You already know Lonesome Dove is one of my all-time favorite movies. Even though Dead Man’s Walk didn’t awe me in the same way, I haven’t been as excited about a mini-series or a movie release in a long time as I am about the upcoming Comanche Moon. Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn, Rachel Griffiths, Karl Urban, Linda Cardellini, and Wes Studi star in this new six-hour mini-series based on the book by Larry McMurtry. It’s the final chapter in the “Lonesome Dove” saga to be made into a movie, and will be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 13, Tuesday, Jan. 15 and Wednesday, Jan. 16 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT, each night) on the CBS Television Network. To help you get the time line straight in your head: Chronologically, this story takes place after Dead Man’s Walk, and before Lonesome Dove, and is of course taken from the book by Larry McMurtry.
Steve Zahn realized he had some big shoes to fill when he was cast as Gus McCrae, who was previously played by Robert Duvall. “Duvall played this incredible character; it was almost as if you were playing Teddy Roosevelt,” Zahn says.
ER fans will recognize Clara, as Linda Cardellini, better known to us as “Sam” on the hospital set. Talk about some big shoes to fill! Angelica Houston played Gus’s love in Lonesome Dove and a very young Jennifer Garner was cast in Dead Man’s Walk.
Comanche Moon follows Texas Rangers Augustus “Gus” McCrae (Zahn) and Woodrow F. Call (Urban), now in their middle years, as they continue to deal with the ever-increasing tensions of adult life: Gus with his great love, Clara Forsythe (Cardellini), and Call with Maggie Tilton (Banks), the young prostitute who loves him and bears him his son, Newt (Joseph Castanon). Val Kilmer plays Captain Inish Scull, a Yankee aristocrat and hero of the recently concluded Mexican War. Rachel Griffiths plays Inez Scull, the Captain’s sexy wife who doesn’t hesitate to fill her time with other men when he’s away from home. Wes Studi plays Comanche Chief Buffalo Hump.
Two proud but very different men, McCrae and Call enlist with a Ranger troop in pursuit of three outlaws: Buffalo Hump, the great Comanche war chief; Kicking Wolf (Jonathon Joss), the celebrated Comanche horse thief; and Ahumado (Sal Lopez), a deadly Mexican bandit king with a penchant for torture. Assisting the Rangers in their wild chase is the renowned Kickapoo tracker Famous Shoes (David Midthunder). They are joined by their comrades-in-arms, Deets (Keith Robinson), Jake Spoon (Ryan Merriman) and Pea Eye Parker (Troy Baker), in the bitter struggle to protect an advancing western frontier against the defiant Comanches who are determined to defend their territory and their way of life. The Rangers also encounter Buffalo Hump’s violent outcast son, Blue Duck (Adam Beach).
I read the blog of a hairstylist who worked on the set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conditions were tough, with wind storms every afternoon and altitude issues. The team had to turn young rodeo riders with crew cuts into 1880s Native Americans. They did so with wigs, glue, tape and pins. Black hairspray was needed to cover the highlights of the women. The stylists learned to make scalp locks – braids that hang from the crown of a man’s head. Ten hair stylists and ten to fifteen make up artists worked on hundreds of cast extras in a tent on the side of a mountain. Make up and hairspray billowed out the sides of the tent. Wish I could see something like that one of these days. Behind the scenes are my favorite parts of DVDs.
An article by Wolf Schneider in Cowboys and Indians Magazine says: “By all accounts, the most dramatic sequence in the six-hour miniseries Comanche Moon is going to occur at the end of Night One as more than a hundred Comanche Indians thunder down the plains toward Austin on horseback, hell-bent on revenge. The scene will continue on Night Two with the warriors raiding the Texas town. In real life, many of the Indian riders took buses down from Montana to New Mexico to gallop into the battle bareback with mere rope bridles.”
“It was beautiful and terrifying,” says executive producer and co-screenwriter Diana Ossana. “It’s going to be very powerful—coming over the ridge and into town. And then there’s this great sequence where they’re riding out of town after they’ve captured all the horses. It’s really like nothing you’ve ever seen. The men painted themselves and their horses, and it was part of their getting into the moment and feeling their power.”
With scenes like that, Val Kilmer couldn’t resist signing on. He hadn’t done network television before, although he has appeared on HBO’s Entourage and a Gore Vidal-scripted Western for Turner. One draw of this particular prequel may have been the fact that it was filmed so close to Kilmer’s property in Pecos, New Mexico, that he could arrange for some of the scenes to be shot on his ranch.
Director Simon Wincer and producer Dyson Lovell, who directed and produced Lonesome Dove respectively, served in those roles on Comanche Moon.
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SET YOUR TiVo! CBS January 13 – 15 – 16