“Sicario” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan worked as an actor for almost 15 years with roles in “Sons of Anarchy” and “Veronica Mar,” before hungering for something more. “As I got older,” he explains in our exclusive video chat (watch below), “I was like, ‘you know what? This is about my ceiling. This is all I’m ever going to be, is twelfth banana on a TV show.’ And it felt very limiting to me creatively. So I quit and started writing.”
“Sicario“ is his first script to be produced. The hit film tells the story of a by-the-book FBI agent (Emily Blunt) who joins an elite task force fighting the escalating war on drugs only to be confronted with the unconventional tactics of both the squad leader (Josh Brolin) and a mysterious rogue agent (Benicio Del Toro).
“The idea evolved from a few different things, really,” says Sheridan. “I was obviously fascinated with the world, and with the complexity of it, and I was really fascinated with the notion of using the military as a mechanism to police. At the time that I wrote the screenplay, it was at the height of the war on the Mexican side of the border, and the Mexican military intervention there between a cartel war that was taking place.”
“At the same time,” he continues, “we’re sort of at the height of using our military to police in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both were going rather poorly. It was fascinating to me, the similarities and the consequences. I was also shocked at the carnage of what was taking place in Juarez at that time, and it was receiving almost no news coverage at all in America, and I couldn’t understand that. It was a little infuriating. As a result, I wrote a screenplay that I think would force people to have a conversation about it, I hope.”
Sheridan’s background in performing undoubtedly had an effect on his writing. “For me, and I think it comes from having been an actor, the most important thing for me was really understanding the journey of these characters, and what arc they would and would not take. From a construction standpoint, I broke a lot of rules I’d been held to for 15, 20 years.”
Among the rules he broke was shifting the protagonist several times throughout the script, and providing the audience with almost no backstory for any of the major characters. “We see them in this present moment, and really learn about the essence of their character by what they do, or don’t do. To me, that was a fascinating thing to explore.”
Watch our full interview below for more, including how the story blurs the line between right and wrong, the scripts unique five act structure, and what’s next for the newly-acclaimed screenwriter.