Creator of HBO’s Deadwood, David Milch, has revealed that he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The somber announcement comes just ahead of the premiere of Deadwood: The Movie, set to air next month.
Hailed as one of the most exceptional TV dramas of all time, the western series set in the 1800s follows the townsfolk of Deadwood, South Dakota - a town riddled with crime, corruption, and commotion. Imbued with historical truths and fictional elements, Deadwood was conceptualized by Milch, who also produced and primarily wrote the show. The raw and powerful HBO original series was mainly noted for the cast’s powerhouse performances. Starring Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane, Deadwood’s ensemble also included, Molly Parker, W. Earl Brown, Brad Dourif, Robin Weigert, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, and Kim Dickens. After three compelling and award-winning seasons, HBO canceled Deadwood in 2006 due to budgetary issues. Milch - along with fervent fans - kept faith in a Deadwood resurrection to give the show a proper conclusion. After a decade of negotiations with HBO and aligning the stars of the series' schedules, Deadwood: The Movie is bringing fans back to the Old West. Penned by Milch, stars of the project have raved about the script - calling it Milch’s best work ever. However, due to his diagnosis, the film's premiere will be bittersweet.
Milch revealed in an interview with Vulture what it's been like to live with his diagnosis. Once pegged as a micromanager during Deadwood’s original run, Milch has eased up on the reigns of the production process for the film. Notorious for demanding reshoots and last-minute script changes, Milch often found difficulty sharing creative control. For the film, Milch invited series veterans David Minahan and Regina Corrado to assist in the daily operations and creative duties. Milch first noticed trouble was amiss five years ago. Family and friends began to notice his “imperfect recall and tardy recall and short temper”. A brain scan last year confirmed that Milch has Alzheimer's disease. He spoke of his diagnosis:
As best I understand it, which is minimally, I have a deterioration in the organization of my brain. And it’s progressive. And in some ways discouraging. In more than some ways - in every way I can think of.
Milch has also opened up about how he believes his father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease near the end of his life. He said of the realization, “That was a while ago, and the diagnosis was not as sophisticated or specific, but in retrospect, he exhibited all the symptoms of the illness.” Despite his prognosis, Milch has remained passionate for the course of Deadwood: The Movie. He also plans to continue writing. Milch’s wife has declared he shows no signs of slowing down and expressed, “I compare it to a musician who can still play and has access to the memory of how to do that and is still able to exercise his talent. The brain is David’s most exercised muscle.”
As the sun sets on Deadwood, Milch is shedding light on a tragic disease. Milch joins other celebrities coming forward with health issues, including Jeopardy!’s Alex Trebek's cancer diagnosis and Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke suffering from near-fatal aneurysms. While they join numerous others suffering from the same diagnosis, representation is important. Celebrities help bring awareness, and opening up about their experiences can provide hope, and perhaps funding, towards fighting back. HBO has declared their support for the creator of one of their most iconic shows, and fans eagerly await the reveal of Milch’s brilliant work in the film version of Deadwood.