What A-List Actor Will Smell ‘Gunsmoke’?

Hollywood has been remaking old television shows into big screen adventures for years now. It’s been a trend with limited success, and every time you think it’ll die off with something like The Mod Squad,  we get news of another Charlie’s Angels or a big screen McCloud.

Lately, there’s been a weird interest in reviving tv westerns.  Last August, CBS Films announced they were developing a feature film based on Gunsmoke, the legendary series that ran for an exhausting 20 seasons.   Prior to television, it ran for nearly ten years as a radio serial.  No one could get enough of Marshall Matt Dillon back in the day, and apparently he’s due for a modern makeover.

Despite having its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Gunsmoke was quite edgy for its time. Long before John Ford or Sergio Leone,  Norman MacDonald and John Meston sought to dismantle the cutesy, archtypical Old West that had been seen up until then. They wanted a harder, cruder hero and a more realistic and brutal West. Their Marshall Matt Dillon was no hero in a white hat, and the Dodge City he patrolled was full of shady and violent characters.

It was aimed at adults, and was one of the first radio shows to depict scalping, prostitution, opium addiction, and massacres. Dillon killed a heck of a lot of people, and his creators proudly said that he was as scarred and dangerous as the villains of Dodge City.

When the series moved to television, it was still geared towards adults, and didn’t shy away from the rougher material. The body count was high, and the characters spent a lot of time drinking in the saloon. Television only softened a few of the characters such as Miss Kitty, who was more of a businesswoman and less of a prostitute.

But it was such good material that CBS tried to give John Wayne the role of Dillon, but he refused to “step down” to the level of television.   Nevertheless, he was willing to film an intro introducing the show, and its star, James Arness.

So, the series is certainly meaty enough for a modern remake and it’s no surprise that it might attract some big names. According to The LA Times,  CBS is hoping Brad Pitt might sign on to play Dillon.  He’s tackled the genre before in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford,  and Legends of the Fall proved he looked pretty good on a horse.

Ryan Reynolds is also on the studio’s list for Dillon, and unlike Pitt, he’s reportedly very interested in the character.   He’s trying to make a new name for himself in action and drama, and tackling a character like Dillon would cement him with moviegoers uninterested in Hal Jordan.

The LA Times hints that several other actors are interested, but doesn’t name them.  At this point, Gunsmoke only boasts a script by Gregory Poirer of National Treasure: Book of Secrets’ fame, and no director.   The whole thing could collapse tomorrow, particularly since moviegoers are already complaining about its unoriginality.

Still, I think a Gunsmoke remake could be cool, particularly for the right actor. It doesn’t seem fair to let the Western genre die out once the icons had their fun, and I think audiences are still hungry for a shoot ’em up that isn’t weighted down with real history.  Then again, should Gunsmoke be revived when fans of Deadwood are still waiting for closure?

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  • Savannah moore
    August 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Well gunsmoke was the original dead wood, secondly with writers like the famed gene Roddenberry the time tested classic plot line would be fantastic as a tv show today.secondly they should revive broadway is my beat, suspense, the whistler jonny dollar & x minus one as well, or at least roll all of lights out and obverse work Into a miniseries

  • Markus
    June 19, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Is this movie yet avaiable on DVD?

  • maurice
    May 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I am already looking forward to a DVD release with a running
    commentary option featuring comments by James Arness, Pam
    Polifroni, Andrew McLaglen, Buck Taylor, Morgan Woodward,
    Angie Dickinson,Burt Reynolds.

  • lee
    March 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    I’m a huge fan of the Westerns Channel episodes of Gunsmoke (1 hour b/w), which was the period of time when a young Burt Reynolds appeared for a short time as the blacksmith. Many forget that James Arness was not an A-lister when he was offered the role of Matt Dillon, but he surely did the role justice. I’m not sure how tall Ryan Reynolds is (TVs Matt is bigger ‘an a foot and a half tall), but he looks pretty “Dillon-like” in the b/w photo above. I am almost looking forward to the movie version now…

  • Gus
    February 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Why does CBS think they need to have a big name actor in this remake of Gunsmoke. Why don’t they use a real cowboy from Kansas that knows a lot about Dodge City and grew up watching Gunsmoke. I have never been an actor but would love the chance to play the part. I have the scars and knowledge from raising Horses for over 25 years and have lived in Kansas all of my life. All of my relatives live out by and in Dodge City, Kansas. Make an unknown a star. You need a real cowboy for this not a Hollywood “A” Actor as you call them.
    Sincerely,
    Gus

  • Dan
    February 9, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    The reason that Gunsmoke was a popular as it was, I believe, is that it was not a “shoot-em-up” in the way westerns were at that time (1955)

    Human relationships were the primary focus of the show and guns were drawn at least on Marshall Dillon’s part, only in self-defence.

    There were a number of shows where there were no gunshots at all.

  • Keith
    February 9, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Hi,

    My name is Keith and I am a actor. I would like to know where to go to find out about auditions for this project when it comes out. Can you help me with that??? I would really like to be a part of this production… Thank you for your time and the best always.

    Sincerely,

    Keith

  • Nick
    February 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

    How about Matt Dillon as Matt Dillon? 🙂

    — Nick
    from City of Kik
    http://nickleshi.blogspot.com

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