MFR Exclusive: Writer Taylor Sheridan Talks ‘Hell or High Water’

‘Hell or High Water’ is in theaters now and trending very well with the critics (98% Rotten Tomatoes, check out our reviews here and here).

Surprisingly enough, this modern day western is part two of ‘Sicario’ screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s trilogy. The actor turned writer sat down with Matt Sardo to discuss the film and how Sheridan takes a different approach to screenwriting.

‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’ both use the west as its setting. Sheridan who grew up an hour west of Waco, Texas, explains his passion for the area:

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“Especially with those two and Wind River which is the third of this trilogy, it is about the American West and the landscape is a character and at times it’s an antagonist. So, for me, to know a place you have to know the place. I wanted to transport people to this world. A lot of people have driven across country, they zip through I-40, and they don’t realize the world beneath it, you know, and an incredibly rich one at that. And I don’t simply mean what’s underneath the ground; I just mean in the history and the struggle that have taken place there and the toughness of the people that live there. Most people just drive through it, and I wanted to show it.”

From Billy the Kid to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the American outlaw is an iconic symbol of Hollywood. Sheridan talked about that spirit that inspires us all:

“I think to a certain degree, if you think about it especially in the west, maybe the whole (country). It’s a nation of immigrants, it’s a nation of misfits from other places that either were escaping poverty or persecution or any number of different things and every time it didn’t work out everyone just headed west where there were no laws, there were no rules and if they succeeded they did on their on merit or their own criminality. I think it is ingrained in us to a certain degree, and I think if there is one uniquely American trait it is an absolute resistance to being controlled and I think you can interpret that in poverty as a means of control, and so the logical reaction to that is to rebel against it,” said Sheridan.

The conversation then shifted toward storytelling, building suspense, the possibility of writing a comic book film, and the gray area where real stories live.

For the complete Taylor Sheridan interview, listen below.

About ‘Hell or High Water’:

A story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers — Toby (Chris Pine), a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner (Ben Foster), a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger — come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet. Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the crosshairs of a relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their plan, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the last honest lawman and a pair of brothers with nothing to live for except family collide.

Matthew Sardo
Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.