The film has yet to receive an official title, but director Lawrence Kasdan is confident it will be a hit. "It's not only an epic tale, at its heart, Gunsmoke has always been the intimate story of a broken man who tries to make a difference. Those are the kind of stories we love to tell. Some of Hollywood's best talent contributed to the show, both on radio and television. Many people believe John Wayne was offered the badge, but that's not the case. He did, however, recommend James Arness. So much so, he filmed a video promo in 1955 for Gunsmoke in which he praised Arness."
Who's wearing the badge, now? Kevin Costner was the first name considered. "We worked together with Kevin on Silverado," said Producer, Mark Kasdan. "He is so perfect in westerns, but he was busy with other projects. We considered a lot of other big name actors, but I had to have someone who had both the physical presence of James Arness and the inner turmoil as portrayed by William Conrad during those radio years.
"Finally, we found who we needed, by accident. I was flipping channels one day and The Watchmen was on. If you've never seen it, it was taken from a series of graphic novels. It's a gritty, alternate take on the whole super hero genre. Anyway, the character of 'The Comedian' was larger than life, dark and, in my opinion, stole the show. And I couldn't help but see him swaggering around with a western hat, a holster and spurs -- I knew I found my Matt Dillon in Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He's powerful in every role he plays."
Other roles were easier to cast. Casting Director, Sally Gold told TheDiggerer, "We got lucky with most of our actors. Scarlett Johansson, one of the busiest woman in Hollywood these days jumped at the chance to play Miss Kitty. It's almost uncanny how similar she looks to a young Amanda Blake. We couldn't be happier to have her. Tommy Lee Jones actually petitioned to play the grumpy and enigmatic 'Doc'. He knew the Kasdans were holding out for Kevin Kline, so Tommy Lee started offering bribes... what other choice did I have!"
Asked if we would be seeing Chester or Festus, or even Burt Reynolds' character, Quint Asper, Gold was reluctant to answer. "These characters were always written as replacement side-kicks, or assistants to Matt. That's not to disparage the actors, they all brought something unique to their roles. However, the structure of a weekly series replacing actors over the years is very different to making a full-length movie. We want to focus on our main character and be true to his story. That said, I don't think fans of the old series will be disappointed, at all. At least, I hope not."
Gunsmoke was considered to be a more adult western series portraying a brutally realistic and mature take on the old west. Although, only hinted at in the radio and tv series, several of the characters had dark, troubled pasts. "Dillon was almost as scarred as the homicidal psychopaths who drifted in the Dodge from all directions." said series writer, John Meston. "Doc dueled and killed a man in Virginia. It was self-defence, but the guilt drove him out west. Kitty, of course, was a prostitute. She was later written to be a kindly business woman and owner of the Longbranch, but that was only to keep the censors off our backs."
Will America flock to see another Western, a remake of a TV show, at that? Martin Kasdan thinks so, "Violence is up and gun sales in the United States are at an all-time high. I think it's a no-brainer that America is ready for another era of great Westerns."
Gunsmoke opens in Theaters, November, 2014.