David Milch, battling Alzheimer’s, finally finishes ‘Deadwood’

We just discovered this report on Vulture.Com. We’re glad to know that the Deadwood film is in the can, but all in all, the following is sad news for, well, everybody:

by Matt Zoller Seitz

eadwood creator David Milch says he always had faith that his HBO Western would someday get to wrap up its story, even as more than a dozen years have passed since its surprise cancellation in 2006. But he also had doubts. Only when the cameras started rolling on Deadwood: The Movie — a TV movie set ten years after the show’s last episode — could he exhale. “Let’s just say that the exigencies of the business threw up a series of roadblocks over the years,” says Milch, walking along the main thoroughfare at Melody Ranch Studios on a cold December night, his wife, Rita, by his side. “Somehow, they were all surmounted.”

When the sun goes down on Melody Ranch — a Newhall, California, production facility that has hosted many film and TV Westerns — a sense of isolation creeps in. You can hear the wind rustling in the wooded hills, and every now and then a coyote yelps or an owl hoots. It’s easy to imagine that this outdoor soundstage, with its temporarily dormant camera tracks and arc lights, is truly the place it pretends to be: a dirty, lawless camp that became a town in a territory that’s now on the cusp of becoming a U.S. state (South Dakota), its populace more civil than when the series was canceled but still wild at heart. Horses are tied to hitching posts. Their handlers hang nearby, checking texts and griping about the storms that have just pounded Southern California. The rain flooded the interiors of most key locations, sparing only the Gem Saloon, where Deadwood’s legendary gangster, pimp, and all-around power broker Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) holds court.

That’s where the Milches are headed. It’s the second-to-last day of the shoot, and they’re filming a scene with Swearengen; his disabled housekeeper and ward, Jewel (Geri Jewell); and his former employee and sort-of consort, Trixie (Paula Malcomson).

Milch is here to watch, not interfere. He was a notorious micromanager during Deadwood’s original run, ordering reshoots if he didn’t like the way a scene was playing and dictating new dialogue from the sidelines for the cast to repeat. McShane has spoken of top-to-bottom rewrites being handed to actors just before the cameras rolled, the pages still hot from the copier.

This time, Milch is entrusting the day-to-day execution to his collaborators, among them the director Daniel Minahan, a series veteran, and his co–executive producer Regina Corrado, who started out as a writer on the series in 2005.

But his serenity is also the by-product of a greater urge to let go and accept what life has in store, even if it’s not what he asked for.

It’s here that we come to the matter of David Milch’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Milch started to worry that something was amiss five years ago, when he and his friends and relatives noticed more instances of “imperfect recall and tardy recall and short temper. I became more and more of an acquired taste,” he says. The writing process became harder too. There was, he says, “a generalized incertitude and a growing incapacity.” About a year ago, Milch got up the nerve to have a brain scan. The news was not good.

“As best I understand it, which is minimally, I have a deterioration in the organization of my brain,” he says. “And it’s progressive. And in some ways discouraging. In more than some ways — in every way I can think of….”

Read it all at Vulture.Com