For years we've been told that one of cinema's most well-known genres, the Western, is drinking at the last-chance saloon, with fewer Stetsons and six-shooters appearing on screen now than ever before. But a number of recent announcements suggest that cowboy films may live to see a few more sunrises yet.
News broke last month that Tom Cruise is attached to a remake of the classic Western The Magnificent Seven. The 1960 film sees a ragtag bunch of cowboys team up to protect a Mexican village from marauding bandits and was itself based on 1954's Seven Samurai. It's not yet known which part the Mission: Impossible star will play - but he is expected to step into the boots of one of the previous leads, Yul Brynner or Steve McQueen.
Elsewhere in Hollywood, there are signs that dusty gunslingers are making a comeback, both on the indie circuit – with the cult director Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained – and in the blockbuster arena too – with a Johnny Depp-starring Lone Ranger reboot. Here is a guide to some of the most eagerly anticipated Westerns that are expected to mosey on into cinemas in the coming months.
Set during the prohibition years of the 1920s and 1930s, the bootlegging drama Lawless might seem to have all the hallmarks of another classic Hollywood type: the gangster genre. However, the movie's rural setting, shabbily dressed protagonists and ample variety of hats and guns should be more than enough to keep Clint Eastwood fans entertained. The director John Hillcoat was also responsible for one of the finest Westerns of recent years, The Proposition. With a cast that includes Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Shia LaBeouf and Jessica Chastain, Lawless was warmly received at last month's Cannes film festival and is expected to be released in the autumn.
Part of the growing "modern-day Western" genre, Deadfall may be set in the present, but it promises all the violence and nihilism of a Sam Peckinpah period piece. The story follows a brother and sister outlaw duo (Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde), on the run after a casino robbery goes terribly wrong. After leaving a trail of bodies behind them, the pair suddenly find themselves at a Thanksgiving dinner with a retired sheriff and a former professional boxer. What could possibly go wrong? The director Stefan Ruzowitzky may be new to Westerns, but there are high hopes for the Austrian, who won an Oscar with his 2007 drama The Counterfeiters.
The filmmaker Quentin Tarantino needs no introduction. Neither do the stars of the director's first instalment in the gunslinger genre, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. Set in America's Deep South, Foxx plays the titular character – a freed slave who must fight a sadistic plantation owner (DiCaprio) to win freedom for his still-enslaved wife. A devoted fan of Westerns, Tarantino has borrowed music, imagery and even story fragments from numerous cowboy movies throughout his career, with the work of the Italian master Sergio Leone a particular inspiration. His very own entry into the genre is finally expected to arrive in December.
The Lone Ranger
The poster may read "The Lone Ranger", but it's thought that the mask-wearing hero (portrayed by The Social Network's Armie Hammer), will play second fiddle to Johnny Depp's Native American character Tonto, who was recently pictured in full-face make-up and wearing a dead crow as a headdress. Depp has previously collaborated with the director Gore Verbinski on three Pirates of the Caribbean films and the animated Western, Rango, together earning more than US$3 billion (Dh11bn) and an Academy Award. However this reboot of the story, which began as a 1933 radio serial, was almost scuppered after last year's Cowboys & Aliens underperformed at the box office. Expect it to stampede into multiplexes next summer.
Jane Got a Gun
Natalie Portman is attached to what could become a rare feminist Western, about a woman forced to defend her farm from the outlaw gang that murdered her husband. Tipped to direct is the Scottish indie filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), from a script that appeared on last year's Black List of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. The movie, which was reportedly at the centre of a bidding war at this year's Cannes film festival, is likely to appear on the horizon late next year.