Javier Bardem starring in a historical epic about Hernán Cortés' bloody and brutal conquest of Mexico seems like an interesting enough idea for a film. But those are actually the boring details about what might be Steven Spielberg's next film (or at least, an upcoming one). The really cool part is that the prospective film would be a long-awaited realization of Dalton Trumbo's famously unproduced screenplay, Montezuma, the story of which is fascinating in its own right.
In 1965, Trumbo had only recently eked his way back into the film industry's good graces, after spending 11 months in jail for refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee during Congress' communist witch hunt of the '40s. He’d also spent many more years writing films anonymously, including some classics like Roman Holiday, while shunned on the Hollywood blacklist, a banishment that ended with 1960’s Spartacus. Five years later he delivered to its actor/producer Kirk Douglas a 205-page draft about the legendary Spanish conquistador's tumultuous relationship with the Aztec ruler Montezuma. Martin Ritt was supposed to direct, but the project fell apart, and it remained one of cinema's most lamented missed opportunities for decades thereafter.
Now, nearly fifty years later, it might actually be getting made. Steve Zaillian, screenwriter of Schindler’s List, is adapting Trumbo's script, and Spielberg is supposedly interested in directing Bardem in the role of Cortés. Of course, it's still a ways off from being a done deal, and might end up going another half-decade before hitting the screen. But it definitely seems closer than ever.
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