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THE NEWTON BOYS

About The Background
Until now, the saga of the Newton boys remains unknown to most Americans

Until now, the saga of the Newton boys remains unknown to most Americans. Success in bank robbing means getting away with it clean, not gaining notoriety through "wanted" posters. The Newton boys, who all lived to be old men, were usually quiet about the details of their "business." Former Life magazine reporter and screenwriter Claude Stanush befriended Willis and Joe Newton in 1973 while collecting Texas tales for a book of short stories he was writing, and quickly decided the Newton Boys' lives and exploits were worthy of their own volume.

Stanush spent countless hours with Willis and Joe Newton, recording on audiotape their life stories in their own words. He eventually transcribed, edited and compiled this material into an oral history, The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang, published in Austin in 1994 by Statehouse Press.

After reading an article Stanush had written for Smithsonian magazine about the Newton Boys, producer Anne Walker­McBay and director Richard Linklater approached the writer about obtaining the motion picture rights to the book.

Stanush, who had scrutinized and rejected various offers over the years, was thrilled that Linklater and Walker­McBay would be bringing the brothers' story to the screen. "After meeting with Anne and Rick," Stanush remembers, "I knew they would tell an honest and interesting story that would say something about the history of the West. More importantly, I realized they wanted to make a film of which the Newton brothers would be proud."

Walker­McBay, in turn, found much to admire in Stanush's multi­textured account of the Newtons, combining not only a book, magazine articles and a documentary film, but also a genuine friendship with the Boys. "The story captured my interest," Walker­McBay points out, "because it is an amazingly vivid piece of American history that had yet to be told.

"A lot has been written of gunslingers and outlaws in the wild west," she continues, "but the Newtons' story is much more than that. It has action and emotion. It's the true story of four real­life brothers who were the nation's most successful bank robbers, yet they never killed a single person. Most outlaws gain their fame by killing a lot of innocent people. This story was different. It was that aspect, the part of the story that was about family, loyalty and a personal code of ethics that fascinated me."

Linklater was similarly attracted to the story's mix of genres and its basis in historical fact. "I love Westerns, and I love Gangster films, and THE NEWTON BOYS is both. I've always been interested in outlaws who are career criminals ­­ professionals who approach their work in a business­like way," Linklater continues. "The Newtons' professionalism was the reason for their success, and ultimately their obscurity. It was only later in their lives that they talked about it at any length. It meant everything to me that this is a true story ­ the strange twists and turns of what really happened to the Newtons is far better than anything that could have been made up."

Linklater also relished the challenge of bringing a legend to the screen intact. "The films I've done up to this point have all been more about character than story, but with THE NEWTON BOYS I felt for the first time I was telling an exciting action­filled story, but one that at its core was still driven by great characters."

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