June 18, 2004
I got quite a bit of response from the question I posed at the end of yesterday’s blog. Here’s a bit of it:
“That was a bulls-eye question. DEADWOOD would have lasted maybe two episodes and been yanked.”
“And the actress who plays Trixie the whore also portrayed Allie Earp in Tombstone. And Brad Dourif, who plays the crusty old Doc, is the voice of Chucky the killer doll in the Child's Play movies. Let's see Tom Selleck match that!”
“I've been internet surfing on Deadwood and found a terrific interview with Ian McShane (who by the way, has been a teetotaler for 17 years!) in which this is a presentative quote: "Autry would be spinning in his f.....grave if he knew the kind of Western we were making on his ranch." [many of the outdoor towns scenes are filmed on the Autry ranch] He used f....as many times in the interview as his character does in Deadwood.”
“Well, if you replaced great actors with mediocre ones you'd have mediocre actors making great dialogue seem bland. What's the point?” —Allen Barra
Well Allen, the point is, there is a Western industry (actually more of a fraternity that hangs out at the Golden Boot Awards), and they maintain the Western’s “standards” and carry the banner of the Classics, promoting Westerns that are clean and pure (little or no cussing, good American values, etc.). And many of us have believed that the heritage of the "stalwarts" (Harry Carey, Jr., Sam Elliott, Tom Selleck, Bruce Boxleitner, Melissa Gilbert to name but a few) are the essential ingredients to make a popular Western. Everyone I know constantly invokes John Wayne and Roy Rogers, etc. as if to say, "That's how you do it. That's how you bring the Western back. Just repeat what they did." And yet, here's a show, Deadwood, which is rudely profane, has New York trained actors (McShane is from England), created by the guy who created NYPD Blue. Incredible. I would never have green lighted it.
We did a two page spread in the February 2003 issue of TW (Get Ready for a Bonanza of New Westerns!), and in it we trumpeted these upcoming projects:
• Open Range, Kevin Costner, did decent biz, $60 mil.
• Westworld, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, never made
• The Last Ride (retitled: The Missing), Ron Howard. Huge bomb!
• Hidalgo, Viggo Mortensen, earned back its costs ($110 mil). May go into profits on DVD
• Bounty, sci-fi Western to my knowledge never made
• The Lone Ranger, I think it ended up on cable, sank like a stone.
• Muraya, Eddie Izzard, based on the cult Western graphic novel Sgt. Blueberry, hasn’t been released and don’t know if it was even made.
• Men of Destiny, John Woo was going to do the plight of the immigrants on the building of the railroad. Don’t know status. If it came out, it flew by me.
• The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise, huge box office, some $417 mil the last time I looked. In retrospect not really a Western.
• Six Shooters, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meet the Civil War. Never released that I know.
• Montana, don’t know nothin’ about it.
• Then Came Jones, ABC spent $5 mil on a pilot. Never heard if it ever aired.
• Peacemakers, Tom Berenger, CSI lands in the Old West. Did okay, but not good enough. Cancelled.
• And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, Antonio Banderas, aired on HBO and got decent ratings.
• Deadwood, we said at the time, “HBO has tapped David Milch to create an edgy, hard-hitting Western.”
He did, and his show is nothing short of a sea change. And I'm sitting here looking at my magazine going, "Deadwood is a key that unlocked the door to the question: how do you get anyone beyond old people, interested in a Western?”
And on the other side of the ledger, The Alamo was too historically accurate for its own good. Totally Old School.
So what are the elements that made this weird, profane and profound show different and attractive? Some five million people are hooked on this show. I am paying attention. Are you?
“He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks.”
—Francois De La Rochefoucauld
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