February 24, 2010

Preview of Unbound Captives

Unbound CaptivesUnbound Captives is an upcoming independent western film starring Robert Pattinson, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The film is the directorial debut of Madeleine Stowe.


After his father is killed, a child is kidnapped at the age of four in 1859 with his sister and raised by the Comanche tribe. After being rescued by a frontiersman, their mother spends years searching for them and eventually finds them, but they do not remember her or anything about their previous life.


The script was written by Stowe under the pseudonym O.C. Humphrey and her husband, Brian Benben in the early 1990s. The film never began production after Stowe declined a $5 million deal in 2003 because she wanted to star as the lead female role instead of only being the writer. Ridley Scott was originally intended to direct the film and star Russell Crowe as the role Hugh Jackman will play.
Robert Pattinson Talks 'Breaking Dawn' & 'Unbound Captives'The young heartthrob revealed that it's tentatively scheduled to begin shooting in early 2010, and he sounds enthusiastic for a role that'll be miles away from Edward Cullen. "I'm playing a kid who is kidnapped by Comanches when he was four years old, and he is brought up by them. His mother spends her entire life trying to find me and my sister. When she finds us, we can't remember who she is and can't remember anything about the Western culture she grew up in. I speak Comanche the whole movie. You can't really speak more differently from Edward."Unbound Captives like a thinly veiled version of Cynthia Ann Parker's story:

The Story of Cynthia Ann ParkerThe Parker family, originally from Virginia, moved from Kentucky to Texas in the early 1830s and established Parker's Fort on the fringes of the Comanche frontier. On May 19, 1836, the Comanche and Kiowa attacked the fort killing most of the residents and capturing several women and children.

The captives were Mrs. Rachel Plummer, her fifteen-month-old son James, Mrs. Elizabeth Kellogg and the Parker children, Cynthia Ann, nine-years old and John, children of Silas Parker. The captives were scattered among the various bands of the two tribes. Later, the two women and the Plummer child were ransomed to friendly Indians and returned them to their families.

The Quohada band of Comanche who were the most war-like of all the Comanche bands took the two Parker children. In 1840, a trader named Col. Len Williams with another trader named Stoal and a Delaware Indian scout named Jack Henry came upon a Comanche camp on the Canadian River. They noticed a captive white girl and proposed a trade for her, which the Comanche flatly refused but gave Williams permission to speak to her.

The girl refused to speak to the trader either because she was afraid, had forgotten her mother tongue or did not care to talk. Williams believed that she was the Parker girl as she had blond hair and blue eyes and was about thirteen years old.

An interesting sidelight of this story is what became of Cynthia's younger brother John. John Parker adapted well to the wild Comanche life where one was free to roam the Llano Estacado from the Wichitas to Mexico. John became a Comanche through and through and went on many raids into Mexico. On one of these raids, John contracted smallpox. The Comanche so dreaded this disease that is set the entire band into a panic. The Comanche raiders abandoned John and left a Mexican captive girl to take care of him. John eventually recovered from the disease and returned to Mexico with the girl whom he later married.
With Rachel Weisz (formerly Madelaine Stowe) in the Cynthia Ann Parker role, Robert Pattinson in the John Parker, and Hugh Jackman as the noble white man who tries to save them from the Indians.

This could be a good Native-themed movie or a bad one, but I'm already seeing a number of red flags:

  • It seems Unbound Captives will be the umpteenth example of seeing a Native culture through white eyes.

  • Madelaine Stowe is a first-time screenwriter who has no known Native expertise except appearing in The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans.

  • Stowe and company are putting their money into star salaries rather than production. Outside of Wolverine and Twilight, Jackman and Pattinson are no guarantees of success.

  • IMDB.com doesn't list any Native roles or actors in the movie.

  • No one's talking about using Comanche cultural or language experts. Supposedly the film starts shooting in early 2010--i.e., any day now.

  • The Comanches sound like a bunch of murdering savages. There's no hint of their humanity.

  • Perhaps the only positive note is that the captives end up thinking of themselves as Comanche and wanting to stay. But the movie could spin that as a negative result of cult-like brainwashing. In a story like this, people "torn between two worlds" usually die tragically. They rarely go on to live happily ever after.

    For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Below:  The stars...

    ...and someone who looks like a hardened Western woman (Cynthia Ann Parker) rather than a pampered actress.


    Kat said...

    How in the world exactly do they want to make a movie about captives among the Comanche without Indian actors?!?

    Burgess said...

    Writing an article based on rumor is a good way to further promote misinformation. The script is far different from the picture you are painting. The story is mostly about the two characters portrayed by Hugh & Rachel. It's a love story set in the late 1850s to late 1860s. Hugh's character was also raised by the Comanche and still feels part Comanche in his heart. Only 4 parts have been cast and the movie seems to be on hold. I'm quite sure they will cast Indian actors in the Indian parts. The main Indian is based on a real person named Buffalo Hump. The script is very good so I hope they go forward with this project sometime this year. Right now it doesn't look like it will happen till at least fall.

    Anonymous said...

    Stowe has not even secured financing for this film yet. Jackman is filming right now, and has several films in pre-production. Pattinson is filming right now as well, and has Eclipse promotion through June. Breaking Dawn is expected to shoot starting this fall, and will be two films, which is expected to be a 6-month shoot. It's possible, but unlikely, that they'll be able to squeeze in Unbound Captives this summer (assuming financing is secured soon). You should try to contact Stowe to discuss your concerns and then write a follow-up. I think you'll have a different opinion once you get the facts.

    Rob said...

    Telling a "white people raised by savages" story with Indians as a backdrop isn't good news. For more on the subject, see Debating Unbound Captives.

    Luce said...

    Do you honestly think there was no brain-washing and/or Stockholm syndrome involved in Cynthia Ann Parker coming to love the people who killed her family and brutally beat and abused her during the early period after her capture. And especially in coming to love her husband, Peta Nocona - one of the war chiefs personally responsible for the Comanche-Kiowa attack on Fort Parker and the massacre of 9-year-old Cynthia Anne Parker's family members. I'm not saying that it was right to separate her from the Comanche, but I do think it shold be made clear that this was a clear example of Stockholm syndrome, not much different than, say, one of those children abducted and held captive in some paedophile's basement coming to feel loyalty and affection for their captor.

    Rob said...

    Did I try to psychoanalyze Parker in this posting, Luce? No. So the answer to your question is "I don't know."

    But there are many stories of people being taken captive by Indians and remaining with them of their own free will. Am I going to chalk them all up to the Stockholm Syndrome without evidence? No.