EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has set Chap Taylor to script a drama inspired by the 1962 John Ford-directed Western classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which starred John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin. In the original, Stewart played an idealistic lawyer who tries to bring the rule of law to a lawless frontier town. Marvin played Valance, an outlaw headed for a showdown after the lawyer stands up to him. Wayne played a gunslinger who tries to teach the lawyer to defend himself.
The version that Taylor is writing follows the essentials of that story but is set in New York City in 1991, at the height of the crack cocaine scourge when the murder rate in the city soared to unprecedented levels. A young college-educated black policeman volunteers to be stationed in Harlem to make things safer. He’s teamed with a veteran Irish-American cop who, Taylor said, “has the best of intentions and not the best of methods. It becomes about the sacrifices that had to be made to get from where they were then to where we are now.”
Taylor said the inspiration was time he spent in NYC then to go to NYU Film School and when he worked as bouncer and bartender in Greenwich Village and got a closeup view of a meanness in the city.
“It was the height of the crack war and when organized crime was breaking down and its control over the heroin trade left everyone fighting for their corner,” he said. “The choice was to crack enough skulls that they stopped or to engage in community policing to make things safer for the people who lived there, who wanted to be known to the police as more than potential suspects. There were well-meaning cops, but it was also the era of the Dirty Thirty scandal at a Harlem precinct house, which made it like the Wild West with some outlaw cops and street violence and corruption. It seems a long time ago. New York is safer and more prosperous, but it has lost some character and the working class can no longer afford to live there. The film was set in that moment when many of these things were confronted.”
Matt Jackson is producing. Taylor’s screen credits include Changing Lanes, and he was consulting producer on the NBC drama The Blacklist. He’s writing the Kevin Williamson-produced Cliff House at Miramax, which he describes as a modern take on classic feminist noir like the Jane Fonda pic The Morning After.
Taylor is repped by UTA.