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With 'Gunsmoke' movie, several A-listers could get into Dodge

February 4, 2010 |  2:09 pm

The job of Dodge City peacekeeper is proving to be one of the most desirable assignments around.

Several top-flight actors are in the running to play Marshal Matt Dillon, the lead lawman in CBS Films' big-screen adaptation of the classic Western television show "Gunsmoke" that starred James Arness.

Guns Brad Pitt has emerged as a top contender for the role, with Ryan Reynolds also a candidate for the juicy, gunslinging part.

As incarnated first on the mid-century radio serial and later in the CBS prime-time hit, Dillon is the Western hero charged with maintaining law and order in a period Kansas town filled with colorful vagrants, misfits and desperadoes. He carries on in these adventures with the help of town physician Doc Adams and tavern owner Miss Kitty Russell.

The studio is high on Pitt, who with his turn in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is one of the few boldface names to star in a Western. Reynolds, who is believed to like the Dillon role, is also on the studio's list. After recent lighter turns, Reynolds has remade himself as an action lead, preparing to shoot the titular role in "The Green Lantern," about the magic-ringed superhero who attempts to keep global peace.

Several other actors are said to be in the mix for the Dillon part, which offers the dual appeal of playing an action hero who also has depth and period cachet. But complicating the situation is the fact that a director has not signed on yet, with CBS Films talking to filmmakers concurrent with its casting discussions. (Typically, a director is attached before an actor comes on board, except for the rare instance in which a star drives a project forward.)

Arness played the role of  Dillon for 20 years on the small screen. It's worth noting that he got the role after a bake-off of sorts too, besting William Conrad, who played the character in the radio version and who was said to be disappointed for many years after losing out to Arness on the television part.

Gregory Poirier, who  wrote "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," has written a draft of the "Gunsmoke" feature script, which the studio is said to like.

The fledgling CBS Films is keen to develop an action tentpole that also has built-in name recognition and sees "Gunsmoke," which it owns as part of its television library, as fitting the bill. Studios in general have a growing penchant for taking classic tales and giving them a modern action sensibility -- as Warner Bros. did, to strong box-office effect, with Sherlock Holmes at Christmas.

CBS Films wants to contemporize the look and feel of "Gunsmoke" while maintaining the period American West setting, though some observers have asked whether modern theatrical audiences will have an appetite for Westerns.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Buck Taylor (l.), James Arness, Milburn Stone and Ken Curtis in "Gunsmoke." Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (47)

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Josh Brolin might be good for Matt. He is rugged and a good actor. Not a pretty boy and not so modern-day Hollywood that he couldn't fit the 1870's Dodge City period.
Let's face it, no actor around today has the stature and bearing of Jim Arness, but Josh Brolin would be more believable thank anyone else.

Whay doesn't CBS go with an unknown Actor to play Matt Dillon? Say like a real Cowboy that really knows something about Kansas and Dodge City.
Someone who grew up in that era and grew up around Horses. The real McCoy.....so to speak. The Actor needs to a little older.

Robert: don't get your hopes up. CBS has already said it will be "reimagined for modern audiences" and with a "modern feel" and "modern action". That means it's going to be a cheeseball action flick written by a guy whose only claim to fame is having written a cheeseball action flick, and featuring no plot whatsoever, simply a long string of special effects.
There is no way that this will turn out to be outstandingly cast, excellently written, or made with any attention to historical accuracy whatsoever.

This is not an easy cast to duplicate. You can't recreate perfection, you'll have to take another spin. The only cast that immediately comes to mind is Anthony Hopkins for Doc. A few years back, I would have probably picked Shirley Maclaine for Kitty. One thing is for sure, if they try and pick a politically correct cast, they will ruin this. That's the rather drastic mistake they made with the remake of "Wild Wild West". Someone like Morgan Freeman as the town blacksmith could fit though. Stay away from slavery, it's an unnecessary distraction.


Yes, unfortunately, you’re absolutely correct. Occasionally, as in “Last Chance Harvey”, someone comes along who actually has something to say. But, those days are long gone for Hollywood. Of course, it was a different period then and thinking went beyond your loins. A nation is meant to develop into sophistication. Unfortunately, we’re going backwards in that respect. If one examines the historical fall of all the great nations, one outstanding fact is exemplified: The decline in arts. If you examine what passes for music these days, we’re just about exactly where Rome was, just before they fell.


"""CBS Films wants to (contemporize) the look and feel of "Gunsmoke""""

Statements like this always give me the shivers when I hear a studio trying to redo an already successful classic adaptation.

Brad Pitt? Wish they would just do a new western project and call it something else.

Brad Pitt(small build) as Marshal brings to my mind the Marshal character Clevon Little played in the movie Blazing Saddles.


Yeah, political correctness run amuck. Still, you could pull it off with a young cast, but you'll need the right spin. Something like an historical fantasy voyage. Something like what they pulled off in "The French Lieutenant's Woman". You'll need the right chemistry in the cast and a director who knows where he's going. Yeah, Brad's a stretch for Mat. Mat Dillion is probably better; But, I like Brad. I could get it out of him.


The only current day actors to be cast for the Gunsmoke remake are: Tom Selleck as Matt Dillon, Robert Duvall as Doc Elliot, and Sam Elliot as a combination Chester/Festus, and Miss Kitty should be Sandra Bullock. Get real folks, Brad Pitt is way too pretty and too short to be Matt.

The suggested actors to play the roles, sound like a joke!
They are all skinny she-men with mussels. Something James Arness wasn't.

OK here is the cast for the remake of Gunsmoke:
Marshall Matt Dillon: Al Bundy (Ed O'Neil)
Festus: PeeWee Herman (Paul Reubens)
Doc: Howard Stern
Miss Kitty: Courtney Love
Newly: Ben Stiller
Judge Brooks: Jim Carrey
Louie (town drunk): Bill Clinton
Burke: Rush Limbaugh

I am Milburn Stone's Grandson and would like the opportunity to audition to play "Doc" in the upcoming movie. I have the acting ability and knew how my Grandfather played the role and what it meant to him. I spent many hours on the set of Gunsmoke and my granfather was a teacher as much as he was a great guy "always true to his character". I hope someone is reading this who can give me a shot. It would be good media exposure for the movie to actually have a family member play the part of his grandfather!

How about Micheal Dudikoff. I worksd with him in a movie called The Shooter, with Randy Travis. He has that James Arness look.

Tim Gleason:

Actually, that's not a bad idea. It would definately give promotion a twist and the movie spark of reality. Of course, you would actually have to be good. You should post a headshot.

BobTim Gleason:

Actually, that's not a bad idea. It would definitely give promotion a twist and the movie a spark of reality. Of course, you would actually have to be good. You should post a head shot.


Brad Pitt, sorry, I love the guy but just don't see him as Matt Dillon, it doesn't matter how good an actor he is. The Matt Dillon that James Arness created over a 20 year period is iconic and Ryan Reynolds comes much closer to that image of Matt Dillon that is in everyone's head. Unless you are going to stay true to the Gunsmoke image, go get your own ideas and story lines and leave Gunsmoke alone.

Tim Gleason-
I think you would be great as the new "Doc" but I don't remember you as an actor when I knew you 32 or so years ago.

"Stay away from slavery, it's an unnecessary distraction."

I imagine it was for the enslaved. See, THAT'S what I wanna see: how you gonna make a cowboy picture without the folks who were the TRUE cowboys. I know y'all like to think of cowboys as symbols of manly freedom, but the reality puts that archetype to the lie. Cowboys were mostly knockabouts, many Natives or Black runaway slaves. A wild frontier town like Dodge would be, if not full of these folks, at least a sizable population. But that wouldn't fit with the popular narrative...PEACE.

I am a huge gunsmoke fan, and while I love Brad Pitt, I think Chris Pine from the Star Trek movie would be a great choice for the role of Marshall Dillon.

You know, strange things do happen. Martin Landau read a script by a nobody and took a shot and let this kid direct. The movie comes out shortly. I'll bet it's good. You need a fresh approach on something like this. Perhaps there's an adventurer out there, just like Landau.

Any update on the possibility of a Gunsmoke movie, given the success of True Grit? ;)

NOBODY could play the part of "Doc" better than me. I am Milburn Stone's Grandson and spent many hours on the Gunsmoke set while growing up. I studied acting in high schol and college and had hundreds of conversations about various Gunsmoke scripts and how "Doc" reacted to various situations . My Grandfather would often explain how "Doc" would handle a complicated scene and would explain just how "Doc" would never say anything that was not within his nature or personality. I even look like my Grandfather and know his mannerisms. I could do this!

Re: Tim Gleason. I knew Tim in the army 40 seats ago, and I remember that he could do a spot on impression of his grandfather, Milburn Stone, and he looked quite a bit like old Doc Adams, too. Good luck TIM, I know you could do a fantastic job in that role.

If they do the movie I'd love to see Clint Eastwood directing it. The man knows how to do a western properly. I think Timothy Olyphant is a good choice.

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