Netflix announced today that The Highwaymen from director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks, The Founder) commenced principal photography in Louisiana. The cast is led by Academy Award winner Kevin Costner (Molly’s Game, Hidden Figures), Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Hunger Games series), Academy Award winner Kathy Bates (Disjointed, The Blind Side), John Carroll Lynch (The Founder, American Horror Story), Kim Dickens (Gone Girl, Fear the Walking Dead (tv series)), Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Kong: Skull Island), and William Sadler (Power (tv series), The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist).
Based on true events, this story follows Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and ex-partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson), who are drawn out of retirement in a last-ditch effort to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde. The project had been in development for several years, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford once set to play the lawmen before Paul Newman’s health started fading. This project will present a much different look at Hamer, who was portrayed in a less-than-flattering way by Denver Pyle in the 1967 classic Bonnie & Clyde, but after learning more about Frank Hamer, writer John Fusco took it upon himself to tell this story from Hamer’s perspective. Here’s what the writer had to say below, in an excerpt from a lengthy post from Deadline where he explains in his own words how this project came to fruition.
“As I researched the history beneath the Robin Hood gangster myth of Bonnie and Clyde, I found Frank Hamer to be one of the most compelling yet shockingly unsung heroes in American history, a man with a life story so epic and relevant that I wanted to learn more. Hamer was a decorated Texas Ranger who had been shot and wounded 17 times over the course of his life, left for dead four times. He is credited with having killed more than 50 men. But what truly fascinated me was how, in 1934, during the notorious rampage of Bonnie and Clyde, when J. Edgar Hoover and a 1,000-man dragnet had failed to capture them over two years, Frank Hamer, then retired, was approached by the Governor of Texas and asked to “take up the hunt.” Barrow and Parker were, by then, responsible for murdering 12 individuals, including nine law enforcement officers, across a half-dozen states. Frank Hamer was more at home patrolling the Rio Grande on a cow pony with a Winchester, but after a half-dozen lawmen were gunned down, he came out of retirement to take on the modern-day assignment. Recruiting another retired Ranger, his former partner, B.M. “Maney” Gault, the two replaced their Winchesters with machine rifles and their horses with Hamer’s wife’s beloved ’34 Ford V8. They even hand-sculpted (hat makers call it “abusing”) their Stetson Homburgs into more of a fedora style and headed off down the rutted highways of a changing America, during the Great Depression. After 102 days on the road, Hamer and Gault would outsmart Bonnie and Clyde, boxing in their circle and driving them like rogue cattle down a rural road near Gibsland, LA, and putting an end to their rampage in the controversial ambush that has become legend, mostly via the operatic slo-mo finale in the Penn film.”
John Fusco also revealed in his piece that he had the idea for this movie while in production on his 2005 movie Hidalgo, starring Viggo Mortensen, with producer Casey Silver expressing so much interest in the story that he wanted John Fusco to start writing the script. Fusco revealed that he sincerely wanted the blessing of the Hamer family, which lead to the writer meeting his son, Frank Hamer Jr., a lawman in his own right, where Hamer Jr. ultimately granted Fusco his blessing to tell his father’s side of this epic story.
The feature film is produced by Casey Silver Productions, with Casey Silver (Godless, Mosaic) serving as producer. The Highwaymen is written by John Fusco (Hidalgo, The Forbidden Kingdom), Academy Award nominee Scott Frank (Godless, Out of Sight, Logan) and John Lee Hancock. Michael Malone, Kevin Costner, Rod Lake, and Woody Harrelson serve as executive producers. The Netflix Film is slated for release in 2018. You can head on over to Deadline to read John Fusco’s full piece about the trials and tribulations of bringing this project to the screen after several years in development.