While it may be hard to believe, actor Robert Duvall said his role in “Lonesome Dove” almost went to another hugely popular Western star.
In a 2014 interview with Cowboys & Indians magazine, Duvall recalled that he had a few rivals for the role of Gus McCrae other than actor Tommy Lee Jones. During pre-production, the producers considered casting another actor in the role of McCrae.
“My agent at the time was managing James Garner, who was the first one they offered it to,” Duvall said. “So I said, ‘If you can get James Garner to switch parts with me, then I’ll be interested.’
“Well, they came back and said, ‘He has health problems. He can’t ride a horse for six or eight weeks,’” Duvall said. “So I got the part.”
‘Lonesome Dove’ was based on the book by the late author Larry McMurtry
“Lonesome Dove” was based on the book by Larry McMurtry, which was published in 1985. He won a Pulitzer Prize for the book. Jones would play Woodrow F. Call in the 1989 miniseries. McMurtry died in March 2021.
Fans of classic television today recognize Garner as private detective Jim Rockford from his appearances on “The Rockford Files.” However, Garner also appeared in western movies like “Support Your Local Gunfighter” and the TV show “Maverick.” On July 19, 2014, Garner passed away at the age of 86.
“Lonesome Dove” was a novel that focused on growing old, as well as life and death on the frontier. It originally aired over four nights on CBS. The miniseries won seven Emmy Awards and was nominated for 18. In addition to Duvall and Jones, other cast members included Danny Glover, Anjelica Houston, Diane Lane, and Robert Urich.
Many of the scenes for the miniseries were shot at Moody Ranch, near Del Rio, Texas.
Costumes from the miniseries are available to view
If you’re ever near San Marcos, Texas, you might want to stop by Texas State University.
The college is home to “Lonesome Dove” props, costumes, and other memorabilia. It has its own display as part of the Wittliff Collection. The exhibit is open to the public, so fans of the miniseries can view these original works.
Screenwriter Bill Wittliff helped put this collection together. Wittliff pulled some strings with cast and crew members to donate props and artifacts to Texas State University for display.
Another intriguing side is that John Wayne made a movie out of this. Yes, “The Duke” was set to play Call in the “Streets of Laredo” script at that time. But it never materialized. McMurtry envisioned the concept of it as a movie starring Jimmy Stewart as Gus and Wayne.
So, McMurtry took the script and turned it into a novel. One that stands the test of time even to this day.
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