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Yellowstone prequel 1883 was extremely tough to film

  • "Making a western is a little like building a time machine out of wooden planks, leather straps and canvas sheets," says Noel Murray of the Paramount+ spinoff of Yellowstone. "But when the cast and crew of the new Paramount+ series 1883 headed into America’s frontier past, some wondered if they would ever make it back. The show’s writer-producer (and sometime director) Taylor Sheridan created 1883 as a prequel to his popular Paramount Network series Yellowstone, which tells the present-day story of John Dutton (Kevin Costner), an aging Montana rancher trying to hold on to the enormous spread his family has owned for generations. Premiering Sunday on Paramount+, 1883 is a Dutton origin story, following the original settlers of the Yellowstone land as they endure the hardships of the Oregon Trail, accompanied by European immigrants and a few skilled frontiersmen. Telling this story required a challenging five-month shoot that is still going — it began in August in a 100-degree Texas swelter and is continuing into the single-digit chill of winter in Montana. The locations have been remote, the days long, and in striving for authenticity Sheridan and his team have pushed themselves to the limit. Calling from the set while putting the finishing touches on the 10-episode series — at press time, shooting was scheduled to wrap in early January, a few weeks after the first episode debuts — Sheridan recalled one particularly draining day when they struggled with something pioneers did all the time: piloting a wagon across a river." Sheridan says: “Here it is the 21st century. And of course we choose a small river. But what we found out is that it’s still almost irresponsibly dangerous. And that’s with multiple stunt people and with us practicing it for weeks on end...Fortunately, no one got hurt. But it was a pretty dicey deal.” Faith Hill, who co-stars with husband Tim McGraw, says: “It is without a doubt, and Tim will say this as well, the most physically and mentally challenging thing we have ever done. It is a beautiful portrayal but I mean, it’s real.” Even Sam Elliott, a veteran of dozens of TV and movie westerns, found 1883 "difficult" to film. “We’re getting it onscreen, and in the end that’s what matters," he says. "This is really going to be something special.”


    • Why make the first Yellowstone spinoff a prequel? And why set it so far in the past?: "The pioneers have never been portrayed accurately," says 1883 creator Taylor Sheridan. "Many of the pioneers came from Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia, and they hired guides to take them West. They didn’t speak the language. They’d never seen a horse. They’d never held a gun. And they had no idea that this land actually belonged to another group of people. But Native Americans were not the greatest threat to the wagon trains. If you look at the leading cause of death along the trail, No. 1 one was falling off the wagon. No. 2 was disease. No. 3 was bandits. Native Americans were, like, sixth."
    • Sam Elliott says filming 1883 has been "wonderful and grueling at the same time": Elliott recalls Sheridan telling him, “You’ll hate me at the end of this thing." Elliott adds: "There is no chance that is ever going to happen. But it’s a tough shoot. We shot in Fort West for almost two months in 106-degree temperatures. Montana was the complete opposite. Bitterly cold and freezing. Taylor is a brilliant writer. He is a genius. It is really inspiring on a lot of levels...I have been in this game a long time; this is my 54th year in my career, and I have never worked on anything like this in terms of the scope and size. There are more horses, more wranglers and more production people than I’ve ever worked with. I’ve never worked on a show that has six cameras operating at the same time and a helicopter in the air. They’re getting their money’s worth. Our directors on this thing were cinematographers that Taylor bumped up from Yellowstone. So they understand what they are looking for through the lens. It does not look like a television show by any means. They are not making a television show here, even though they say there are. It is a 10-hour story."

    TOPICS: 1883, Paramount+, Yellowstone, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott, Taylor Sheridan