The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

 ●  English ● 2 hrs 40 mins

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Based on true life, this fast-paced drama thrillingly traces the complex sequence of events that turned out to be the last months of Jesse James's life, from meeting Robert Ford, a 19-year-old who idolizes Jesse, to the day Ford shoots him in the back of the head. Jesse's a wanted man, living under a pseudonym, carrying out a train robbery, disappearing to Kentucky, and reappearing to plan a bank holdup with Robert and Robert's brother as his team. The rest of the gang is dead, arrested, or gone from Missouri. Whenever Jesse's around, there's tension: he's murderous, quixotic, depressed, and cautious. Ford wants to be somebody and wants the reward. On April 3, 1882, things come to a head: Jesse is 34, Robert 20. Ford becomes famous, reenacting the shooting on stage, but how long will he be able to live down the label 'coward'?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Brad Pitt, Brooklynn Proulx, Mary-Louise Parker

Crew: Andrew Dominik (Director), Roger Deakins (Director of Photography), Nick Cave (Music Director), Warren Ellis (Music Director)

Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, History, Biography, Western

Release Dates: 30 Nov 2007 (India)

Tagline: Beyond the myth lies America's greatest betrayal.

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Did you know? The poem that Frank James (Sam Shepard) quietly recites to himself early in the film before the train sequence is called "Sonnet 62" by William Shakespeare. Read More
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as Jesse James
as Mary James
as Zee James
as Martha Bolton
as Robert Ford
as Tim James
as Ed Miller
as Governor Crittenden
as Wood Hite
as Deputy
as Sarah Hite
as Edward O'Kelly
as Henry Craig
as Bowery Saloon Singer
as Dick Liddil
as Charley Ford
as Frank James
as Sheriff Timberlake
as Major George Hite
as Dorothy Evans





Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography
Still Photographer
Key Grip


Music Director
Music Editor


Sound Designer
Foley Editor
Sound Effects Editor
Foley Artist
Sound Re-recording Mixer
Boom Operator


Production Designer
Art Director
Prop Master
Set Decorator
Storyboard Artist
Set Dresser


Casting Director
Casting Associate
Extras Casting
Casting Assistant

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer
Costume Assistant


Assistant Editor

Makeup and Hair

Special Effects Makeup Artist

Special Effects

Special Effects Coordinator
Special Effects Technician


Stunt Director
Stunt Coordinator

Visual Effects

Visual Effects Producer
Visual Effects Studio
Visual Effects Coordinator
Film Type:
Feature Film
Spoken Languages:
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
Dolby Digital, DTS, Sony Dynamic Digital Sound
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1
Beyond the myth lies America's greatest betrayal.
When Robert Ford is working in the general store, a bicycle leans against the wall. It's supposed a Highwheel, Ordinary, or Pennyfarthing bike. However, it's a contemporary model, intended for use by circus and parade riders, and only superficially similar to a period bike.

When Bob sends a telegram announcing that he has killed Jesse James, he goes into an American Telegraph Company office and uses an American Telegraph blank. American Telegraph merged with Western Union in 1866. The blank correctly identifies E. S. Sanford as American Telegraph's president, but the date (1882) is fake. Furthermore, American Telegraph's lines ran along the Eastern seaboard, from New York to New Orleans. St. Joseph, Missouri, was in the territory of Illinois & Mississippi Telegraph Company, which later merged with Western Union.

People in the saloon sing "A Bird in a Gilded Cage." The scene takes place in 1892; the song was written in 1900.

When the gang leaves Martha's farm for Kentucky, Dick Liddil carries a pair of saddle bags. The pattern on the bags the US Army M1885 Pattern, which first appeared 5 years later.

As the gang members wait during the day, to rob the train at Blue Cut during the night, one gang member recites a poem of Catullus ("My love says she would marry only me ..."); the words he recites are from a translation published in 1970, "Catullus: The Complete Poems for American Readers", by Reney Myers and Robert J. Ormsby.

In two different instances in the film, Jesse James dime novels are depicted as part of Robert Ford's personal Jesse James collection he keeps in a box under the bed at his sisters' farm. It is assumed in the film that these instances occurred in 1879 or early 1880's. However, these novels, and specifically the one shown on top of the collection, were not created until 1901.

Character Error
When the photographer photographs Jessie James's corpse, he replaces the lens cap on the camera and then thanks everyone for standing still. He then removes the film holder from the back of the camera and doesn't insert a dark slide to protect the sheet of film. Either the film would have gotten ruined, or if the dark-slide wasn't removed before taking the photo, no image would have been recorded.

Character Error
When speaking about the planned robbery of Wells Bank, Jesse tells Bob that Platte City is 30 south of Kansas City. It's actually 30 miles north of Kansas City.

Character Error
Arguably, the term "motor" was not widely used. It was defined as, "machine that supplies motive power" in 1856. To engineers, it is a term for machines that are electrically or tension-fed (as in springs) and "engines" supplied by chemical means or processes (internal combustion or steam). At that time, the only commonly known use of "motors" is in toys...which may be why Jesse (or the culture at the time) used the term, "motor" for what is happening inside a person's (Robert, in this case) head--including the mention of gears. In the scene where Jesse is planning the Platte robbery, Jesse refers to Robert's fear as, "motor." (Arguably), the term should have been more closer to Jesse's experience by referring Roberts fear as, "engine" because the most common "machine that supplies motive power" that Jesse has the most familiarity with would be the steam engine. "Motor" and "engine" have been misused so much that they are now interchangeable in the dictionary.

When Jesse is shot by Robert Ford, his wife is laying over him screaming and crying. The whole while Jesse's eyes are closed, at one point they cut to Robert, and cut back, Jesse's eyes are clearly wide open. They cut back and away once more and his eyes are closed again. (Possibly deliberate choice by filmmakers, to indicate Ford's state of mind.)

When Dick Liddil awakens and goes downstairs to investigate a noise he takes a revolver from under his pillow and cocks it. A second later as he goes down the steps by candle light the pistol is clearly not cocked.

Towards the end of the film, Robert Ford shoots, then throws the gun on the floor. The gun disappears when Robert Ford leaves.

When Jesse James and Charley Ford cross a frozen river Jesse wipes away the snow to check the ice thickness. He also fires 3 rounds from his revolver into the ice. In a subsequent shot of the ice you can see the brushed away snow and a fish swimming under the ice, yet there is no evidence of the 3 shots Jesse fired into that spot.

In every scene where Jesse smokes a cigar, the length of the cigar as well as the size of the ash at the foot of the cigar varies tremendously across shots. Such variation cannot be accounted for by normal burning off of the cigar as one smokes it.

Early in the movie when the gang are sitting around in the woods talking, the shotgun one of the men is holding spontaneously disappears and reappears between a shot. Also, during the same sequence he is seen holding it in at least two different ways between shots.

Revealing Mistakes
After the body of Wood Hite has been dumped in the woods, it moves. Both before and during it being covered with snow.

Revealing Mistakes
Toward the end of the movie, a closeup shot of Bob Ford's face reveals a noticeable hole from an earring piercing.

At the end of the film, we see Robert Ford in his saloon / dance hall, "Ford's Exchange", which is an actual brick-and-mortar building. Later, when he is shot soon after by Edward O'Kelley, again in his own establishment, it is suddenly a tent saloon. This is because Ford's dance hall had been burned down in a town fire, three days prior to his shooting. In real life, Ford created this temporary location to operate out of while waiting to rebuild the dance hall seen earlier.

Revealing Mistakes
When Bob shoots Wood, the bullet rips through Wood's head. As Wood falls, there is no bullet hole on the wall, or a single drop of blood.
Brad Pitt's personal favorite movie that he has acted in.

Of all the films made about Jesse James, his descendants have claimed that this is the most accurate. They were especially enthusiastic supporters of the performances of Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins reckons that the arrival of the train in darkness is one of the high watermarks of his career.

According to Andrew Dominik, Brad Pitt had it put in his contract that the name of the movie was not to be changed.

In reality, Jesse James famously suffered from a syndrome that made him blink much more than the average person. Although this is mentioned at the start of the film, interestingly Brad Pitt makes a point of barely blinking during most of his scenes.

At the beginning of the film, Jesse James' finger disfigurement is revealed to the audience. If one pays close attention, the top half of Brad Pitt's left middle finger is painstakingly erased in every single scene it appears in with the help of computer graphics.

Ron Hansen, writer of the novel, spent about a week on the set, and helped with editing and even enjoyed a cameo in the film. During an interview, Hansen lauded the acting prowess of Casey Affleck, who he thought added his own perspective to the complicated character of Robert Ford. Hansen then says, "In some ways it feels like he was born to play this role."

Nick Cave's score for the film was written before the film was shot.

Sam Shepard (Frank James) was in his 60s and Brad Pitt (Jesse James) was in his 40s during filming. The characters they play are supposed to be in their 30s. Casey Affleck was in his early 30s which approximates Bob Ford's age during the epilogue but is much older than Ford's age during the main plot.

Jeremy Renner was originally considered for the role of Robert Ford, but he was ultimately thought to be too old for the character. The director in turn offered him the role of Wood Hite, which Renner accepted.

In the saloon scene, the "minstrel" is singing a memorial to Jesse James, the lyrics of which are based on the popular poem of the time, "The Ballad of Jesse James". Songs based on the poem have been recorded many times over the years, by artists such as, Woody Guthrie, Bob Seger, and The Pogues.

When casting for the role of Robert Ford it came down to Casey Affleck and Shia LaBeouf. Affleck eventually got the role, because LaBeouf was felt to be too young.

Making "James" was a long and arduous process. There was a well-publicized tug-of-war between director Andrew Dominik, who caught Hollywood's attention with indie title Chopper (2000) and Warners over the editing of the film. Warners' wasn't entirely in sync with the pacing of the movie, or the length. Dominik was thinking more like 'Terence Malick' in examining the relationship between the famous outlaw and his eventual assassin, Robert Ford, played by Casey Affleck. Warners was in favor of having at least a bit more action. Ultimately, Warners went with Dominik's version, even though Dominik didn't have final cut as part of his contract. Part of the reason was that Pitt, who produced the movie through his Plan B shingle, backed Dominik. At one point along the way, Pitt and exec producer Ridley Scott had put together their own cut. When it tested to only so-so results, they went back to Dominik's. The original cut of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" was nearly four hours long. It was edited down to two hours and forty minutes, its current runtime, at the studio's request. However, it did play at least once at its original 4-hour length, most notably at the Venice Film Festival, where Brad Pitt picked up the Best Actor Award. After the viewing, critics at the festival called the film "majestic."

When Jesse goes looking for Jim Cummins he introduces himself as "Dick Turpin". Dick Turpin, a legendary English rogue and highway robber of the 1730s, was romanticized in English ballads and popular theatre of the 18th and 19th century. Dick Liddil introduces himself as "Matt Collins", which is actually a play on the name of Liddil's wife, Mattie Collins.

Garret Dillahunt was originally set to play Robert Ford's brother, due to his striking resemblance to Casey Affleck, but due to a TV commitment, Dillahunt was given a smaller role and Sam Rockwell replaced his original part.

Although the film had two production designers (Patricia Norris and Richard Hoover), only one name was allowed to be listed in the credits. Because of this, both decided to go uncredited.

The town of Creede, Colorado was recreated in Alberta at a cost of $1 million.

Though there were ADR sessions, not a single line of replacement dialog ended up in the final film - highly unusual for a studio film, especially one as location driven as this.

The poem that Frank James (Sam Shepard) quietly recites to himself early in the film before the train sequence is called "Sonnet 62" by William Shakespeare.

The original unedited screenplay was 132 pages long, but the final version was reduced down to 102 pages.

The revolver Jesse James gives to Robert Ford is an 1875/1878 Smith and Wesson Model 3, Schofield .45 caliber with single-action, top-break and auto-eject. The first pistol to use a large caliber and auto-eject. It was famously used by other 'gunslingers' such as Pat Garrett and John Wesley Hardin.

The foreign passenger in the train-robbery early in the movie speaks Danish. He says "jeg har ingen penge" (I have no money) and "jeg taler ikke engelsk" (I don't speak English).

Josh Holloway turned down a role, due to his commitment to Lost (2004).

The debate rages on as to whether Bob Ford used a Smith & Wesson No. 3 - either the .45 caliber "Schofield" or the New Model .44 Russian - or a Colt Single-Action Army (aka "Peacemaker") in .45 caliber, to kill Jesse James. Many of the primary sources are contradictory to one another - Ford surrendered a nickel plated No. 3 S&W at the time of his arrest shortly after the killing, yet later claimed he had used (and is seen holding in a famous photo) a .45 Colt. Whatever the truth may be, both versions are presented in the movie in a unique way. In the film, Ford uses the nickel-plated S&W, which Ford claimed was a gift from Jesse (who is reported to have favored the No. 3) to commit the killing, yet he later uses the .45 Colt Single Action in he and his brother Charley's stage re-enactment of the event.

This is the fourth collaboration between Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. They previously starred together in Ocean's Eleven (2001), Ocean's Twelve (2004), and Ocean's Thirteen (2007).

Zooey Deschanel: as Dorothy Evans, a largely fictional composite of several historical showgirls in Ford's saloon.

Nick Cave: a composer for the film is the "minstrel" whom Robert Ford confronts in the bar towards the end of film.

Some accounts of Jesse James' death have Bob Ford remaining seated in his chair while shooting. This version doesn't.