Creating “The Mexican” with Gore Verbinski

The MexicanGore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer opens nationwide today. It sure could be fun. I like the cast…

Back in 2000 I had a unique opportunity to work with Verbinski on his second directorial effort, The Mexican. I was brought into the project by the film’s art department coordinator, Ashley Sibille, who felt that some of the highly-detailed drawings in my portfolio qualified me to help create the intricately designed focal point of the film: an antique gun named “the Mexican.”

When I first came onto the project, this was intended to be a small, low-budget,  independent feature. When Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt decided to come on board as its stars, we were suddenly working on an entirely different scale. (The late, great James Galdolfini is third-billed for a performance that shouldn’t be missed!)

I created dozens of preliminary sketches for the gun, incorporating different elements that Verbinski envisioned, like a heart-shaped cylinder and snake trigger which became parts of the final design, and a swan-like hammer which didn’t. Like most illustrators, I often think that incessant revisions can be a headache, but I will admit that each and every time Gore asked me to try something new, I found his ideas imaginative and exciting. The formation of the gun continued to improve every time we met and I remember that interpreting his brilliant vision and playing with him in general a totally inspiring experience.

Gun sketches for "The Mexican"Once the gun’s final design received an official thumbs-up, individual elements were separated to refine and delineate their construction. This was supposed to be a very old gun, so after studying firearms of the period, we chose different woods and metals for their authenticity. I created detailed filigree drawings for each of the metal components which the prop department recreated with amazing precision.

Metal pieces for the gun in "The Mexican"

I found it fascinating to see my drawings translated into the actual prop guns. Several versions were created for different interpretations in the film. An especially neat cut-away model was built so that one scene could be filmed from the gun’s point of view. As it happens, I didn’t receive a mention in the film’s closing credits, but I still remember the experience fondly enough to write about it all these years later. Besides, I have a special drawer in my studio filled with all the efforts that led to the final incarnation of The Mexican.

Final design for the gun from "The Mexican"

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