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The Prohibition Tale ‘WETTEST COUNTY’ Is Set for a Title Change


In a time when a title alone can determine whether or not someone will go see a film or not (take for example the studio ramblings around dropping the “Of Mars” from John Carter), John Hillcoat‘s upcoming film Wettest County seems to be the latest victim of studio heads over analyzing the little details in order to cater to the “everyday film-goer.”   It is being reported by The Playlist via Matt Bondurant’s twitter page (the author of the book The Wettest County in the World) that the film’s title is getting repealed.  The author simply tweeted “get ready to change hash tag – title change in works.”

Wettest County follows Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy as bootleggers of a moonshine during the Depression in Virginia.  Musician Nick Cave stepped out from behind the microphone and has helped write the screenplay with novelist Matt Bondurant.  Cave previously collaborated with director John Hilcoat on the exceptional and gritty western The Proposition. Ugly, authentic, real, and dirty are just a few words that I would use to describe The Proposition; one of my favorite films of 2005.  Hillcoat’s stunning imagery and contemplative characters set against the dusty landscapes makes me excited for what the director’s upcoming film will be like.  Not to mention that two of 2011’s biggest acting names will also star in the film: Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain.

Who knows what the film will be named now.  It originally was scheduled for release this April but is now set for August 31. If the studios are reading this, I do have one title suggestion: Dry Land.  Either that or The Beef and Bane Like Booze.  One of the two would suffice.


Based on the true story of Matt Bondurant’s grandfather and two granduncles, The Wettest County in the World is a gripping tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. The Bondurant Boys were a notorious gang of roughnecks and moonshiners who ran liquor through Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition and in the years after. Forrest, the eldest brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate businessman; Howard, the middle brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; and Jack, the youngest, has a taste for luxury and a dream to get out of Franklin. Driven and haunted, these men forge a business, fall in love, and struggle to stay afloat as they watch their family die, their father’s business fail, and the world they know crumble beneath the Depression and drought.

White mule, white lightning, firewater, popskull, wild cat, stump whiskey, or rotgut — whatever you called it, Franklin County was awash in moonshine in the 1920s. When Sherwood Anderson, the journalist and author of Winesburg, Ohio, was covering a story there, he christened it the “wettest county in the world.” In the twilight of his career, Anderson finds himself driving along dusty red roads trying to find the Bondurant brothers, piece together the clues linking them to “The Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy,” and break open the silence that shrouds Franklin County.

In vivid, muscular prose, Matt Bondurant brings these men — their dark deeds, their long silences, their deep desires — to life. His understanding of the passion, violence, and desperation at the center of this world is both heartbreaking and magnificent.

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Author: Michael Haffner View all posts by
Somewhere between growing up on a steady diet of Saturday morning trips to the local comic-book shop, collecting an unhealthy amount of action figures, and frequent viewings of Ray Harryhausen and Hammer Horror films, came forth a nerdy boy that was torn between journalism and the arts. In high school, Michael found himself writing a movie column for the school newspaper. Yet, he went on to get a BFA in Studio Art at Webster University. When not writing about films, you can still find him discussing classic horror, collecting action figures, and reading Batman. Clearly, not much has changed.
  • Guest

    Michael. I read The Wettest County in the World a couple of years ago. I wished I had read it before I retired from teaching American Lit. The novel is wonderful in every respect. The title is absolutely fitting for the film. It suggests Prohibition and moonshining and the unique distinction of Franklin County. And it is Matt Bondurant’s title. I trust your suggestions for revised titles are tongue in cheek. I watched Warrior with a friend in an otherwise empty theater. The posters, the trailers, the hype persuaded the audience that this was another Rocky or Fighter or Wrestler. If you saw the movie, you will know the screenplay’s setting of the MMA is only a backdrop to the tragedy of an estranged family. Well, at least Nolte got a nomination for his performance. Who knows, maybe even some of the big wigs at the studios will actually read your blog and leave well enough alone. Fans of Bondurant and Hardy and Oldman and Chastain have been waiting for this film for a long time. Promote it like the class-act adaptation I hope it will be. I understand there have already been changes made to the script — more sex, more explicit violence, maybe an explosion of a Model T — o whoopee. Leave the title alone. Advertise the film as it should be advertised. It should not be ” a one size fits all.”