Why Deadwood's Timothy Olyphant Feels 'A Little Ripped Off' By The HBO Movie

Timothy Olyphant in Deadwood: The Movie HBO

There are two things you can count on from Timothy Olyphant: Strong performances and strong opinions. One of his strong opinions is that he did not have a strong performance in the HBO series Deadwood. He has also been open about not initially wanting to return for Deadwood: The Movie, which finally premieres on May 31, 2019, more than 12 years after the Deadwood Season 3 finale aired in August 2006.

Just over a year ago, Timothy Olyphant thought there was "no fucking way" the movie was going to happen. He was also candid about saying he decided to return to the role of Seth Bullock for practical reasons-- he was available, it shot in a convenient location, and "the money was good."

You'll get no BS from Timothy Olyphant. So it's not a surprise that he was candid with his frustration about how long it took for HBO to get this movie off the ground and the demands put on Deadwood creator David Milch. There'd been talk about a TV movie wrap-up as far back as 2006, when fans were furious at the cancellation of the TV show. Fast forward a decade, and Milch revealed he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while writing the Deadwood movie.

Rolling Stone talked to Timothy Olyphant about HBO insisting on a locked script for the Deadwood movie, which kept David Milch limited in what he could change, as opposed to the last-minute alterations that were his hallmark in the TV show. Here's Olyphant's response:

To criticize my own personal feelings about where people are in their lives and what they’re going through, I feel a little ripped off. Because one of the great appeals of working with David is the chaos. And in the same respect of feeling like I don’t know why these fuckers blew this show up 12 years ago, there’s a tinge of me feeling ripped off that these fuckers didn’t get this thing going sooner. Because what I do miss, without getting too much in the weeds about why I may have not been as interested in this as perhaps others, I always thought if we’re going to do it, we should go back and give David the opportunity to do what he does best, which is multiple episodes.

Back in 2006, it was reported that HBO had offered David Mich a shortened six-episode Deadwood Season 4. Milch wanted the usual 12 episodes because he structured each episode to reflect a day in the life of the town. He didn't think he could wrap up the show in fewer episodes. Season 4 fell apart, but a deal was struck for two two-hour specials to wrap up the story without the previous timeline structure.

That was then. Now, in 2019, we finally have this one movie. Timothy Olyphant is clearly still frustrated that David Milch wasn't given the time and space to continue the story to fit his strengths as an episodic TV writer:

He’s one of the greatest episodic writers the genre has ever seen. And to some degree, my concern has always been, for our movie, what’s the fucking point? My recollection of what made the show great was never the plot. What made the show great was spending time with these characters, and that whatever characters were on screen, the show might as well be about them. And when you do a movie, you just don’t have the real estate.

Timothy Olyphant worried that the character development that made Deadwood so special would be ruined by the format of a movie.

So, nobody wants to see The Untouchables where the lady with the baby carriage at the train station has 20 pages of material, because you’ve got to take out 20 pages that goes to Eliot Ness and there lies the rub. Right? So, the idea of doing a movie of this show, by its very nature, my concern was, 'Are we not destroying the show? Are you killing the very thing by handcuffing it?' But all that being said, I’m glad I did it.

Yes, after saying all of that, he shared his reaction to reading each draft of the script. He said every page was filled with the poetry and the characters he loved from Deadwood. He was surprised by the beautiful writing that David Milch was able to pack into the movie. Ultimately, he said he didn't feel like it had been "diluted" at all, and you know he'd just say it if he thought otherwise.

Deadwood: The Movie is set in 1889, 10 years after the events of the Season 3 finale. We pick up the story as the town prepares to celebrate South Dakota joining the Union as the 40th state. Here's what the movie is about, per producer Carolyn Strauss to EW:

If you ask David, it’s about the passage of time. The toll of time on people. It’s mellowed some people and hardened others. And it’s about the town’s maturing and becoming part of the Union and what that event sets in motion, in a very personal way for the people that it brings in town and what ensues. The toll of time has not just struck Deadwood and the characters but all the people making it as well, you get to see the faces of people 12 years later. And it was really profound. Actors were crying at the table read — not necessarily from the script but the emotion of being back and doing something we all loved doing so much. You normally have a great experience and then it’s over. You don’t normally get the chance to do this in life. It was kind of a gift.

It is a gift to be able to go back and kinda sorta end a story on your own terms. Or close to the terms you wanted some 12 years ago. Check out the official trailer for Deadwood: The Movie:

Deadwood: The Movie premieres May 31 on HBO. And then, that's it, apparently. Hopefully Netflix fans can get some kind of movie or revival like this for Timothy Olyphant's The Santa Clarita Diet. He shared more of his trademark candor on that show's cancellation too.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.