Cowboys & Aliens is a 2011 American science fiction Western film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. The film is based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The plot revolves around an amnesiac outlaw (Craig), a wealthy cattleman (Ford), and a mysterious traveler (Wilde) who must ally to save a group of townspeople abducted by aliens. The screenplay was written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, based on a screen story by the latter two along with Steve Oedekerk. The film was produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Kurtzman, Orci and Rosenberg, with Steven Spielberg and Favreau serving as executive producers.
The project began development in April 1997, when Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures bought film rights to a concept pitched by Rosenberg, former president at Malibu Comics, which he described as a graphic novel in development. After the graphic novel was published in 2006, development on the film was begun again, and Favreau signed on as director in September 2009. On a budget of $163 million, filming for Cowboys & Aliens began in June 2010, in New Mexico and California. Despite studio pressure to release the film in 3-D, Favreau chose to film traditionally and in anamorphic format (widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film) to further a “classic movie feel”. Measures were taken to maintain a serious Western element despite the film’s “inherently comic” title and premise. The film’s aliens were designed to be “cool and captivating”, with some details, such as a fungus that grows on their wounds, created to depict the creatures as frontiersmen facing adversity in an unfamiliar place.
Cowboys & Aliens premiered at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con and was released theatrically in the United States and Canada on July 29, 2011. The science fiction Western was considered to be a financial disappointment, taking $174.8 million in box office receipts on a $163 million budget. Cowboys & Aliens received mixed reviews, with critics generally praising its acting while criticizing other aspects.