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Twelve years after the beloved original series ended, HBO’s Deadwood movie has finally started production as of today, Nov. 5. Let’s take this opportunity to dig into everything we know about the long-anticipated revival.
News first broke in 2016 that series creator David Milch had outlined the story for a Deadwood feature script. At the time, reports came in that then-HBO president Michael Lombardo believed Milch would start working on the film’s script after the project he was at work on at the time.
At the Television Critics Association summer press tour in July 2017, HBO programming president Casey Bloys told reporters that Milch had turned in a “fantastic” script for the Deadwood movie. “He totally delivered on this,” said Bloys at the time.
In August, W. Earl Brown, who played Dan Dority and also wrote on the original series, shared on Twitter that he had finished the final draft of Milch’s script, effusively praising what he had read so far.
Milch’s intricate, profane, metaphor-dense dialogue was one of the most impressive parts of the original series, even inspiring academic literature on Deadwood’s relationship to historical linguistics and the English language. All indications are that Milch’s feature script hasn’t lost any of the original series’ spark.
Who (and What) Is Returning?
Also at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in July 2017, after announcing that Milch had turned in a script, Bloys revealed that HBO was still working on details such as budget, directors and getting the cast together.
“If we can do for the right budget it make sense. We’re taking to directors and we’re getting the cast together, which is not an easy task. Then we’re inclined to do it if we can get over those hurdles,” said Bloys at the time.
At the following year’s Television Critics Association summer press tour in July 2018, Bloys announced that HBO had green-lit the project, which at the point was still trying to line up different cast members’ schedules.
“All of these people worked hard to get this together,” said Bloys. “It’s been a logistics nightmare getting all the cast members’ schedules together, but we are there. It is green-lit.”
Bloys said at the time that the production was currently scheduled to begin shooting in October for a spring 2019 air time, but added that the date is not “set in stone.”
On Oct. 2, Brown shared a picture on Instagram from the set of “New Deadwood,” albeit one that didn’t reveal anything about what was going on inside.
Fans of DEADWOOD asked that I post some photos from the set; they wanted to see the New Deadwood. I said I couldn’t. I was cajoled, pleased with, bribed… well, okay. But just this one. Don’t ask for any more. #DeadwoodReturns
A post shared by W Earl Brown; (@wearlbrown) on
Earlier today, HBO announced that the film had begun production in Los Angeles. Daniel Minahan, who previously helmed four episodes of the original series, was also announced as the feature’s director.
The network also revealed the project’s returning cast members. Ian McShane (Al Swearengen), Timothy Olyphant (Seth Bullock), Molly Parker (Alma Ellsworth), Paula Malcomson (Trixie), John Hawkes (Sol Star), Anna Gunn (Martha Bullock), Dayton Callie (Charlie Utter), Brad Dourif (Doc Cochran), Robin Weigert (“Calamity” Jane Canary), William Sanderson (E.B. Farnum), Kim Dickens (Joanie Stubbs) and Gerald McRaney (George Hearst) will return, joined by cast newcomer Jade Pettyjohn (Caroline).
The movie will be without the late Powers Boothe, whose Cy Tolliver was a standout from Deadwood’s original run, but according to TVLine, “his absence is not ignored.”
The Deadwood film is executive produced by Milch, Carolyn Strauss, Minahan, Gregg Fienberg, Scott Stephens, McShane and Olyphant.
Depending on how flexible you’re willing to get with the geographic limits of “Los Angeles,” it’s possible that production on the Deadwood feature will return to Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, the Santa Clarita, Calif., ranch where the original series was filmed.
In August 2015, W. Earl Brown reassured fans on Twitter by saying that the Deadwood exterior sets had not been torn down, as is customary at the end of a show’s run. HBO now uses the studio to shoot Western locales on Westworld.
Last year, a Deadwood fan on the show’s subreddit shared pulled images from Google Street View purportedly showing that many of Deadwood’s exterior sets were still up at the studio, although it looks like parts were torn down for the production of Westworld.
What’s It About?
As part of the production announcement, HBO also released this synopsis of the forthcoming Deadwood film:
In the Deadwood film, the indelible characters of the series are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.
The original series, which ran for three seasons from 2004 to 2006, was set in the 1970s in Deadwood, S.D., and followed the titular community before and after the area’s annexation by the Dakota Territory, as well as its growth from camp to town.
We can expect the film to take place in the early days of South Dakota’s statehood in 1889, when the Dakota Territory was admitted to the Union, entering the U.S. as the states of North and South Dakota.
Is This the End for Deadwood?
It’s still unclear whether there are plans to extend Deadwood’s run past the forthcoming feature. HBO never actually canceled the original run of Deadwood, but rather left the show’s pricey ensemble cast to pursue other projects. Milch confirmed in May 2006 that then-HBO chairman Chris Albrecht had offered to approve a six-episode fourth and final season, rather than the typical 12-episode order, but Milch passed, citing his bad experiences with such short orders on series like Hill Street Blues.
Milch had reportedly reached a deal with Albrecht in June 2006, before the cast’s contracts expired, which would have brought back the show for two two-hour specials the following year. Those plans obviously never ended up coming to pass, but we don’t yet know whether this forthcoming feature is the last we’ll see of Deadwood. Perhaps, even after all this time, Milch still has more up his sleeve.
What’s the Latest?
HBO shared Deadwood: The Movie’s first teaser on March 21, also revealing the film’s premiere date: Friday, May 31.
Tell your god to ready for more updates on the Deadwood movie.