Montana, USA - 2020
Westerns tend to have an unapologetically masculine skew to their castings. The Wild West was certainly characterised by hard drinking tough men who coupled entrepreneurship with resolve and a lack of ethics. Hollywood would lead you to believe that it was a male dominated adventure almost to the point of parody. On screen few women elbowed their way into this testosterone-laden landscape and horses were often given more attention.
However, woman must have gone West too, otherwise birth rates would have slowed a bit. These women must have been gritty as it was a journey for only the very stoic. In a genre that revels in the lone male protagonist, we wanted to use a still photograph to celebrate the women of the Wild West. They were not just window dressing.
The romanticist within me was not going to be prompted by grotesque characters like Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. The prostitute role - so well played by Diane Lane in the brilliant Lonesome Dove - is also well worn. We wanted a softer, more palatable narrative, albeit one with a sense of the woman emphatically holding her own.
I homed in on the idea of a “tough as nails” saloon owner, with more class, intelligence and glamour than any of her unworthy patrons. We had the saloon in Nevada City - it is such a good facade - we just needed the woman and the styling.
We decided on the supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio and she was indeed perfect for this role. Her styling team did a great job and the whole frame works. I think she thoroughly enjoyed herself that morning.
I am sure there were women like this in the Wild West in 1850. Let’s hope so. As a collective they should be celebrated and remembered and theirs was one hell of a story.