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
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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