Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, and Molly Parker were among those reveling in the long-awaited return to the Muddy Thoroughfare.
It was a red carpet premiere befitting a statehood celebration. More than a decade after David Milch’s acclaimed Western drama Deadwood wrapped its third and final season, the cast gathered at the Arclight Cinemas in Los Angeles for the premiere of Deadwood: The Movie, which tells the story of the town’s evolution 10 years later as South Dakota joins the union. Nearly two dozen castmates swapped their 19th-century costumes for high-end Hollywood attire as they came out to revel in the on-screen reunion many believed was as improbable as a quiet night at the Gem Saloon.
“I never thought this would happen,” said W. Earl Brown who played the bartender/bodyguard Dan Dority. “I was driving when I got a call saying we would return. I pulled over to the side of the road, put the car in park and cried. We didn’t have a final chapter. I wanted to absorb every minute that I could this time around.”
Emotions ran high throughout filming. “It was surreal,” said Ian McShane, who reprises his legendary role of Gem Saloon proprietor and prodigious foul mouth Al Swearengen. “It was an out-of-body experience because you got to go back to that set, that street, the memories of it.”
Since its ending in 2006, Deadwood has developed a cult following among fans and critics. Many of the actors, despite starring in other high-profile roles over the nearly 13-year gap between the series and movie, continue to be most identified with their indelible Deadwood characters.
“This is the role that people comment the most on when I’m walking down the street,” said John Hawkes of his portrayal of Sol Star, even though he earned an Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone in 2011. “Deadwood did not stop when we were canceled,” added Keone Young. “I lived the Deadwood life. I lived as Mr. Wu part of the time.”
Despite the long layoff, many in the cast said it was a seamless process to return to their roles and reconnect as a group — when they once again started speaking Milch’s one-of-kind Deadwood dialogue and wearing the show’s Civil War-era costumes.
“David is such a brilliant writer and he knows the voices so well,” said Kim Dickens. “To get the script it was great to read the language again.” Molly Parker referenced her wardrobe as key to reconnecting to her role: “There’s something about the costumes on Deadwood, I became Alma again when I put mine on.”
It was clear the on-set camaraderie didn’t end when the cameras stopped rolling.
“I underestimated the impact these people had on my life,” reflected Timothy Olyphant (sheriff Seth Bullock). “The biggest highlight was hanging on set. You’d like to think every set is like that, where everybody is ridiculously talented, the most amazing storytellers who don’t want to go back to their trailer, who want to just hang out and talk about the craft and talk about life. This kind of stuff doesn’t come around very often.”
Robin Weigert, who returns as the hard-drinking Calamity Jane, attributed the power of Deadwood to the cast and crew’s bond: “We all love David Milch so much, and we love each other so much. You couldn’t get us away from each other.” Added Paula Malcomson: “It has complicated characters, remarkably complex dialogue. It’s the most precious job I’ve ever had.”
As for the movie itself, it ties up loose ends and adds new twists, including how several characters have — or haven’t — grown with the changing times.
“Al hasn’t mellowed out, but he’s changed a little,” said McShane. “You can’t drink that much and not, you know? I hate to come back and play exactly the same character. We’re all older, wiser and better, we hope.”
Deadwood: The Movie premieres May 31 at 8 pm.