© New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers.
C&I: Ten years ago you made Appaloosa, an adaptation of the first in the Cole and Hitch series of western novels by the acclaimed novelist Robert B. Parker. The movie has your imprint all over it, as star [playing Virgil Cole opposite Viggo Mortensen's Everett Hitch], director, and co-writer with your friend Robert Knott. Tell us a bit about the experience of making it.
Harris: I guess it was 10 years ago. Well, I think that Appaloosa is a really good story that we made in a more classical vein than most westerns are filmed today. It felt genuine to me from the horse tack, guns, and other weapons to the historic--style buildings and what was inside them, along with the other set designs and props. It was really fun doing it. We all paid such attention to detail, and all that attention really paid off.
This was the first book in the Cole and Hitch series. My daughter and I were doing a horseback riding trip in Ireland, and I brought the book along on the trip. I think I had just finished the third chapter and was so taken by the characters and story that I called my agent to see if it might be available to option.
C&I: New York Times film critic A.O. Scott had this to say about the film: "One important gunfight goes by so quickly and anti-climactically that even Everett remarks on how fast it was over. 'That's because the folks knew how to shoot,' Virgil says, offering an implicit defense of Mr. Harris's crafty and unassuming approach to filmmaking."
Harris: There you go. I think my directing was unassuming, although I don't know how crafty it was. But it sure was fun making the movie.
C&I: Appaloosa has also been called a violent period western, as Virgil and Everett make their living as gunmen for hire. But, on another level, it is a relationship movie about the two characters.
Harris: My buddy and bestselling writer Robert Knott and I co-wrote the screenplay, and I really felt that we captured the relationship that Parker put on the page between those two cowboys. I gave the book to Viggo at the Toronto [International] Film Festival in 2005 when we were there for A History of Violence. There was no one else I really wanted to do the film with, and I certainly never considered anyone else. I just thought he and I would make a strong partnership on screen.
I think Cole and Everett would be a great twosome to have on a well-made television series. We would have done a sequel to Appaloosa, but Viggo didn't want to play to same character twice. He's really a great and creative guy and I'd love to work with him again. He can talk all day long. ... You won't get that from me. ...
Parker wrote four books in the series, and then Robert took over after he passed away and wrote another four or five. I'm really proud of Robert; he's my best buddy who works his butt off to keep the series going.