Deadwood star Timothy Olyphant has discussed his hesitation to return for the movie. It's been more than ten years now since Olyphant portrayed the honorable, but hot-headed lawman Seth Bullock on HBO's acclaimed western drama series. If anything, the actor's become more famous than ever in that time, thanks to his work on FX's acclaimed neo-western series, Justified, and his current role on Netflix's cult zombie comedy show, Santa Clarita Diet. He's also found room for several movie roles in-between his TV acting gigs of late, and even has a part in this summer's Quentin Tarantino offering, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
It's a good thing too since, for a while there, it was hard to tell if Deadwood: The Movie would ever actually happen. Olyphant himself doubted the revival would come to pass just over a year ago, after so many false starts and stops in the time since HBO cancelled the series in the mid-2000s. Fortunately, he turned out to be wrong and the movie finally went into production last fall, with Daniel Minahan directing from a screenplay by Deadwood creator David Milch. Before then, however, Olyphant's admitted he was hesitant to sign on for the project, even after it began to officially come together.
In a recent interview with TVLine, Olyphant talked about the Deadwood movie and his experience making the TV film. Before then, however, he revealed his initial reaction when he found out the movie was really going to happen at long last:
My mindset was, “S–t. I guess I’m going to have to make some kind of decision here.” It was a very curious process. I did not expect to be in the position to actually have to make a decision; I just assumed it would go away. It’s a curious [thing] deciding on whether to do a job when all of your old friends have already committed to it and you kind of think, “Well, I’ve never been in a position to be such an a–hole.” But it was [ultimately] a really wonderful process with [series creator/writer] David Milch and [director] Dan Minahan and [HBO]’s Carolyn Strauss. I had a lot of conversations with them. The whole process was quite rewarding.
As Olyphant put it, his concern was that the Deadwood movie would feel less like a fun high school reunion and more like "repeating your sophomore year". It's a perfectly reasonable concern, at that. After all, belated TV revivals are somewhat notorious for being fueled by nostalgia for the original show, more than anything else (see also: Arrested Development, Fuller House). For the same reason, they're generally hesitant to evolve their characters and sense of storytelling, making them feel like a stab at reliving some past glory more than an organic continuation of the series' narrative. Thankfully, Olyphant has confirmed that Bullock's not only in a very different place when the film picks up, but that the movie largely focuses on exploring whether he's truly changed and matured after all this time:
He was a character that was so defined by his rage. But now he’s got three children and he’s been married [to Anna Gunn’s Martha] for 10 years. And one of the central questions on the show is, “Has he gained any wisdom? Has that rage within him subsided? What will happen when he’s tested? Will he regress to the man he was, or will he be able to take a new path?” It allowed me to really enjoy returning to the character because I could try to answer some of those questions with the performance. It was almost like asking the same questions of myself.
All things considered, the Deadwood movie sounds like a worthy continuation of (and conclusion to) the original series so far, even after so much time. If nothing else, it's good to hear that Bullock hasn't simply been hanging around in Deadwood for all these years, and will find himself challenged in new ways when he returns to his old home, to celebrate South Dakota's newly-acquired statehood. Olyphant also confirmed to TVLine that the film revival will touch on Bullock's feelings for Alma Ellsworth (Molly Parker), and examine whether fate has anything left into the cards for the ex-lovebirds. Suffice it to say, there may be some heartbreak on the menu here, to go with all the profanity and violence that one expects whenever they pay a visit to good ol' Deadwood.
Deadwood: The Movie premieres Friday, May 31 on HBO.