A Brief History Of Starts And Stops For The ‘Deadwood’ Movie’s Decade-Long Gestation


HBO’s Deadwood delivered three seasons full of gloriously profane violence — not to mention the launch of Timothy Olyphant’s reputation as a hat-wearing force with which to be reckoned — before the cable channel confirmed in May 2006 that the cast’s options would not be picked up for another round. Since that time, fans of the show have been periodically teased into oblivion with tidbits dropped by producers and cast members, who all hinted that … maybe … a movie was finally on the horizon?

Yes, the thought of a two-hour wrap-up of various storylines, or hell, even a two-hour, unbroken shot of Ian McShane’s Al Swearingen cursing (about whatever the hell suits his fancy) would be lovely. Yet this c*cktease (sorry, it’s the term that Swearingen would have preferred) has gone on far too long. Obviously, the cast has scattered far and wide, many of them finding new crashing pads on FX or, in the case of John Hawkes, scaring the bejesus out of audiences in various indie films. Would it even be possible to get the gang back together, even if a movie was actually greenlit?

Well, promises, suggestions, and hints are still dropping (including the latest from Robin Weigert, who played Calamity Jane), so let’s sort them out.

June 2006: Deadwood creator David Milch and HBO hash out an agreement to produce the wrap-up TV movie rather than pursue an abbreviated fourth season. At the time, Milch was satisfied that the show could do proper justice to finishing the narrative and doing his characters justice.

June 2007: HBO Co-President Richard Plepler admitted that the project wasn’t coming together as hoped, and he placed the chances of the TV movie coming to fruition at “50-50.”

October 2007: Ian McShane tossed cold water on the idea of the TV movie by indicating that the show’s sets would soon be dismantled, although this didn’t actually happen until 2010.

March 2009: McShane pointedly uttered these words to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show: “Deadwood is dead.”

March 2012: In an interview with Vulture, Milch admitted that he wasn’t optimistic about giving Deadwood its final due. “No, I don’t think so,” he said regarding whether the TV movies would be produced. “We got really close about a year ago. Never say never, but it doesn’t look that way.”

August 2015-2016: HBO and Milch begin circling each other again. Milch is given the go-ahead to pen a script with further confirmation from HBO Programming President Casey Bloys that words were flowing forth from Milch.

April 2017: McShane declared that Milch’s script was in HBO’s hands. “[The] two-hour movie script has been delivered to HBO,” McShane explained. “If they don’t deliver [the film], blame them.” McShane also said of the original cast that “we’d all love to do it,” and he was looking forward to the project.

November 2017: Despite HBO not yet officially greenlighting the Deadwood movie, TV Line reported that production was planned with a fall 2018 start date.

January 2018: HBO’s Casey Bloys confirmed to the Television Critics Association that fall 2018 was indeed the targeted beginning for production. Still, he added, “Assuming that we could get all the actors back together.” Bloys also added that he was waiting for a script rewrite from Milch.

March 2018: Timothy Olyphant got real (and in doing so, showed his own lack of optimism) while speaking with radio host Rich Eisen. “It’s very hard to get people together for a barbecue that lasts an afternoon,” Olyphant declared with tough love in his voice. “Let alone to get everyone together for a production that lasts a month or two.”

April 2018: The State of California reveals that they’re totally into the idea of a Deadwood reunion and hands the production a $4.195 million California tax incentive. Unfortunately, the incentive arrived with a 180-day deadline to begin production, a requirement that shall expire in October 2018.

July 2018: Robin Weigert talks to the LA Times about her role as Calamity Jane, and she apparently disclosed that “there’s a 90% chance it will finally happen.” After a decade, it’s hard to imagine that this project will materialize, but one best not disregard the word of Calamity Jane.