HBO Confirms “Very Preliminary” ‘Deadwood’ Movie Talks
Yesterday, actor Garret Dillahunt tweeted “So uh…I’m hearing credible rumors about a #Deadwood movie.” I had the same reaction to that tweet that a lot of other people seemed to have: don’t even play around with this. Deadwood is serious business. Canceled in 2006 after three great seasons and a less than satisfying conclusion, there was talk at the time of two Deadwood movies to finish out David Milch‘s obsessive and idiosyncratic western vision. Those movies never happened.
But now HBO confirms that, yes, there has been some talk about a Deadwood movie. Really early talk, but that’s better than nothing.
Here’s the tweet that started the conversation.
Garret Dillahunt @garretdillahunt
So uh….I'm hearing credible rumors about a #Deadwood movie. #Everybodypray 8:52 PM – 12 Aug 2015
Not long afterward, HBO went on the record to confirm that, yes, there have been some talks. But don’t saddle up just yet. The network’s official statement is:
In reference to Garret Dillahunt’s tweet regarding the rumored Deadwood movie, there have only been very preliminary conversations.
That can mean a lot of things. Creator David Milch said in 2011 that “I still nourish the hope that we’re going to get to do a little more work in that area.”
Years earlier, when the plug was abruptly pulled on the show, HBO had offered to give Milch a short 6-episode fourth season to close out the series. He was unwilling to go that route. That’s when the plan for a pair of two-hour movies landed on the table. But at that point resurrecting all the elements for the series — which had been a particularly expensive show to make — was evidently too difficult.
The TV landscape has changed so much now that Deadwood‘s fate might be very different today, and it isn’t without a little bitterness that we can imagine Deadwood being more successful now than it was a decade ago. Maybe this will be a chance to see if that is actually how it would work out.
One Deadwood star, Timothy Olyphant, has been busy with another TV series for several years, but now that Justified is finished, his schedule may be more open. And Ian McShane, whose magnificently foul-mouthed character Al Swearengen was Deadwood’s most attention-getting aspect, is working for HBO once again with a small but important role on the sixth season of Game of Thrones. So it isn’t difficult to guess what led to some conversations. Whether they’ll become more than conversations is something else altogether.
Rejoice! HBO Is in Preliminary Talks about a ‘Deadwood’ Movie
My dear fellow fans of this cancelled-too-soon, Shakespeare-in-the-mud, 1870s South Dakotan-set HBO Western badass series from 2006, hark thine ears thusly! Garret Dillahunt, who played two characters on the series Deadwood, recently tweeted about rumors of the series returning with a movie. We’ve heard this before, right? Why believe it now? Dillahunt said:
So uh….I’m hearing credible rumors about a #Deadwood movie. #Everybodypray
But then, the call to action:
Come on @HBO…you made @entouragemovie. Give the #Deadwood fans some closure. #Youcandoit.
Now we’re talking. Or at least, HBO is. The premium network confirmed in a statement, “In reference to Garret Dillahunt’s tweet regarding the rumored Deadwood movie, there have only been very preliminary conversations.”
That’s enough hope to hang a hat on. Deadwood has long solidified itself in the canon of great television, but its story has always been unfinished, literally. David Milch’s series ran for three seasons, but the wheels started to come off a little bit in the third when Milch seemed to lose interest in the project, and the show ended abruptly (and with terrible bleakness, even for that show). Deadline mentions that though Milch was offered another short season to wrap things up, he declined, but kept the possibility open for a wrap-up film.
Of course, how many times have fans heard that? “We’ll get a movie!” we say (Fannibals, you know my pain here), trying to keep the hope alive that we haven’t seen the last of our favorite shows. But it almost never happens. Still, as Dillahunt pointed out, it happened with Entourage on the big screen no less, a show that really didn’t need a follow-up. The problem is, Deadwood has never had wide appeal, although in the years since its 2006 cancellation, it may have picked up more of a fanbase through DVD and HBO Go.
So let’s look at this. Since the end of Justified, Deadwood star Timothy Olyphant could be available. Also, Ian McShane will be returning to the HBO fold after his turn in Showtime’s Ray Donovan, as part of next season’s Game of Thrones. Can someone please call Molly Parker, John Hawkes, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Titus Welliver, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Brad Dourif, Paula Malcomson and everyone else? I don’t care who died in the original run, get everyone on the horn. Dillahunt played two characters, anything is possible. Gather your flock, HBO, and deliver us more Deadwood!
The takeaway from this whole story is not just about rumors, but about HBO admitting that there have been “preliminary conversations,” which at least means someone is talking about it. And now that Dillahunt tweeted about it (bless), it’s our job to hound HBO and try and get this made. I’m really over the whole reboot/remake/whatever trend right now, but this isn’t that — this is closure, and it is deserved. Too fuckin’ right!
“The dialogue was very dense, and I believe it’s metered. At least that’s my impression of what I remember hearing. But we didn’t have scripts. The pages came in daily, and we didn’t have a tremendous amount of time with that language, and I do think it took a few passes of just reading it to translate it for yourself the way you would Shakespeare in a way, and then to actually memorize it, because it’s not exactly the way we speak now, that’s for sure.
So to memorize it was challenging too, and this is material that we performed verbatim. There was no riffing. There was no improvising. There was no dropping words. It was so specific to the sound, the meter, and obviously to the meaning. You’d have to apply certain tricks to memorize it sometimes.
But that show really holds a really strong soft spot in my heart. It was a magical experience in the period alone and with David Milch. I had what felt like real artistic license, and there were no scripts or notes from someone else. We had the pages daily, and we shot them, and David was on set with us.
We were at Melody Ranch, and David would come down and sort of talk us all through. When we were doing a new setup for a new scene, he would come down and speak to all of us, the cast in it, the director, the crew. We would all just be on the edge of our seat. He’s such a wonderful storyteller and speaker, and he would give us the feeling of what we were really playing, or the essence of the scene, or what the emotions were to capture, and then the director would execute it.
It was a really beautiful and magical experience. If you pass by it on the television or something, it’s so in the moment. The minutiae between these people, these characters, it’s so rich. If you do watch it over, there’s so many more things to get, you know? It just keeps giving.”
It was 2017, and David Milch’s western had miraculously returned to HBO, eleven years after its unexpected cancellation. The opening credits were essentially unchanged, but they were missing a few familiar names and had gained a few new ones. And the first shot was a close-up of a smoldering pile of rubble.
The viewer realized with a shock that we had skipped ahead in the timeline. The plan, as outlined by Milch, was for the town of Deadwood to burn down at the end of season four—an event that occurred in reality on September 26, 1879—and then be rebuilt in increments through season five. The show’s cancellation interrupted that narrative and created a serious production and logistical problem, nearly as pernicious as the challenge of reassembling what was, at the time, the largest cast of regulars in scripted TV—a veritable murderer’s row of character actors who were thenceforth cast into the pop culture wilderness in search of fresh employment.
After a long moment, a sooty boot kicked the pile and broke it apart. The boot kept kicking it and kicking it until we saw a glint of dingy metal. Then a sooty hand reached into the frame and lifted a piece of a charred ceiling strut, revealing a can of peaches.
The hand belonged to Al Swearengen, the owner of the Gem Saloon. The camera pulled back to reveal Swearengen contemplating the peach can as if it were Yorick’s skull. His face was partly masked by black and grey sweat-streaked ash, and his dark suit was shot through with moth-holes burned by cinders.
He unsheathed his throat-slitting buck knife, forced up the can’s lid, speared a peach-half and lifted it, syrup gleaming on the blade, and popped it all into his mouth at once as if it were a piece of hard candy, and chewed.
After a long moment, he raised an eyebrow approvingly, took a long look around, and said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”
The camera pulled back again, taking in Swearengen from head to toe, and in the process revealed E.B. Farnum, the town’s erstwhile mayor, standing nearby, clothed as much in soot as finery, chastising his dimwitted sidekick Richardson, who puttered about moaning and clutching at his temples. The camera pulled back further and rose higher and higher, taking in a panorama of destruction where a nascent hub of civilization once had stood. Everything was in ruins: the Gem Saloon, Cy Tolliver’s upscale Bella Union, Mr. Wu’s Chinatown with its caged women and chickens and flesh-eating hogs, Farnum’s Grand Central Hotel, the jailhouse and sheriff’s office where Seth Bullock had once jailed thieves and drunks and disturbers of the peace, the schoolhouse where his wife Martha had taught the town’s children, the newspaper office where A.W. Merrick had chronicled the town’s mostly-idealized history, the cramped cabin where Doc Cochran had treated the sick and elderly and deranged: it was gone, all gone. The black hills of South Dakota seemed to have acquired a brood of children. Three hundred buildings had been razed into heaps of blackened toothpicks.
At the farthest edge of the background you could faintly discern the hunched-over figure of Calamity Jane rummaging through a molehill in search of something to drink.
After that, it’s all a blur—sort of a mind-trailer consisting of intimations and images, all mixed, strangely, with stories on a computer screen and on newspaper and magazine pages (like an old-fashioned movie montage) revealing how Deadwood had returned for a fourth season and gotten around the problem of having to rebuild one of the largest and most complex sets in the history of moving pictures—an actual working town consisting of historically accurate building exteriors that all housed miniature soundstages, the better to frame shots that juxtaposed people plotting or drinking or screwing in the foreground against pedestrians and horses and carriages roving the town’s muddy main thoroughfare at middle-distance and more people in the buildings on the other side of the street, glimpsed through door frames and windows.
The masterstroke, it seems, was to skip ahead on the timeline, so that season four became an ellipsis in the master narrative. This choice absolved HBO of the expense of recreating the town so that it exactly matched what we’d seen in the first three seasons.
Apparently, after heated discussion and some consternation, the decision had been made to give continuity permission to go to hell.
This not only saved HBO and Milch’s crew tens of millions of dollars and untold man-hours of preparation and construction time, it also introduced an element of mystery into the story of Deadwood: what person or persons or institution was responsible for the conflagration? How did this catastrophe come about, and what could be done to keep it from happening again? Every character blamed some other character, or some failing in the town’s government, or within individual institutions: the sheriff’s office, the recently established fire department, the godless heathens, the ignorant cattle-herders and stagecoach drivers who’d been repeatedly cautioned to dispose of their cigars and cigarettes with care, and those Yankton politicians who had been stingy about dispersing funds that would have brought water down from the rivered hills by way of above-ground wooden aqueducts.
In time, it became clear that what we were seeing in season five was actually a combination of season five and season four. Season four’s narrative was about how a nexus of greed and incompetence and generalized ignorance about collective responsibility had sparked the fire that burned Deadwood to the ground. This narrative was encoded within the dialogue and monologues of season five, which concerned the rebuilding of the town and the re-imagining of its community.
In this dream, we saw businesses founded, friendships established and re-established, resentments rekindled, grudges set aside, love affairs nurtured. There was a marriage and a birth, an adoption and several deaths, some unspeakably savage, others unremarkable. And all of these stories unfolded against an aural backdrop of hammering and sawing, and a visual background of cross-timber grids rising up to form walls and roofs. Over the course of thirteen episodes the show got visibly darker, but in a way that ironically lightened the mood, because the comparative lessening of sunlight was the byproduct of all those new buildings going up.
Thus did the narrative of the rebuilding of Deadwood after a catastrophe become the narrative of the re-creation of “Deadwood” after its cancellation.
Nobody complained that all of the actors looked ten years older, because disaster does put the years on.
Near the end of the season, fall leaves appeared on the forested hills in the background, and then winter came, and the characters wrapped themselves in winter coats and scarves and thick gloves. The final episode took place on Christmas Eve. An avalanche poured down on the town, followed by a blizzard. There were no serious injuries and only one death—some yammering drunk from out-of-town that no one much liked anyway—but the deluge of snow cut off many of the citizens from their domiciles. So Al opened his saloon to the dispossessed and brought up crates of peaches and served them along with bourbon and hardtack, and dressed as Father Christmas, and bid his guests, their ranks thick with prospectors and whores and ruddy-faced orphans, and read to them from “A Christmas Carol,” which had been published nearly four decades earlier on the other side of the ocean.
“Scrooge was better than his word,” Swearengen read. “He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became a good friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter at the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough to him.”
Deadwood movie: Ian McShane says he would be on board
McShane: ‘Of course I’d love to reprise that. It was snatched away rather unjustly’
by James Hibberd •
Posted June 3 2016 — 12:03 PM EDT
No deals have been made for a Deadwood movie among the canceled Western’s cast, but star Ian McShane says he’s totally on board if HBO decides to pull the trigger.
Creator David Milch has been working on a script for HBO for the long-long-long awaited Deadwood movie, something the network has confirmed, but nothing has been greenlit. McShane tells EW he’s ready to resurrect Al Swearengen, even with his starring role in Starz’ upcoming Neil Gaiman fantasy drama American Gods.
“Of course I’d love to reprise that,” McShane says. “How could one not, when it was snatched away rather unjustly by a combination of forces we’ll never know about – hubris or money or whatever. But [Deadwood] certainly finished too early. At the time, most of us working on the show were incredulous. It’s been announced by HBO so its not like I’m saying it. I know for a fact David is working on the script. It’s been 10 years since it finished. [Star Timothy Olyphant’s] free from Justified. I’m hoping they’ll make the deal soon, for two or four hours, whatever they decide on. It was a very close knit group of actors on it. We got along very well. I’m sure David will decide to set it 10 years later, after the great fire or whatever happened in Deadwood. They haven’t done the deal yet. They [were planning] to do it late this year or early next year.”
Deadwood launched in 2004 and ran for three seasons before being cut short without a creatively satisfying conclusion. A planned movie was in the works after its cancellation, but eventually talks between Milch and the network collapsed. Ever since, the lack of a Deadwood movie gets regularly brought up by those HBO subscribers who watched the series as sore point.
In addition to American Gods and 2017’s action sequel John Wick 2, McShane also has a mysterious upcoming role in the current season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
‘Deadwood’ Movie Currently Being Written, Says HBO
by Chris Cabin
The vast popularity and intense fandom of Game of Thrones is all good news for HBO, but it’s worth remembering that they haven’t always been the savviest people when it comes to programming. Let’s ignore the fact that the previous head of programming drowned two, count’em, two projects with well-known maker of brilliant images and stories David Fincher over budgetary concerns, despite the fact that they fork over more than the yearly GDP of several African countries per episode of Game of Thrones. Let’s also forget that they botched early adaptations of Watchmen, which was to be Paul Greengrass‘ first American television venture, and Preacher, though that one has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise with AMC now doing very well with the project.
No, the biggest stick in my – and thousands of other viewers – craw is that they forced Deadwood to end before a proper ending could be put in place by creator-writer David Milch. That’s the one that still stings after all these years, long after Deadwood has rightly been appraised as simply one of the best and most ambitious series to ever be put on the small screen. But HBO is not one to ignore their fanbase, and for a few years now, its been rumored that a Deadwood movie, which would air on HBO, is in the works and that more or less was confirmed last year, but very little has been heard since. Well, that changed when HBO’s new head of programming Casey Bloys took to the TCA stage to discuss all things HBO, from seasons three of True Detective to Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s return to, yes, the Deadwood movie.
“David is writing the script. We haven’t read it yet…I imagine it will be very good,” is how Bloys responded to questions about the return of the beloved Western series. And though he wouldn’t outright commit to a green light for the movie, he said that he “feels good” about the project and is impatient to read what Milch has been writing. So am I, but I can’t say I blame Bloys for being hesitant to commit to a returning series, even with the same voice behind the project. Mind you, The X-Files recently returned for an abbreviated six-episode series with Chris Carter and several other key members of the original creative team behind it, and it was, in whole, a catastrophe. And this is coming from someone who even defends those last few seasons of the original series. So, fingers crossed and all, but let’s not push it if it turns out the end result will be worse than the tacked-on ending we already have.
‘Fear The Walking Dead’s’ Kim Dickens Offers a ‘Deadwood’ Movie Update Will a ‘Deadwood’ TV movie ever happen? Kim Dickens says that she’s already heard some of the script from David Milch himself!
Ten years ago this month, HBO brought Deadwood to a premature conclusion after three seasons, which enraged fans. And if you really want to get them pissed off, ask them how much they liked John From Cincinnati! HBO offered hardcore Deadwood fans some small chance that the series could return as a miniseries or a TV movie. But it’s been a decade, and there’s been little movement on the project…until now.
Earlier this year, HBO admitted that Deadwood TV film was finally in the works, although series creator David Milch didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to finish writing it. However, Entertainment Weekly recently spoke with former Deadwood star Kim Dickens, and she said that she has not only met with Milch about the project, he read her a few scenes from the script.
“We sat at lunch and he read a few scenes to me between Stubbs, Tolliver, and Jane,” related Dickens. “He read all the parts. It was amazing, it was funny, it was sad. It was all that it was.” She added that “lots of [former Deadwood cast members] have had our lunches with him…I just know that everybody would do whatever they could to be a part of it.” Related: HBO Promises That ‘Deadwood’ Will Get a TV Movie
Dickens portrayed Joanie Stubbs on the series, an enterprising woman was the owner of the Chez Amis. She’s currently the star of Fear The Walking Dead on AMC, which illustrates one of the biggest obstacles in the way of a Deadwood comeback. Almost all of the major cast members continue to be in high demand, with film and television projects of their own. Despite that, Dickens expressed hope that HBO and Milch are “aiming for sooner than later” for the reunion film.
Considering that there isn’t even a production schedule firmly in place it seems like we’re at least a year or two away from finding some closure in Deadwood. But knowing Milch, it could be even longer than that.