From series creator David Milch and director Daniel Minahan, Deadwood: The Movie continues the story that first began in the critically acclaimed TV series that debuted 15 years ago. Celebrating South Dakota’s statehood has its own share of problems, when it comes to the inevitable changes that come with progress, and alliances are tested while rivalries are reignited and old friends are reunited. The movie stars Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, John Hawkes, Anna Gunn, Dayton Callie, Brad Dourif, Robin Weigert, William Sanderson, Kim Dickens and Gerald McRaney.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor John Hawkes (who plays Sol Star) talked about the long journey to finally getting this movie made, wondering if they’d ever actually get on set, why he thinks fans of the show kept pushing to make this happen for so many years, the concern about being able to recapture the magic of the original series, the joy of getting to see all of these characters again, whether he feels more of a sense of closure now, why he’ll always hunger for more, and what he’s loved about the opportunity to work with David Milch. He also talked about his experience working with Nicolas Winding Refn on the Amazon series Too Old To Die Young, and the unusual process for making that.
Collider: I’m so happy and excited to be talking to you about more Deadwood because, as the years passed, most fans, including myself, doubted and worried that we’d ever get to see this much talked about movie, so I’m just thrilled that it’s here.
JOHN HAWKES: Yeah, and believe me, we were all feeling the same. There was some guarded optimism, but mostly a lot of that feeling of loss, that it’s gone and there won’t be any more. But, here we are.
This is something that’s been talked about for years. Were there times, over the years, that you thought it actually was getting close to happening, or did you always just feel like the day that you walked on set would be the day it was actually happening?
HAWKES: Yeah. I started out, as a professional actor, doing theater, and I heard a stage manager tell me once, “In the theater, you don’t have the job until they buy the shoes your character will wear.” So, we kept waiting for them to buy the shoes. Like I said, it was a very guarded optimism, whenever any of those rumors came along. It would even go so far as occasionally getting a call from your agent or manager saying, “They’re thinking about doing it, I don’t know, about a year from now. Will you be available? Is it something that you’re interested in?” And I was always of the mind to say, “Yes,” immediately, and that I would try to find a way to do it, whenever it was happening. There were a few false starts along the way, definitely. There were opportunities that fell by the wayside, with the show, but we got there. They bought the shoes, and we made it, and here we are.
Even when you finally actually got a script, were you still like, “Okay, we have the script now, but that still doesn’t mean we’ll actually get on the set”?
HAWKES: Yes. Every human being deals with this, but it might be heightened for actors, just the promise, in your mind, of how things will go, around your career or a certain project, more specifically, and then you’re disappointed. Most of us, in show business, if we’re going to last in this field, have a strong constitution, just to deal with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak, and that builds a guarded optimism. I always want to be a positive person, allowing good things to happen around me and trying to make them happen, but this was a frustrating one, along the way. With every year that past, it became less and less of a possibility, in my mind. And so, when it finally did happen and I got the script, yeah, I did have the feeling of, “Well, there’s a script, but will we really do it? We’ve been close before.” It’s such a gorgeous script, and I was elated when I knew it was real, and that we were finally there and getting ready to go.
Every show has to end, at some point, and a lot of shows end before their time. What do you think it was about Deadwood that, even as year after year passed, kept the fans wanting more, and made the cast all willing to come back?
HAWKES: Well, I just think it speaks to David Milch, and down the line. They’re such an extraordinarily talented group of people, from the writers and directors to the craftspeople. Maria Caso, who designed the whole show for those three seasons, and then came back and did the movie, is brilliant. And Janie Bryant, the woman who created all of that wardrobe, is phenomenal. It’s something that we all loved doing. Part of it is maybe the period and the uniqueness of the project, in that way, with its look, its sound, its feel and its smell. I don’t know. Everybody was just keen to go. Like you say, a lot of shows end early, and there was something almost fitting about Deadwood just stopping because that’s how life was then. It just wasn’t satisfying and perfect. It’s messy, in that way. But to get a chance to come back and really put a cap on it was gratifying, and I hope it will be, for fans of the show. Out of all of the projects that I’ve ever worked on, this is the one that people most have asked about, over the years. “Hey, when’s Deadwood coming back,” is something I’ve heard a lot – daily and weekly – depending on where I was going. That was something that was interesting to me. I was thinking, “It’s been 10 years, 11 years, 12 years since the show’s been on, and people still are fascinated by it and want more.” So, I was really relieved, when I saw the movie, that I felt like we really did put a beautiful cap on it. If somehow there was going to be more, I’d be the first one at the Melody Ranch gate, ready to shoot some more. Who knows what will happen. This may be the end, but it’s a good end if it is.
Were you ever hesitant, at all, or worried, that there would be no way to recapture all of this, especially so many years later, or did you always feel like, with the words of David Milch, it would happen?
HAWKES: Yeah, well, I figured it would happen, but I didn’t know necessarily how we would do. It’s been a long time. This isn’t an episode of the show. It’s a different animal, to make a movie of our show. That had different rules and stipulations, as far as how we would tell the story, but I feel like we got there. By my count, I feel like it’s at least two dozen actors, and so many craftspeople and crew people, and producers, directors and writers, who have all returned to tell this story. I don’t know how it happened. It’s pretty miraculous, but we did it. And as much as I loved the actors that I got to know, over the time of the show, and got to really care about, when I got the script, it was really moving to just suddenly see their characters. I love their characters so much. There was Calamity Jane riding in on a horse and talking, and there was Al Swearengen waking up after a bad morning and feeling ill, and there was Sheriff Bullock walking down the street. Suddenly, all of these people were alive again. It was a very strangely moving experience to just read the script, before we began to shoot, because I realized these people were not dead. I’d gone to some wonderful parallel universe, where all of these people were alive again, and I got to watch them live again. It’s beautiful.
As much as I loved seeing these characters return and the cast playing them again, and I’m truly grateful to have this movie, it makes you long for even more time with them.
HAWKES: Me too.