cowboys and aliens, the art of, part 1


I have always wanted to work on a western and I was so sad that I completely missed out on “True Grit”.  I have always wanted to work on a Coen Brother film and I was so sad that I completely missed out on “True Grit”.  So If I could have gotten on “True Grit” I could have fulfilled all my movie dreams at one time and either died happy or retired with a big smile on my face….  Sadly none of the above happened, but what happened next was  “Cowboys and Aliens”.

My Friend Russell Bobbitt who was my prop boss on  JJ’s  “Star Trek” and “Iron Man 2” called and asked if I would like to help him out on this crazy Space Western. I said sure and couldn’t wait to start!!!  He put me on the Cowboy and Indian stuff which was really what I wanted to work on the most.  I was so happy that at least in a half kinda way I was working on a WESTERN….  Anyways, this was back in 2010 and Working for Russell is always a treat.  He is one funny guy with an incredible talent for creating awesome props for the shows he works on!  He plays guitar, he has a two terabyte collection of music, and he always has the funnest crews to work with.

For “Cowboys and Aliens” Russell had the world famous Chris Ross working on the alien props and I got the rifles and bows!!!  Can’t stress enough how much fun this was.  The Apache Indians were the chosen tribe for the film, and it was a good time doing all the research and getting to talk to so many Native Americans about their heritage and all about their ancestors’ ways of life in the 1800’s.  Harrison Ford had just been cast as one of the lead roles, and he really got into the props for his character.  All of the research that Russell and his assistant Melody Beth found for a wealthy cattleman of the time would go full circle with the research that Harrison was doing!  It was very cool to see Mr. Ford get so involved, and he and Russell became good friends!

Over at my desk, the first thing I was given to do was Apache shields, Yellow Boy, Sharps, and Henry rifles that were used by the Indians.  The guns were to be obtained by the tribe either by being stolen or trophies from white man kills.  Each rifle was to be decorated with tribal skins and trinkets, so a whole slew of different variations were called for.  The same with the shields, tons of variations were requested.  So with all that said here is some the production art from these two props.

Henry rifles

Sharps rifles

yellowboy version 10

yellowboy first pass

Apache shields version 1

21 Responses to “cowboys and aliens, the art of, part 1”

  1. August 22, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Wow, how cool things! You did a great research. I have no knowledge about indians… but your work seems absolutely indian. My favourites are the shields.

    This film was already released? I hadn’t notice about that.

  2. August 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I had this film for a while now and still not seen it.
    I really must sit down and watch it.
    Sound like you had a real blast working on this film. I did not know Harrison Ford did a lot of research into his roles. I heard of other actor/ actress doing it but never Ford.

  3. 5 Razorgeist
    August 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Producer: I dont know Mr Eaves your western stuff is pretty good but we’ve also got spaceships and aliens in this can you do spaceships and aliens.
    John: I designed one the Enterprise’s
    Producer: Really which one?
    Jhn: The Cool one.

  4. 9 Tallguy
    August 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I loved Cowboys and Aliens. I seem to be in the minority, but there you go.

  5. 11 evil_genius_180
    August 23, 2012 at 12:03 am

    I haven’t seen the film, I’m still not sure if I want to. I like Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford has always been one of my favorites, but I’m not sure about the movie. But, I may just have to grab a copy from the local library or something and watch it, especially now that I know you worked on it. 😉 It sounds like you had a blast and now you can say you’ve worked on a western, so you can cross that off your bucket list. 😀

    I love the rifles, those are awesome. The tribal and individual markings make sense. That’s something that wasn’t always shown in older westerns (probably because the “cowboys” used the same prop guns ;)) but it’s nice to see that you guys included them for this film. 🙂

    • 12 johneaves
      August 23, 2012 at 5:37 am

      Hey Evil G, it will surprise you!!! Well done show.. It’s a great Saturday night flick! And so true with the old movies… Pretty much the only thing that will be historically accurate will be what John Wayne wore in his films… He insisted on having real artifacts and props for his characters!

  6. 13 Matt Boardman
    August 23, 2012 at 12:42 am

    I enjoyed this movie! In fact, it’s sitting on my movie shelf right now. It was a Christmas gift, but mostly I like it knowing that you worked on it, John!

    Great designs on the rifles! While I don’t know him personally, Harrison Ford has always struck me as a neat guy. Nice to hear he got involved with the process behind the scenes as well!

    • 14 johneaves
      August 23, 2012 at 5:34 am

      Thanks Matt.. I was surprised how much I liked it.. I was expecting it to be just OK but it proved to be a very fun flick!!! They played it up so seriously that it really came across as quite believable.. If they had gone in any other direction it would have fallen flat!!! You know the same is true with my new guilty pleasure movie, “Abraham Lincoln-Vampire Hunter” It was played up like it was based on factual events and I have to say I really liked this one too! How it got approved and made is beyond me but I am so glad it did!

  7. 15 DeanneM
    August 23, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Some of those rifles in themselves are works of art…one of the Sharps models is very cool indeed. But you made them the works of art of individuals which always struck me as a part of the Native American way of life and expression.

    AWESOME work on the rifies AND the shields!! You must tell me what the shields mean, I love them!

    • 16 johneaves
      August 23, 2012 at 5:31 am

      I would tell you but I don’t know,, Most of the patterns I found were from in OLD B&W pics.. The images were on shields. blankets, etc. What ever I could find that I could verify as Apache i put on a shield and then feathered them up.

  8. 17 JNG
    August 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    That a bear claw on the one war shield? Love it.

  9. August 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

    I’m glad you got your dream, John. It was a great film! I can’t wait to watch it again..

  10. August 27, 2012 at 7:09 am

    When it came out I thought it sounded like a really cool, different type of movie, but I never got around to watching it. I’m kind of glad now, actually, because I’ll be able to look out for your designs when I do. It’s on the list!

    I think some people’s negative perception of the movie was due to the title sounding similar to some of the really low budget trashy movies that were out around the same time, like “Supercroc vs Megashark” or whatever those were called. There were a few along those lines and maybe “Cowboys and Aliens” just sounded like a similar concept to people who weren’t paying too much attention.

  11. August 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Did you tell me you worked on this show? i need to go watch it again and check out the guns to see how your designs got translated….. and if I can find you in the credits. nice work brotha! now show us the shields with the symbols that are not ‘historically’ accurate, i know you couidn’t resist that if you had the time !!

  12. December 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    John, did I ever tell you that I am the great-great-grandson of Frank W. Freund, who, with his brother, was a pioneer gunmaker in the west? He held many patents for modifications to Sharps rifles. Will have to show you a book about him at WonderFest for that future western I know you will make. The work in Cowboys & Aliens was great!

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August 2012

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