How’s this for true grit? Famously combative, alcoholic, and drug-addled filmmaker Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs) is, as Chevy Chase might joke, “still dead” (he passed away in 1984 at the age of 59) — but that doesn’t mean Bloody Sam can’t make a comeback. Vulture has learned exclusively that producer Al Ruddy (The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby) recently unearthed a script for a Western called The Texans that Peckinpah wrote in 1980 but never got around to making.
Ruddy said he found the “new” Peckinpah script in his office in the midst of dissolving his longtime partnership with fellow producer Andre Morgan and dividing up their assets. (Morgan is not producing it.)
Ruddy recalls that he first hired screenwriter John Milius to write The Texans in the late seventies, but pre–Apocalypse Now, “when John was still living in this crappy apartment over on Fountain [Avenue]. He had this Rhodesian Ridgeback that was taking up half the place, and he said, ‘I’ll do the script for you, but you gotta take this fucking dog off of my hands.’”
Ruddy got the dog, and soon enough, a draft, too. But he wound up preferring the canine.
The producer then approached Peckinpah, who’d just suffered the worst professional defeat of his career with 1978’s Convoy, which came in late and over budget, and was eviscerated by critics (it also happened to be the highest-grosser of his career, but more people remember the film for its director’s erratic on-set behavior). So Peckinpah was desperate, and with The Texans, hoped to return to the genre he’d almost single-handedly reinvented; he approached the job with gusto — almost too much gusto, according to Ruddy: When Peckinpah turned in a draft in November 1980, it came in at 250 pages. Ruddy developed it for a decade, even after Peckinpah’s death, but after City Slickers came out in 1991, Ruddy felt the Zeitgeist had changed, put The Texans in a drawer, and eventually forgot about it.
But in recent weeks, Ruddy turned to his old friend Jim Byrnes (a writer of TV Westerns stretching back from How the West Was Won and The Gambler all the way to Gunsmoke and Daniel Boone) to whittle The Texans down to 150 pages in hopes of attracting a proper writer-director to take its reins.
We’re in the middle of reading the forest-slaying screenplay for The Texans now, but rather than spoiling it by telling you all about it, Ruddy’s agreed to let us to post the first fiften pages, which we suspect you’ll enjoy. See below.