I loved working with the “Young Guns,” but it was the Old Guns, like Jack Palance, James Coburn and Brian Keith, who made it a true Western experience. On other films, I’ve been fortunate to work with Harry Carey Jr., Malcolm McDowell and Omar Sharif. To have the legends who inspired you to write, now saying your lines…it just doesn’t get any better than that.
I also loved working with Emilio Estevez (he lived and breathed the Kid), Viggo Mortensen and, not too many filmmakers will say this, Val Kilmer. He drove me batty, but it was worth it in the end. I’m eager to work with him again.
People don’t know that during the final mustang stampede in Hidalgo, Viggo and I are riding full gallop, off-camera with the wranglers, driving those ponies across Montana. I love my life.
When it comes to directors, nobody can touch Kurosawa. I’ve long been intrigued by the fact that John Ford and American Westerns inspired this Japanese artist, who then inspired filmmakers like Sergio Leone, John Sturges and Peckinpah (and Spielberg, Lucas, Scorcese and Tarantino). It’s a fascinating cycle of influence that has produced great film.
Don’t get me started on Westerns that have Wyatt Earp shooting it out with Al Capone. I can’t go there.
On the set of Young Guns, Charlie Sheen was the only sane one. He was always dragging us out of border bars and restoring order to bad situations. Not sure if he was just in character as the foreman Dick Brewer, but he would literally yell “Regulators” and herd the guys out of trouble.
I haven’t stopped fighting to get Westerns made. In the late ’80s my agents begged me not to pitch my Billy the Kid idea because the Western was “dead.” I defied common sense, went off and wrote it on spec. Glad I did.
My biggest influences have been the old-timers who took me under their wing: the screenwriting legends Waldo Salt and Ring Lardner Jr., who became my mentors, old Bluesmen I traveled with on the road and Native American elders, like Frank Fools Crow, whom I spent time with on the Rez.
Show me an open highway, and I’ll have something written before we get to Bakersfield. The road is a great source of creativity for me. So is trail riding.
I’ve lived in bad motels and renovated school buses and, for a time, in a doorway in the French Quarter of New Orleans. So when I hear an actor whine about his accommodations at the Four Seasons….
Wish I had a dollar for every time a magazine cover, a sports team or a political campaign has used the term “Young Guns.”
History has taught me that the best drama isn’t always found in the big pivotal events, nor are the richest characters always the best known.
My only regret is that Paul Newman passed away just before he and Robert Redford were ready to reunite on my screenplay The Highwaymen, playing retired Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Manny Gault. But I’m grateful to have spent time with Butch, going over the script and eating Fig Newmans. That project is still alive (it’s the one John Lee Hancock is going to direct).
John Fusco, Screenwriter
Most known for writing and producing the box office hit Young Guns and its sequel Young Guns II, John Fusco also wrote 1992’s Thunderheart, the ABC miniseries DreamKeeper, 2004’s Hidalgo and the 2002 animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which earned an Oscar nomination. He has three projects on the launching pad for 2012: his Marco Polo series for the Starz Channel; his adaptation of Last Train to Memphis, about the early days of Elvis; and the Western he wrote at Universal just signed John Lee Hancock as the director.