Steven Spielberg, Javier Bardem, and Steve Zaillian Circling Dalton Trumbo’s 49-Year-Old Script, MONTEZUMA

by     Posted 237 days ago

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In Hollywood, plenty of scripts get purchased, and should they even make it to the big screen, the long and arduous process of getting them there is called “development hell”.  Montezuma has been living in hell for almost half a century.  Written by Dalton Trumbo in 1965 as a starring vehicle for Kirk Douglas (the two previously worked together on Spartacus) with Martin Ritt (Hud) intending to direct, the story focuses on the dark and twisted history between Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez and Aztec leader Montezuma.  According to Deadline, the story is “an epic tale of the kinship and ultimately the bloody collision between Montezuma and Cortez as the latter led the Spanish infiltration into Mexico.”

Now, Montezuma may finally escape the bowels of damnation with the help of Steven Spielberg, Javier Bardem, and Steve Zaillian.  Hit the jump for more.

dalton-trumboThe involvement of three major talents like Spielberg, Bardem, and Zaillian would be a nice redemption for the project.  Trumbo was among the “Hollywood Ten”, a group of people in Hollywood who refused to testify in the communist witch hunt scared up by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Trumbo spent 11 months in jail for contempt of Congress, and likely would have been banished from Hollywood forever if not for Douglas hiring him for Spartacus in 1960.  Despite Trumbo having 17 film credits to his name afterwards as well as developing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest for Douglas (they couldn’t get it made with the classic star, and eventually Jack Nicholson took the Oscar-winning role), Montezuma remained in stasis.

According to Deadline, it’s one of Hollywood’s great unmade scripts, and it caught Bardem’s attention since, despite the title, it’s actually from Cortez’ perspective, and he wants to play the role.  I haven’t read the script, so I don’t know how Cortez is depicted, but in history, he plundered Mexico in 1519, gave the populace smallpox, befriended and then imprisoned Montezuma, slaughtered the Aztec people, and then Montezuma was killed by his countrymen.  To add insult to injury, Cortez fathered a child for Montezuma’s daughter afterwards.  If Trumbo’s Montezuma (which could be re-titled to Cortez) stays even fairly close to reality, it’s a juicy role for any actor.

war-horse-jeremy-irvine-steven-spielberg-movie-set-photo-04The story could also be enough to woo Spielberg, who’s currently looking for a project after tabling Robopocalypse and departing the adaptation of American Sniper.  However, Deadline notes, “This is all just coming together, maybe too soon for Spielberg to do next.

Zaillian is on board to produce, and Spielberg will probably be joining him in that capacity.  However, DreamWorks has the rights but Zaillian had a first-look deal with Fox, so there could be a team-up between the two studios.

No matter how this pans out, it’s definitely good material for a film, and I’m glad these three Oscar-winners are considering it.




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  • bidi

    i would imagine Zaillian is going to rewrite the thing too. scripts from back then don’t translate well to today’s audience and filmmaking trends

  • Eduardo Dino

    MOCTEZUMA ITS THE NAME OR WE NEED TO WRITE ABRAHAM LINNON

    • Person

      what

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  • batmancontinues

    The real name is Moctezuma!

  • Raptor Jesus

    The Aztecs weren’t killed by the Spaniards. There were two million Aztecs and 1600 Spaniards.

    They were killed by their neighbors who were sick of their wars and the ‘let’s capture people and rip their hearts out’ crap they’d done for two hundred years.

    The Aztecs were done in by their neighbors disgust at their violent religion.

    If this movie is even remotely historically accurate it could be something very special.

    But it will probably be about 95% wrong, like most historical movies.

    • The Flobbit

      Those 1600 Spaniards were also trained fighters with horses, guns, cannon, slaves, and swords. They went up against guys in animal costumes bearing flint axes. It wasn’t even a fair fight, more like a one-sided butchering. The Spaniards went through them like steel through butter, and then stole all their gold, broke their promises, and then sailed back to Spain with their coffee and yams.

      • Raptor Jesus

        1600 people do not kill two million Aztecs, even with horses and guns.

        When things went to shit and Montezuma kicked the Spaniards out of Tenochtitlan the Spaniards came back with tens of thousands of neighbors of the Aztecs – who wanted them GONE.

      • The Flobbit

        Your history is all screwed up, sir.

      • Raptor Jesus

        Yeah, it was 1600 guys vs two million.

      • Cyberdyne

        You don’t know your history. It’s well documented that the Spanish conquistadors barely survived their invasion of Mexico. Although there were 1600 Spaniards, they did not have 1600 guns, or 1600 cannons, or 1600 horses. In reality, most of the Spaniards were on foot fighting with pikes and swords. The cannons were very difficult to transport and deploy effectively in the dense jungle, as were the horses. Despite their slight technological superiority, the Spaniards did not know the local geography. Many of the Spaniards themselves succumbed to the serious tropical diseases found in Mexico. The Spaniards only managed to defeat the Aztecs by befriending the Aztec’s neighbors. The Aztecs savagely repressed their neighbors, and so it wasn’t difficult for the Spaniards to convince these tribes to unite and go to war against the Aztecs.

      • The Flobbit

        Barely survived the invasion of Mexico? How about annihilated everything in their path, killed hundreds of thousands of natives, brought back gold, spices, and slaves to Spain, and then on top of that…converted everyone to Christianity by the sword, and set their own governors over Mexico? And then rule for hundreds of years until you Yankees came and kicked them out.

        You are forgetting that for all their skill at building and government, the Aztecs were still a relatively primitive people in the sense that they had never seen these “modern” technologies. Spanish priests recall “whole armies” running from the sight of a man on horseback – horses were incredible weapons, however unwieldy, that absolutely terrified the Aztecs.

        Guns, and cannon too, terrified the Aztec and caused even the bravest warriors to flee. The foot soldiers wore armor of iron and steel, and bore steel swords and pikes. The Aztec warriors, as I said before, dressed in feathers and furs, and believed that a giant god would eat the sun if he was not fed human blood. Also, they believed that the Spaniards were gods, too. The Spaniards hired slaves, outcasts, and guides to show them the way through the jungle. If they had a tactical disadvantage, it was a small one.

        Likewise, the Aztecs succumbed diseases such as smallpox (which killed anywhere from 10% to 50% of Tenochtitlan’s population) and the common cold brought by the Spaniards. And finally, the Spaniards defeated the Aztecs (and the Incans) primarily through cunning. Cortez and Pizarro were double crossing, ruthless, murderous, and brilliant commanders leading men salivating for gold and glory. The Aztec king still pierced his penis and tongue with thorns as a blessing to the sun god.

        Though yes, the native allies of the Spaniards DID play a big part of it, you are underestimating the power of a few horses and guns, and if you think I don’t know history you don’t know the first thing about me.

  • jack

    The second part of this 2-part story will be titled: Moctezuma’s Revenge

  • MITIOR

    I’ll be there the first day. This can be epic! Finally Hollywood can make something related to American history instead of the usual European history we get again and again.

  • Mixed Race rich kid NYC

    Sounds good
    But lets face it
    Werner herzog is the perfect director for this
    A young klaus kinski would have made this movie too
    (R.I.P klaus kinski, you crazy angel)

    I’m sure bardem will be fine in the role

    • mixedkidmonkey

      yooo where did you put basketball and watermelon????? we gonna smash the corner store tonight? you got the bandanas brahhh???

    • The Flobbit

      For once I agree with you. This could have been the capper in an unofficial trilogy with Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo.

      • Mixed Race rich kid NYC

        Weird thing is it could have been done too
        I mean the script has been there since the 60s
        Sigh

  • The Flobbit

    I am sorry, but mark my words, this will COME TO NAUGHT. Steve Spielberg will never make this movie. Maybe Mel Gibson, but never Spielberg. *Sigh*

  • The Flobbit

    This is far too interesting for present day Spielberg. And that pains me greatly to say it.

  • IMPYEMU

    Spielberg doesn’t have the balls to make this movie.

    • The Flobbit

      The funny thing is, he used to. This was the guy who made Jaws. Why are we forgetting that? Answer: War Horse.

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