Magazine article Screen International

How 'Sons of Anarchy' Actor Taylor Sheridan Became One of Hollywood's Hottest Writers

Magazine article Screen International

How 'Sons of Anarchy' Actor Taylor Sheridan Became One of Hollywood's Hottest Writers

Article excerpt

By his own admission, Taylor Sheridan was taking "a pretty big, wild swing" when he gave up a respectable acting career - a decade-and-a-half on US TV shows ranging from Walker, Texas Ranger to Sons Of Anarchy - to try his hand at screenwriting.

His first effort turned out nicely, becoming last year's Denis Villeneuve-directed drug war drama Sicario and landing Sheridan a nomination for best original screenplay from the Writers Guild of America.

Now Hell Or High Water has shown Sicario was not just beginner's luck.

The atmospheric action drama - which earned its writer Independent Spirit and Gotham Awards nods - tells the story of troubled sibling bank robbers, played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, and a soon-to-retire Texas Ranger, played by JeffBridges.

The movie is set against a backdrop of the drought and financial hard times that have hit small-town west Texas in recent years.

Sheridan, who grew up in Texas and is father to a six-year-old son, cites the notion of "generational failure" - as well as a cousin who was a federal marshal in Texas - as being among the sources of inspiration for the new film.

The cousin, forced into mandatory retirement after 30 years of law enforcement, "dedicated his life to this thing", Sheridan says, "and it was arbitrarily taken away from him. So the idea of a life of no purpose was interesting to me."

Also crucial to the film's mood and authenticity was what Sheridan, who now lives in Wyoming, saw on a 2007 trip back to Texas. Thanks to the predatory lending practices of banks, he reports, "the towns I had grown up in and romaticised were all boarded-up and almost abandoned".

And the drought that is still affecting the state, he adds, "was really the last gasp for a lot of cattle ranches that had existed for 120 years. It was the death of a way of life."

The combination of personal experience with economic reality and the influence of Western and crime movies of the 1970s eventually resulted in a script that was rich enough to hook an impressive cast as well as hot UK director David Mackenzie, whose credits include the 2013 prison drama Starred Up.

Mackenzie, Sheridan recalls, came in saying what every screenwriter wants to hear: "He loved the story. He didn't want to change a thing. …

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