Pale Rider was filmed in Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho,
and in Columbia, Calif. Screenwriters Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack had
also written The Gauntlet for Eastwood. They told him that they
wanted to write a Western, so he worked with them on the treatment for
Pale Rider. This was Eastwood's first Western in nine years,
following The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Based on the classic Western Shane, the film adds supernatural
elements handled in a restrained, subtle manner that doesn't distract from
the story but enhances it, bringing another dimension to the oft-told tale.
Eastwood the director succeeds in delivering a thought-provoking,
well-crafted Western. He commented on how the film fit into both the
genre's history and his own career, "When Shane came out, [it] was
analogous to a lot of Westerns that had been made at that time. There's the
man who comes from nowhere and leaves to nowhere -- so it's an old, old
game that's been played in the Western for a long time. From that
standpoint there's nothing new story-wise. The fact that their guy is more
of a real guy...and our guy is an out and out ghost...the biblical
implications and the mythology of Pale Rider is just something I
wanted to explore. . ." The film was shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where Eastwood was nominated for the Golden Palm.
Other notes from the production:
In a departure from his earlier films, Eastwood chose the theme for the
film first and then commissioned a screenplay.
It was reported that Clint's gap in Western-making had been due to a
mid-life allergy to horses.