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‘Light Between Oceans’ Director Derek Cianfrance Preps Quanah Parker Movie

‘Light Between Oceans’ bows at Venice Sept. 1

Derek Cianfrance
Matteo Prandoni/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

In Venice for “The Light Between Oceans,” director Derek Cianfrance is preparing a movie for Warner Bros. on Quanah Parker, the last great Comanche chief.

Directed by Cianfrance, and written by Cianfrance and Darius Marder, his co-scribe on “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the feature will adapt S.C. Gwynne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.” Movie will shoot in 2017, and will be cast among the Comanche nations, Cianfrance said.

The movie — like the book — focus on the towering figure of Quanah Parker, whom Cianfrance called “really one of the great American heroes.” Quanah was the son of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was abducted in 1836 by Comanche raiders and assimilated into the tribe, and Chief Pet Nocona. Parker was recaptured in 1861 by the Texas Rangers.

“Quanah Parker grew into his manhood, raged against the theft of his mother and spent his whole life trying to find her again,” Cianfrance said.

Describing the “Summer Moon” adaptation as a “huge, huge epic,” Cianfrance also said, however, that his film would focus on “the family of America,” and Parker’s relationship with Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, “one of the greatest U.S. cavalry men,” who helped Parker settle the Comanches on a reservation when Parker knew it was time to lay down arms.

Cianfrance’s Venice film, “The Light Between Oceans,” like “The Place Beyond the Pines,” captures the epic sweep of the lives of seemingly ordinary people, pushed in moments of visceral passion to do extraordinary things.

In “Light,” which stars Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, a WWI vet turned lighthouse keeper and his young wife, who has suffered two miscarriages, decide to raise as their own a baby girl washed up in a rowing boat beside her dead father, without reporting the incident to authorities. But the past and the consequences of their decision catch up with them.

“I try to make ordinary people extraordinary. Or vice-versa. When I cast great actors, I try to make extraordinary people ordinary, dealing with these extremely small intimate details of interpersonal relationships against an epic backdrop,” said Cianfrance.

He continued: “I try to immerse my characters in really difficult choices, which reverberate over the course of time, which brings me back to ‘Empire of the Summer Moon’: I’m obsessed with legacy: The passing of the torch, passing of pain, and decisions, and the ripple effect of decisions.”