Despite garnering as much acclaim as a television show can possibly garner, The Sopranos has yet to see its cast members emerge as Hollywood players. Sure, Jim Gandolfini has the odd project lined up here and there, but many of the show's supporting actors got caught up early on in a weird loop of unintentionally hilarious Soprano rip-off movies, while others, like Drea De Matteo and Michael Imperioli, are snorkeling in a sea of bad television and worse. Meanwhile, the cast of a far superior show that HBO treats like a red-headed stepchild -- Deadwood -- is pretty much taking over Hollywood in 2007. If you're a fan of the show, you've probably already noticed your favorite players popping up in recent films like Miami Vice and Scoop. More Deadwood-approved fare such as The Wicker Man and Hollywoodland is opening in the next couple of weeks, and that's just the beginning. I count over 20 major, buzzed-about, A-list type films slated to open between now and the end of 2007 that will feature Deadwood denizens.
Since its too early to tell how substantial many of these parts will be -- Robin Weigert, who channels the drunken pistoleer Calamity Jane, has admittedly small roles in upcoming films like The Good German and Things We Lost in the Fire -- I'm confining this rundown to the projects that you might say are among the most buzz-worthy. So here's a selective preview of where to look for your favorite soon-to-be-unemployed Deadwood thespians. Enjoy, hoopleheads.
No Country for Old Men – This hotly anticipated Coen Brothers adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's violent Western thriller [with almost no coherent punctuation] about a cowboy versus a gang of drug dealers will feature Deadwood's resident changeling, Garret Dillahunt. After playing the droop-eyed, illiterate assassin of Wild Bill Hickok in the first season, Dillahunt made a stealthy return to Deadwood in season two as the bowler-wearing dandy and rank amateur prostitute murderer Mr. Wolcott. He's been conspicuously missing in action for season three so far and with only two episodes left to go, his return is not looking likely. Guess we'll have to wait for those miniseries things. In No Country, he plays a character named Wendell, whose very name sounds intriguingly Coen-esque. This one should be good.
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass – This is the only Ian McShane title I'm including in the list, since he already has seven films scheduled between now and the end of 2007. Needless to say, his role as the armor-plated blacksmith polar bear Iorek in the first part of Philip Pullman's dark trilogy about daemons and deicide should make for some of the most interesting voicework to come down the pike in a while. Watch for a hopefully awesome polar bear duel to the death between Iorek and Bear King Iofur. I'm personally mystified as to how this trilogy will survive the adaptation to film in the first place. Actually, I'm not -- word is they've completely scrubbed that little plot point about the children breaking into heaven and killing God.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Ron Hansen's psychological sketch of the last days of the James-Younger gang could have been filmed as Swimfan in the Old West, with its oh-so-modern take on celebrity worship gone wrong. But from the trailer, the film appears to be remarkably Sophoclean and fatalistic, a la Sam Mendes, which is some cause for hope. The fact that said trailer is also about 90 percent Casey Affleck and 10 percent Brad Pitt gives weight to the rumors that this will be seen as a star-making and possibly Oscar-worthy turn for Affleck, who plays the obsessed assassin Ford. Also watch for Garret Dillahunt as Ed Miller, another James partisan who is asked to leave the gang for being even more of a maniac than Jesse James himself. If you don't think he can pull that off, watch a little episode of Deadwood called Something Very Expensive.
Rambo IV - I'm skeptical about this one, not only because Sly Stallone decided not to follow up on the last film's storyline of war in Afghanistan -- not topical enough? -- but also because this film is going to be hit with the Superfluous Kid Virus, which is affecting major action franchises starring men over 50. To prevent "mono-generational appeal" as Entertainment Weekly calls it, Hollywood financiers now require any movie starring an old fogey to be paired up with some annoying brat from Generation Boring. If there's one thing Rambo doesn't need, it's an 18-year old punk making bad jokes while he's crawling through the tall grass towards someone who needs gutting. On the bright side, Rambo has a wife this time, and she will be played by Kim Dickens, known to you as Deadwood's most prominent lesbian whore, Joanie Stubbs.
American Gangster - I hate to be controversial, but the Scott brothers' collective resume is becoming a blur. Too many movies, too sloppily made, and that formerly deft touch at casting seems to have deserted them. Anyway, one of the Scotts is making American Gangster, a film starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, about a 70s drug kingpin who stashes llello inside the coffins of dead G.I.s returning home. Classy. Some have high hopes for this one, but for me the bright spot is a reportedly significant role that's been handed to John Hawkes, better known as Sol Star, Deadwood's Jewish store owner who longs to settle down with Trixie, the chain-smoking whore with a penchant for dispensing sage advice. We all remember the time she advised Alma Garret to quickly marry to cover up an illicit pregnancy, so that "the come's true author won't be thrown in the little boy's face."
Next - Philip K. Dick was very prolific, so I assume we have to put up with about 50 more years of movies being made from his various novels, short stories and grocery lists. This one is based on Dick's The Golden Man, about a gentleman with the ability to see into the future. When his rather unique gift becomes public knowledge, he is arrested and unlawfully pressed into the service of the government. They employ a 'greater good' logic to force him to sit around and do stuff like 'precog' the next terrorist attack. Jim Beaver, also known as Ellsworth, the luckless prospector and unloved husband to Deadwood's Victorian heroine Alma, will play a Joint Terrorism Task Force officer who has to keep Nicolas Cage sitting around and thinking up those terror plots instead of galavanting around with Julianne Moore.
Catch and Release - Susannah Grant, the screenwriter found guilty of writing Erin Brockovich, 28 Days and Ever After, is getting a shot at the big chair. She's not gonna let any more directors compromise her unique artistic vision, got it? Her first directorial effort, Catch and Release, will have Tim Olyphant, Deadwood's sheriff Seth Bullock, as the leading man. Don't expect to hear him call anyone a "pie-faced c-sucker" or see him tangling with his arch-nemesis, the soap-with-a-prize-inside street merchant. Instead, he'll have the job of romancing Jennifer Garner, who plays a recent widow who needs romancing. If you've heard about this movie already, it's probably because you're a Kevin Smith fan and you know that Smith has an inexplicable supporting role as the fat, wise and extremely un-silent best friend.