In the ’50s and ’60s, TV westerns often dominated the primetime schedules, but by the early ’70s, they all seemed go by the wayside. Attempts to revive them haven’t been met with much success, save for the Maverick feature film starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner.
Now The Big Valley, the western series that launched the careers of Linda Evans and Lee Majors, is going to take a stab at a remake, with Susan Sarandon, Ryan Phillipe, Richard Drefuss, and Bruce Dern in key roles.
The Big Valley originally ran on ABC from 1965 to 1969. Barbara Stanwyck plays a widowed matriarch running a ranch in California. She has three sons and a daughter (Richard Long, Peter Breck, Charles Briles, and Linda Evans). Her late husband’s illegitimate son (Lee Majors) joins the clan as the series begins. The family’s youngest son, a medical student named Eugene (Briles), was written out during the first season.
Filmmakers Daniel Adams and Kate Edelman Johnson are behind The Big Valley feature under the banner Panther Entertainment. Adams has written the script and will direct, and Johnson happens to be the daughter of Louis Edelman, who helped create the TV series. It’s expected that the plot will borrow elements from the TV show’s pilot and some episodes. Edelman Johnson has said, “I am so thrilled to be filming this project, not only to honor my father and Miss Stanwyck, but to bring a great woman’s part to the screen as head of this historical family saga.”
Taking on the “great woman’s part” of Victoria Barkley is Susan Sarandon. Despite a very recent breakup with longtime beau Tim Robbins, Sarandon is as busy as ever, with The Lovely Bones being released late last year, the original film You Don’t Know Jack airing on HBO next month, and two more films, Peacock and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, being released later this year.
Additionally, Ryan Phillippe recently said that he would be filming a role in the feature. The actor also said that he’d be co-starring with Sarandon, Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Drefuss, and Bruce Dern.
According to IMDB, Jason Alan Smith will be playing hot-headed brother Nick. Phillippe will be playing eldest brother Jarrod but the movie’s Facebook page says that Thornton will not be in the film. Majors is scheduled to appear as patriarch Tom Barkley, though one would expect it won’t be an extended role. Breck is reportedly ill. No word yet if Evans will be asked to appear in the movie.
Filming is expected to get underway in May with principal photography in Michigan and New Mexico.
What do you think? Is the movie casting on track or do you have others in mind? Would you like to see Breck and Evans take part?