Paul Schrader Wants To Follow 'First Reformed' With A Western Starring Ethan Hawke And Willem Dafoe

Paul Schrader has never gone away, but his career is encountering a sudden upswing thanks to his acclaimed 2018 film First Reformed. So what's next for Schrader? According to the man himself, he wants to make a Western called Nine Men from Now, and he hopes Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe will star. Those details alone are enough to pique my interest.

During an impromptu interview at the Critics' Choice Awards, Paul Schrader dropped some info on his potential next project:

If you ask me, just knowing that this new film could be a Paul Schrader Western featuring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe is enough to get my excited. But if you'd like a little more info on just what this project is, I did some digging, and I think I might have the answer.

Back in 1988, Schrader had a screenplay that had two possible titles: one was Vengeance, the other was Nine Men from Now. According to Schrader's own personal papers, the script was "adapted from film script Seven Men from Now by Burt Kennedy."

Seven Men from Now is a 1956 Western from John Wayne's production company. Here's the synopsis:

Former sheriff Ben Stride, haunted by the loss of his wife in a Wells Fargo robbery, hunts for the seven men responsible for her death – along the way encountering a couple heading west for California, and an outlaw he once arrested.

Here's a trailer,

Seven Men From Now

Does this mean Schrader is making a remake of Seven Men? My guess is yes – the tale of revenge sounds like something Schrader can mine for the type of existential drama he specializes in. Schrader wrote about Seven Men from Now in a 2000 issue of Film Comment.

"Seven Men from Now is, for me, the quintessential Western not because it is typical, but because it is emblematic," the filmmaker wrote. "[Director Budd] Boetticher was deeply invested in the symbolic hero, as epitomized by the bullfighter The director was, for a time, a bullfighter himself. He saw his protagonists as matadors: alone in the hot sun, figures of grace and style surrounded by noise and danger."

Schrader also mentioned a project with Hawke and Dafoe in the past to Deadline, without giving the title:

"I have a project I'm working on for both Ethan and Willem [Dafoe], and one character is like Randolph Scott, the righteous lawman, and the other character is the slinky antagonist, the weasel. And so I was thinking, Ethan and Willem have both played both. They've both been an upright, they've both been weasels. So, which one should play which? Then I realized I could have it both ways, start Ethan out as the righteous one, Willem as the reprobate, and then at the beginning of the third act, flip 'em. So, all of a sudden, nobody in the story actually knows it, but all of a sudden they are playing the opposite roles. Now, I couldn't do that with an actor who can only really play himself."

Throwing Hawke and Dafoe into the mix only makes this whole idea sound more appealing. First Reformed showed how well Schrader could work with Hawke. And the writer-director has worked with Dafoe several times before, most recently in 2016's nasty Dog Eat Dog. It's worth noting that this is all talk for now. There's been no formal announcement about Nine Men from Now, no studio is attached, and Hawke and Dafoe haven't signed any contracts. Schrader is experiencing a lot of renewed interest in his work, though, and hopefully he'll be able to get this film made.