Genre: Western
Premise: The story of a slimy town marshal who saved the town of Revelation, Wyoming with the help of a mysterious Jewish gunman.
About: Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man) wrote this script while editing the film he’s still probably best known for, Swingers. He and Vince Vaughn really wanted to make it but could never find financing. It’s considered a relic of the past. But maybe Favreau wasn’t right to give up on it. Maybe, just maybe, this is his best script.
Writer: Jon Favreau
Details: 115 – pages (12/17/96) draft

Jon-FavreauJon Favreau

I FINALLY understand why Favreau directed Cowboys & Aliens! I didn’t know why anybody would want to make that film. But it’s obvious now he regretted never being able to make “Marshal of Revelation,” and realized this would be his only shot to make a Western.

So what’s going on with this mysterious script you’ve probably never heard of? A script that had no business being good (I mean seriously, are there more boring words to open a screenplay to than “Wyoming, 1877?”). Well after those words disappear, we endure a horrifying scene where a gang of mixed nationalities swoop in on a family home, kill a father, brutally rape and murder the wife, and then wait hours for the hiding son so that when he emerges to run away, they can murder him too.  Hmm, maybe Wyoming 1877 isn’t so boring after all.

Jump forward a couple of years and we meet Isaac Meek, the 1880 equivalent of a car salesman. He’s rough around the edges. But he’s handsome enough and he’s got the gift of gab, which allows him to bed many ladies and talk his way out of any situation. That is until he bangs a business associate’s wife. A Chicago bigwig. Isaac realizes that his life is now in danger so he does what he does best – runs.

He eventually bumps into a Jewish cowboy searching for a Russian man. The Russian man turns out to be the same leader of that gang who massacred the family in the first scene. Apparently, he’s been doing this to many families, and started with the Jew’s. So the Jew’s out for a little revenge. And much like Inigo Montoya, he’s been training his ENTIRE LIFE for this meet-up. As a result, he’s the BEST shot in the country (even better than Buffalo Bill – who makes an appearance later!).

Sensing he needs protection, Isaac promises to help the Jew find the Russian if he becomes Isaac’s bodyguard. The two soon find themselves strolling into the town of Revelation, a once thriving city that’s since been overrun by criminals. After a dazzling display of gunmanship and a few dead bad guys (all done by the Jew but orchestrated by Isaac), the town begins to rally around Isaac as a savior, and makes him the Marshal.

As they continue to clean up the town, Isaac’s legend grows, with no one realizing that it’s the Jew who’s doing all the killing here. However, when the Jew realizes Isaac’s been lying and hasn’t done a thing to find the Russian, he leaves. Finally, Isaac will have to prove his worth on his own, a challenging proposition since he’s grown so fond of his legend that he no longer knows what’s real and what’s fable.

vaughn_bestofFavreau wanted Vaughn to star. Would he have played Isaac?

Damn, this script was good! It feels Django-like, albeit reigned in. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Quentin read this back in the day and was inspired by it. The Jew very much feels like Django (discriminated against, stoic and quiet) while Isaac is the more flamboyant personality-infused of the two.

Speaking of personality, this script taught me a lot about it. I NEED personality in at least ONE of my major characters. I’ve brought this up quite a bit lately because I continue to read a ton of material with forgettable characters.

We focus so much on things like flaws and backstory and character actions, we forget those only do so much. If a person doesn’t talk in some sort of interesting way, they usually lack personality, which makes them boring. Han Solo, Hannibal Lecter, Lloyd Dobler, Juno, Jack Sparrow, Tony Stark. Give me someone who lights up the page!

Well, you can now add Isaac Meeks to that list. Isaac is a salesman. He’s a con man. He’s a selfish swindler. He can talk himself out of ANYTHING and while we may hate the guy, we sure enjoy watching him work. For example, early on in a whorehouse, Isaac’s confronted by two men. Rather than fight, he plots a more… “Isaac-like” solution:

ISAAC
I can see where this is headed. As you can see, not only is it two on one, but I am without my pistol. Now, if you don’t share General Lee’s yellow streak, you’ll wait for a moment while I go to my room and fetch my revolver.

SOME GUY
Here, Meek, use mine…

ISAAC
I’m afraid that won’t do. A gunfighter’s tools are as unique as his personality…

WHORE
I’ll fetch it…

ISAAC
I’m afraid that won’t do. A gunfighter organizes his belongings in a way as unique as…

SAM
(fed up with the stalling)
Fetch your iron!

Of course, Isaac pretends to do just that, but when the gunmen rush to his room, all they see is an open window and a pair of blowing curtains.

But here’s the reason I really liked “Marshall.” Favreau not only created a great character who oozes personality, he created a great character with zero personality – the Jew. The Jew was all about action. He was all about looks. Where as Isaac sought the spotlight, the Jew basked in the shadows.

Characters like these (quiet ones) are tough to write because the lack of dialogue dims their light on the page. They don’t pop as much. But because the Jew was SO DAMN GOOD at his job and so driven (he’d stop at nothing to kill the Russian), we enjoyed him just as much as we did Isaac.

This script used a lot of Scriptshadow principles as well. The character goals were clear and strong (clean up the town, kill the Russian). The motivation was high (the Russian killed The Jew’s family). We had two very interesting main characters that actors would want to play. And due to the stark contrast in personality of our leads, there was tons of conflict. One couldn’t shut up. The other never said a thing. One was a coward. The other was brave. One had principles. The other stood for nothing. When you have a two-hander like this, you’re really writing THREE characters. You’re writing Character A. You’re writing Character B. And then you’re writing THE DYNAMIC BETWEEN CHARACTER A AND CHARACTER B. If you haven’t given thought to that third character, your two-hander’s probably missing something.

The failure of this film to get made probably comes down to trying to find financing for one of the least bankable genres in Hollywood. You saw what happened with Cowboys & Aliens. You saw what happened with The Lone Ranger. To get these made, you probably need a top ten director on board, who will pull with him a couple of major stars. So it’s too bad that The Lone Ranger tanked. It means a resurgence for The Marshal of Revelation is unlikely. Still, this is a really good script. Nice job, Jon!

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: In my book, I talk about the advantage of using “scene agitators” in your scenes. This refers to a third element that occurs outside the primary action/dialogue that gives the scene a little more kick. You use them because oftentimes, having only two people interacting is boring. So in “Marshal,” there’s this great scene where Isaac is playing poker against some dangerous locals. The pot has gotten huge, and the leader believes Isaac is cheating them. As Isaac and the leader keep raising the pot, a man walks in the bar (who we’ll later find out is the Jew). The leader, who doesn’t like Jews, tells him to leave. The Jew ignores him, sits down, and orders a drink. The leader continues to raise the pot, but is agitated by the fact that the Jew is ignoring him. So between exchanges with Isaac, he keeps turning to the Jew and telling him to leave. The pot increases and the tension with the Jew increases until finally the leader storms over and confronts the Jew. This is exactly how you want to use a scene agitator. The poker scene by itself was good. But the agitation the Jew adds makes it great.

  • Andrew Orillion

    Sounds like an interesting script and we could really use another good Western. I’m interested to see what MacFarlane does with “One Million Ways to Die in the West” since that is also a Western comedy.

    The problem with “Cowboys and Aliens” was too many cooks in the kitchen. There were six credited writers (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Damon Lindelof and Steve Oedekerk) plus the two guys who wrote the original comic book (which is awful, by the way) plus you know Favreau had his own take on the material. The inevitable result was a movie with too many characters, too much going on and no clear voice or direction.

    Kurtzman and Orci wanted to do something serious along the lines of “The Searchers”, they said at a recent Q and A I attended. I interviewed Fergus and Ostby for a story in “Script Magazine” and they said they wanted the movie to be more light and fun. Oedekerk is a comedy guy so he was probably brought in to punch up the jokes and SPOILER ALERT Lindelof’s finger prints are all over the Olivia Wilde character’s death and resurrection and her being an alien. With all that going on, how could “Cowboys and Aliens” not have been a complete mess.

    Since “Marshal of Revelation” was all Favreau it will all be his voice and have much more consistent tone and a better sense of its own identity. There’s something to be said for not passing a script around Hollywood like a hot potato.

  • koosalagoopagoop

    I usually only lurk here these days, but I wanted to post after I saw this:

    “The failure of this film to get made probably comes down to trying to find financing for one of the least bankable genres in Hollywood. You saw what happened with Cowboys & Aliens. You saw what happened with The Lone Ranger.”

    Let’s not get two things confused. The Lone Ranger was a fine script years ago (I think I read an early 2009 draft) and what happened with that script is a combo of the 3rd writer/director. Cowboys and Aliens has been wanted to be done since forever and like already said, this is an example of too many cooks in the kitchen.

    Rango, Djano and True Grit are three examples of successful westerns in the last 3 years. If producers had been smart, they would’ve launched right into shooting Brigands (or had a trailer ready with Django) as soon as hype hit with Django, which would’ve happened anyway due to the Tarantino machine.

    Western’s can be done successfully. It can happen!

    • ArabyChic

      I had a meeting with a manager once where I was pitching different ideas and two of them were westerns and he looked at me like I had bird poop on my face and said, “what is it with you writers and westerns?” – like I was talking about some weird sex fetish or something.

      I think there is a kind of genre aversion to westerns despite the three good examples you site above.

    • Brainiac138

      It can be done but to be fair, all the films you listed came from established filmmakers who have proven they can make money. It is a lot easier to get harder off the ground when you are the Coen brothers, or if you have pretty much absolute creative freedom like Tarantino. Westerns are considered extremely high risk investments from the studios, in the case of the films you mentioned, and one of them being a children’s film adding another layer of complexity to it, their risk was partly negated by known moneymakers, as opposed to unproven writers who have a western they are taking around town.

      I’ve been in a couple meetings with writers that had westerns, and producers eyes almost truly, literally glaze over. And, before the writer can finish the gist of the plot or the first act, the talk is immediately over, or transforms to how the story can be modernized.

      The best way to get a western made, if you are not a known entity, is to figure out a way to make it yourself.

      • ArabyChic

        But for all those dreamers out there I point you in the direction of Brian Duffield. Jane Got a Gun is his first produced film. Of course he also has 3 or 4 other brilliant specs that have been floating around town for years.

        • andyjaxfl

          I’ve read three of Duffield’s scripts and I really enjoyed all of them. He’s a talented guy and I’m glad to see he’s making his directorial debut.

          • drifting in space

            Same, he’s got a great “voice” if you want to use that term. His stories are fun and move along very quickly.

            Curious to see his take on Insurgent, though I haven’t read the books nor do I really want to see the movie. Just an interesting writing choice for that genre.

          • ArabyChic

            Same here.

  • Poe_Serling

    I always enjoy a good Western… the one I’ve been waiting to hit the screens is Bone Tomahawk.

    “Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.” Directed/written by S. Craig Zahler. Starring Kurt Russell.

    In a recent interview, co-star Peter Sarsgaard described the project as ‘Alien’ meets ‘The Searchers.’

    • ArabyChic

      It’s a great script.

      • mslo

        Could i also get a copy please? michal (at) designboys (dot) cz
        Many thanks!

        • jbird669

          I would too, please and thanks! jedi_116 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

    • Brainiac138

      Have you read it, Poe? It is pretty gnarly, in all the good ways.

      • drifting in space

        Could you send over a copy?

        driftinginscripts at gmail dot com

        • ArabyChic

          Sent.

          • hickeyyy

            I’d love this too, if possible. benjamin.m.hickey@gmail.com

          • Dimitri

            Me too if that’s not too much of a hassle.
            dim_janssen at hotmail dot com

          • Stank

            I’d love a copy if it isn’t too much of a pain? Thanks in advance!

            mark.stasenko at gmail dot com

          • Lukas Ridge

            could I also get a copy please?
            My email is luk5as7 at gmail dot com.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Brainiac-

        I’ve never had the opportunity to read it. Then again… just thinking to myself… I might not want to just yet – sometimes I like to watch certain films without knowing too much of the plot details.

        I also feel the same way with Guillermo del Toro’s haunted house pic – ‘Crimson Peak.’

        I’d love to read that script… but after I see the film.

    • Wes Mantooth

      Agreed, Carson should review it. Good old fashioned “Searchers” type setup but with some of the most brutal violence I’ve ever read on the page.

    • rochee

      Here’s a link to most of the 2013 Blacklist scripts
      https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zvvzv7dvr2rrjc8/Y7_v6K2sfo/2013BLACKLIST

      • drifting in space

        Well, that is freakin’ amazing. Thanks!

        • drifting in space

          I’ve cracked open a few I was interested in and read the first 5 pages.

          Kind of disappointed but perhaps I hyped myself up too much.

          • GoIrish

            Shows you the difference between amateur and step-above-amateur is not as great as one might think…I took a look at the first 10 of Make a Wish – kind of curious how that would have fared on AOW.

      • JakeBarnes12

        Cool! Pirates forever, y’all!

        • drifting in space

          ScriptiLeaks.

      • Poe_Serling

        Thanks, rochee. You just earned a spot in the SS Hall of Fame for
        2014. ;-)

      • gazrow

        Awesome! Thanks a bunch! :)

      • Stank

        thank you so much!

      • Alex Palmer

        Thanks, Santa :D

  • kent

    Some very strong writing but I didn’t care for the characters at all and couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a dark comedy or straight up western. The Jew wouldn’t have put up with Meek’s bullshit for a nanosecond when he was hellbent on finding the Russian. I didn’t believe the Jew would just hang around town for months without telling Meek to get on the case and find the Russian. Buntline was right out of The Unforgiven. The way the gunfights were written with nobody noticing that all the bad guys got killed without Meek even pulling his gun, and not hearing the shots come from somewhere else, made me think of a Don Knotts movie. For it to work for me, it either had to be funnier and lose the gore, or lose Meeks as a goofball and make it a traditional revenge western with the Jew in the Man with No Name role.

    • FD

      Agree with you entirely here. Also, if someone has murdered my family and I’m hellbent on killing him, I won’t first spend 20 years becoming a gunman: I’ll buy a gun, get good enough at it, find out where he is, hide behind a barrel and blow is miserable brains out – end of movie.
      On another note, I find it concerning that Wyoming in 1877 has to be inherently a sign that the story will be boring. Maybe Carson could start reviewing some scripts that he thinks look “boring”. That might mean that we get something other than time travel, Nazis and gorefests on AF.

      • Crystal

        But if we don’t get a contained thriller every other week how will we live?

        • FD

          Every other week would be jus fine and dandy. I’m talking about the AF lists that contain this logline in seven variations:
          In the year 3013, a horde of flesh-eating mutants on crack finds a time machine and travels back to a Nazi bunker where they are trapped by a machete-wielding FBI mass murderer bent on revenge for… well for something.
          Now that is getting really boring imho.

          • Crystal

            You don’t have to convince me. My romantic comedy script was up for AW and not chosen for AF. Not that I’m biased or anything.

            Plus I don’t like nazis, zombies, or time travel. And most thrillers lose me at their totally out of nowhere third act twist.

  • gazrow

    Sounds like a great script! Would love to read it – if anyone has this and/or The Voices I’d be hugely grateful if they could send them my way! :)

    gazrow at hotmail dot com

    • Alex Palmer

      Sent you The Voices

      • ernstdegeer

        Really want The Voices as well!

        ernstdegeer at gmail dot com

        • Alex Palmer

          Sent

      • gazrow

        Thanks, man! Much appreciated! :)

  • Poe_Serling

    Just saw this… the nofilmschool site offering up a slew of recent screenplays for the masses to check out:

    Saving Mr. Banks, Lone Survivor, Gravity, Prisoners, The Great Gatsby, etc.

    http://nofilmschool.com/2013/12/saving-mr-banks-rush-lone-survivor-screenplays-available-consideration/

    • gazrow

      Nothing ever gets past you, Poe!! Thanks for the link! :)

      • Poe_Serling

        Oh, I sorta see it as a continuation of some other recent posts regarding the availability of potential award contenders in the script category.

        I noticed ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ script was just added to the mix.

    • tobban

      Thanks for the link Poe ! Appreciated. It had some scripts others didn’t have

  • blue439

    Marshal and the Jew seem directly lifted from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. One is charismatic and talkative, the other silent and deadly.

    • kent

      More like Buscemi and Stormare in Fargo…

      • wlubake

        Jay and Silent Bob?

  • craze9

    No script link? I thought it’s an old script, why not post it…

  • wlubake

    Clearly he wrote Vaughn as Isaac and himself as the Jew. That would have been a fun little movie.

  • CRAYONSEED

    This sounds pretty fantastic. How does one get one’s hands on the script?

    • klmn

      Break into Carson’s apartment, turn on his computer and search his files.

    • gazrow

      One has to provide one’s email and hope someone sends it there way! :)

  • Tyler_d

    Hey guys, new to site. Thanks for the article Carson, I’ve always been a fan of westerns.

    My mom introduced me to SHANE when I was a kid and I thought it was pretty damn cool.

    Probably one of my favorites.

    So if anyone is interested, here’s a link to my script. I’d love to swap notes with someone.

    Thanks.

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/1ni279ebjcefseq/Colossal.fdx.pdf

    • Matthew Garry

      I’m unsure what’s going on.

      I have an earlier script called “Colossal” (Colossal.fdx.pdf) by “Jesse Lugo” (probably “jlugozjr” on here), and the first page is identical.

      There was also a “Colossal” entered at AOW http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-offerings-weekend-5/

      Maybe a mix-up with the uploading/link posted or a revised draft from a script that’s now a team effort ?

      • drifting in space

        Tried to pull a fast one! I opened it and was like… I’ve read this before…

        • Tyler_d

          Damn, you guys are good. Totally caught me. Just trying to get my script out there.

  • IgorWasTaken

    Carson, it’s clear that the Jew had a horrendous backstory/huge motivation.

    But, did the Jew ever have to struggle in the story?

    • Citizen M

      The Jew is a Mentor. He teaches Isaac how to shoot, and Isaac also learns from him how to be a bit less selfish. In general, Mentor characters don’t need to arc; they need to be very good at what they do, and also a bit mysterious.

  • GoIrish

    I made it p. 46. I thought the writing was strong, and I really enjoyed the beginning…but then things started to drag a bit for me. Carson commented on the confrontation in the whore house. The dialogue in that scene was decent enough, but I found the “out the window” escape to be rather bland – I thought, “that’s all you can come up with?” Maybe I’ll give it another go-round in light of Carson’s impressive rating.

    • klmn

      It dragged for me too. I read to page 48. I think there was too much talk, and too much one sided dialogue (monologue?).

      • klmn

        • Poe_Serling

          I’ve been watching a bit of MeTV lately and here’s the way to open a Western:

          • klmn

            Or this.

          • Poe_Serling

            That was great!!

          • klmn

            Interesting.

            Of course the best movie opening has to be from The Wild Bunch. I just checked YouTube for that sequence and it looks like the scorpions and fire ants have been censored. Maybe one of the other video sites have it.

          • klmn

            Found it on Daily Motion.

            http://dai.ly/xc9um3

        • Poe_Serling

          Kinda cool to see a young Michael Landon and Nick Adams in action together in that clip from Wanted: Dead or Alive.

          • klmn

            Little Joe and Johnny Yuma!

          • Malibo Jackk

            Always knew they had a bad streak in them.

  • spencerD

    Where is a link so I can read this? One script, which is also a western, i’d love to see go somewhere is — A PLACE ONLY MARY KNOWS by Leone. Anyone ever read that or at least the treatment that was supposed to have appeared in a June 2004 Issue of the Italian Cinema Mag Ciak.

    • gazrow

      There are no links for MARSHAL OF REVELATION!! You have to put your email in your post and ask folks to send it to you. Sometimes you’ll strike lucky and some kind soul will send you the script! Sometimes not!

      • spencerD

        How do people find these scripts in the first place?

        • gazrow

          Some are floating about on the web already – you just have to look hard. Some are shared by folks on screenwriting websites such as this! :)

          My email is gazrow at hotmail dot com

          Happy to send the script your way if you like? :)

          • spencerD

            To all I have the script and am reading it, it’s very good thus far feels like a Leone/Anthony Mann type thing meets the Frisco Kid, not in comedic tone just feel and I can see Gene Wilder/Harrison Ford in younger days doing this……Maybe I’m wrong but still interesting.

            Wish this had been made when it was planned or whenever unforgiven was made, that would have been some oscar year: UNFORGIVEN VS MASHAL OF REVELATION.

          • gazrow

            Haven’t had chance to read it yet – busy working on a rewrite of my zom-com.

            Good to hear that you’re enjoying the read! :)

  • spencerD

    Script I’d love to see go somewhere and is another western as well is the film,
    A Place Only Mary Knows, which Although the written treatment never got turned into a full screenplay, Leone’s son Andrea had it published in a June 2004 issue of the Italian cinema magazine Ciak. It is unsure if the treatment’s publication will ever lead to a full production in America or Italy. I’d love to see it become something one day or to write a similar film myself. Anyone ever read the treatment?

    Where can I get a link to MARSHAL OF REVELATION, i would love to see this become a feature some day sounds very interesting..Please post a link thanks.

    • klmn

      Don’t have a link, but post your email and you will receive it.

  • gazrow

    There are no links!! You have to post your email and hope some kind soul sends the script you way!!

    • drifting in space

      Gazrow email police!

      • gazrow

        LOL. How’s your writing going, dude? :)

        • drifting in space

          Hmmm… my response disappeared. Anyway, writing three screenplays at once.

          How about you? What’s on tap?

          • gazrow

            Three screenplays at once? Seriously?! Wow! I could never do that. Lol.

            As for me, I’ve done another draft of Offline and turned it into a contained murder mystery/horror rather than a straight thriller. One of the comments you made about it reading a bit like a court transcript stuck with me and I got rid of most of the single line sentences!

            My latest script is a zom-com – just finishing up rewriting it. Pretty excited about it, because I think it’s got a great concept! Though I might be a little biased! Lol. :)

          • drifting in space

            That’s so badass! One of my projects is a zom-com! I want to know what yours is about.

            Is Offline done, or still rewriting?

            And the only reason I’m doing three at a time is because I think I have ADD…

          • gazrow

            One of yours is a zom-com too! No way! Keeping mine under wraps for now, because like I say, I think it’s a great concept!! Will be happy to do a script swap and exchange notes when it’s done though, if you’re up for it?!

            As for Offline, it’s done. It’s as good as I can make it… well, for now anyway! Lol.

      • Guest

        Writing three screenplays at once. My brain is frying.

  • spencerD

    A SCRIPTSHADOW BLOG POST about writing a good western and good western films to watch should be posted. I’d love to hear that…after reading this interesting post.

Archives
  • 2014 (82)
  • 2013 (287)
  • 2012 (276)
  • 2011 (290)
  • 2010 (323)
  • 2009 (350)