Philip Kaufman wrote the screenplay for The Right Stuff and the story Raiders of the Lost Ark, but prior to these two blockbusters, he penned the screenplay, The Outlaw Josey Wales. The tale of a Missouri farmer Josey Wales, who joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.
Kaufman was going to direct the film too until he was replaced by Clint Eastwood who directed and starred in the film.
Josey Wales is a gritty look into the civil war set against the backdrop of hopes and dreams of an untamed land. The film was a commercial success, earning $31.8 million against a $3.7 million budget. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The film was inspired by a 1972 novel by supposedly-Cherokee writer Forrest Carter, alias of former KKK Leader and segregationist speech writer of George Wallace, Asa Earl Carter, an identity that would be exposed in part due to the success of the film, and was originally titled The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales and later retitled Gone to Texas.
Clint Eastwood is believable and carries on his lone wolf charisma from his earliest films. He's still got the scarf around the neck, suggesting he's not only Josey Wales, but the rancher out for revenge from Hang 'Em High and the ghost avenger from High Plains Drifter.
What's different about Josey Wales, is the entourage of colorful characters that tag along in his ride for vengeance. Chief Dan George adds a humorous and like-able twist on Native Americans. John Vernon plays a convincing role of protagonist switched to antagonist as he sets out to hunt down Wales and bring him to justice. Sondra Locke who played in many of Eastwood's earlier films is also in the film - though I have never liked her as an actress, she is convincing enough as the abused and tortured prairie girl who's family is murdered by Comanche Indians.
Together, the band of misfits leads a convincing tale of life on the run in the wild west.
Josey Wales was nominated for an Academy Award for original music score which was written by Jerry Fielding who has a longer than long list of credits over his 65 year career of composing.
A minute and fifteen seconds into the film and the theme song set against blazing guns and canons sweeps you onto the back of a horse and the ride is on. Drums and penny whistle create a lively patriotic ballad with urgency and spirit.
Epic cinematic moments are brought to life as Fielding's theme carries the story to the grand and heart stopping close.