had he not already existed. A ranger taking down criminals by the time he was in his early 20s, Hamer was fueled by a downright hatred for law-breakers, cleaning up an American town or county before moving on to the next. After a 27-year career, Hamer retired in 1932 with the election of a Texas governor he felt was too corrupt to serve under. At the time, the legendary crime spree of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was just getting underway.
It wasn’t until Bonnie and Clyde committed a prison breakout in 1934, shooting one guard and killing another, that Hamer was drawn out of retirement, asked to form a posse of lawmen and put the Barrow Gang’s spree to an end. Not a typical gunslinger, Hamer went about investigating Barrow’s tactics, mentality, and lifestyle in an effort to better understand the criminals he was hunting. By the time Hamer and his posse had caught up to Bonnie and Clyde, their gang had killed nine peace officers and an unknown number of civilians, and committed endless robberies.
The film will act as a more accurate depiction of Hamer than was offered in the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway led Bonnie & Clyde (1967). Portraying the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame member as a bumbling lawman out for revenge, the filmmakers were actually sued by Hamer’s family for defamation, receiving a settlement in 1971. In other words: it’s about time the other side of the story was told. And so far, it seems the right actors for the job are being pursued.
After years of a Bonnie & Clyde remake being rumored to no avail, Highwaymen looks to capitalize on the possible success of the upcoming miniseries Bonnie & Clyde: Dead and Alive with William Hurt in Hamer’s role, produced by Sony Pictures. No word on whether they’ll take our advice in casting the criminal duo, but we’ll keep you updated.
Highwaymen is currently without a theatrical release date, set to being production in late 2013 or early 2014.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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