About The Casting & Characters
"The script was already ninety-nine percent there when we brought in Les Mayfield," Robinson recalls. "So Les
Mayfield, Jonathan Zimbert, Bill Gerber and casting director Pam Dixon and I started the process of putting together the cast."
At the outset of the casting process, the filmmakers struggled with the first and most important decision: Who should play the
legendary outlaw Jesse James?
"Producers, directors and casting agents put lists together and see a lot of people, but ultimately someone steps forward in their own way and claims it, makes it their own, and that's what happened on this film," recalls Jonathan
Zimbert. "When Cohn walked in here and gave his reading, he was the character. He
claimed it. I can't imagine anybody else playing Jesse."
"When we decided to use this Irish kid named Cohn Farrell to play an American icon, a lot of people thought we were out of our heads," says Les
Mayfield. "But Cohn turned out to be the absolute right choice. He has more courage than anyone I've ever met. It's actually him, not a stunt double, in most of the action footage. Not only does Cohn have great acting abilities, he would do anything and everything with a smile, because of his dedication and absolute lack of fear."
Farrell was not intimidated by the challenge of playing an American icon. "A story hike this transcends any culture or nation," Farrell observes. "Even though I grew up in
Ieland, I still knew about the legends of Jesse James and Billy the Kid. To be cast as Jesse is really something of a dream for me."
For the character of Cole Younger, the filmmakers needed to find someone who could go
toe-to-toe with their charismatic lead. "The minute we met Scott Caan, we could see he had all of the energy, the excitement, the competitive qualities to challenge Jesse," says
Zimbert. "The choice was obvious."
In turn, Caan felt a personal attachment to the project. "My uncle was on the rodeo circuit for about twenty-five years and my dad roped, so I grew up around horses and going to rodeos,"
Caan remembers. "When I heard they were making this movie, I wanted to be a part of it."
"Scott is smart, very intense and he'll do anything that you want him to do to help you get into the moment," recalls Farrell. 'When we were doing the fight scene in the rain, the two of us off camera were kicking lumps out of each other, spitting at each other, rolling in the mud. It was great fun but it was also brilliant."
The struggle between Jesse and Cole for leadership of the gang serves as the central theme of the story. "There's a natural friction between the two because
they both have leadership instincts," explains Mayfield. "Cole wants to be the leader and plan the jobs .At one point, he even wants to have the gang renamed the Younger-James Gang because there are more Youngers in the gang than the James brothers. That's how Cole thinks. But it's Jesse's charisma that allows him to be the true leader."
Scott Caan gives insight to his character's motivation. "Cole is the hot head," Caan says.
"He led the group of guys during the Civil War, so when they started the gang, Cole believes it's his gang, but everyone knows that its Jesse's. In one scene, Cole says 'I'm the better soldier.' And Jesse says,
'Well I'm the better outlaw,' which turns out to be true."
But it's Jesse's bad boy notoriety that aggravates the tension between himself and Cole.
"Kids ask Jesse for autographs, so he starts signing his wanted posters, and that gets Cole's goat," Farrell says. "Also, there's more money offered for Jesse dead-or-alive than there is for any other member of the gang. Cole starts to feel his status in the gang slipping, and starts to demand equal respect."
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