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The ‘Deadwood’ Movie’s Long, Bumpy Road to Fruition: A Timeline

Now that David Milch finally—mercifully, even!—has a green light from HBO, let’s remember the darker times when it felt like this day would never come

HBO/Ringer illustration

HBO programming president Casey Bloys confirmed the news during the Television Critics Association summer press tour, telling the room of eager TV critics that the project has officially been green-lit. The tentative plan is to begin shooting in October, with a spring 2019 release date.

It’s been an arduous journey to get here, from the show’s initial, critically lauded three-season run from 2004 to 2006 to the vicious cycle of what-ifs surrounding the possibility of a feature-length film to close out the Western saga. The talks of a Deadwood movie had been on and off for over a decade. In honor of the Deadwood movie probably, most definitely, mercifully coming to fruition, let’s remember the worse times and recall the fickle timeline of this movie’s development, which probably elicited as many F-bombs from fans as Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen delivered on the show. Hopefully none of this is an omen.

June 2006: Deadwood Is Not Dead

After a brief three-season run, HBO announced that it planned to produce two two-hour Deadwood specials. The dismantling of the Deadwood set—a typical measure after a show ends its run—was even reportedly halted so that it’d be available for the movies. (Fun fact: Room’s Jacob Tremblay was born in 2006; the Deadwood movie has been in development for as long as Jacob Tremblay has been alive.)

April 2007: Let’s Film Two Movies This Year! (Or Not!)

Though several Deadwood actors had moved on to other shows since the end of Season 3—including the multiple actors who dropped by the Lost island—series creator David Milch was hopeful that production for two feature-length Deadwood companion movies would begin in the second half of 2007. “We’re very optimistic about the outcome of that work,” he said.

Actor W. Earl Brown, meanwhile, told fans that he hadn’t yet been approached by HBO through an update on … his Myspace account. That’s how long ago all of this happened. “At this juncture,” Brown wrote on a social media platform that Tom probably doesn’t even use anymore, “they’ve yet to move beyond the category of mere rumor.”

July 2007: OK, Actually, the Odds Are 50/50

With the Deadwood movies already beginning to lose steam, then-HBO copresident Richard Plepler put the chances of the films being made at “50/50.” It certainly didn’t help matters that Milch was now homed in on his new drama, John From Cincinnati, which debuted on HBO the previous month.

Obviously, Milch didn’t have the benefit of foresight, but as the Deadwood movie odds began to slip, John From Cincinnati was canceled in August after just one season.

March 2009: “Deadwood Is Dead” —McShane

Appearing on The Daily Show, McShane told host Jon Stewart, rather succinctly, that “Deadwood is dead.” If you know anything about McShane, this is a very on-brand and restrained way to be like, “No, please fuck off with these Deadwood questions, thank you.”

January 2011: David Milch Still Has Hope

“I don’t know that the last word has been said on the subject,” Milch told Esquire. “I still nourish the hope that we’re going to get to do a little more work in that area.”

Milch also confessed that, despite having created one of the medium’s preeminent Westerns, he still hadn’t watched the Coen brothers’ True Grit. Honestly, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Jeff Bridges wear an eyepatch, so that was a bad judgment call on his part.

March 2012: “Never Say Never, but It Doesn’t Look That Way” —David Milch

“David, are we ever gonna see those Deadwood movies?” Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz asked the showrunner in 2012. “No, I don’t think so,” Milch responded, breaking thousands of hearts that had already gone through years of indecision on the matter. “We got really close about a year ago. Never say never, but it doesn’t look that way.”

We got really close about a year ago. And to think, we’ve still got six years to go until an actual green light.

August 2015: HBO Considering Deadwood Resurrection

An HBO spokesman told Variety that “very preliminary discussions” were afoot for a Deadwood movie. Is this Groundhog Day?

January 2016: “It’s Going to Happen” —HBO

“David has our commitment that we are going to do it,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told TVLine. “He pitched what he thought generally the story line would be—and knowing David, that could change. But it’s going to happen.”

At this point, it had been a full decade of Deadwood movie rumors; the HBO programming president resolutely saying it was going to happen was perhaps the biggest news to hit yet. Granted, Lombardo actually left his post at HBO a few months after saying this, which probably didn’t make Deadwood fans feel too confident about his promise. But still, all Milch really needed to do at this point was deliver a script.

April 2017: David Milch Has Delivered a Script

McShane told TVLine that Milch had a script for a two-hour movie that’d been sent to HBO, and the actor was hopeful that the stars would align and this Deadwood follow-up could finally get off the ground. Yes! Now here’s hoping the actors will be able to—

March 2018: “There’s No Fucking Way It’s Ever Going to Happen” —Deadwood Star Timothy Olyphant

The actor, appearing on Watch What Happens Live with host Andy Cohen, admitted he was a “cynic” but that he also didn’t expect the Deadwood movie ever to happen—if only because it’s hard just getting everyone (McShane, Kim Dickens, Jim Beaver, Molly Parker, etc.) in the same room. “It’s too hard to get people together for a BBQ!” he exclaimed.

“I am hopeful,” he added. “That being said, there’s no fucking way it’s ever going to happen.”

July 20, 2018: We’re 90 Percent of the Way There!

To really stoke the Deadwood movie rumor flames, Calamity Jane herself, actress Robin Weigert, told the Los Angeles Times that “there’s a 90 percent chance it’ll finally happen.” Given that the Deadwood news would be confirmed by HBO just five days later, Weigert was probably tempering her estimation a bit because, good lord, a dozen years had already passed since this was supposed to happen.

July 25, 2018: IT IS HAPPENING

THIS IS NOT A DRILL! Congratulations to all the Deadwood fans, who can hopefully be treated to a proper conclusion and a two-hour film in the spring of 2019. I pray for your sanity that I do not need to update this post with a “Well, actually …” at any point in the future. Now, bring out the goddamn peaches.