History’s miniseries The Hatfields and McCoys: An American Vendetta has lined up Bill Paxton to play Randall McCoy opposite Kevin Costner’s “Devil” Anse Hatfield. Those who remember the dueling westerns known as 1993’s Tombstone (in which Paxton costarred as Morgan Earp) and 1994’s Wyatt Earp (starring Costner in the title role) may get a special kick out of that. I’m now dreaming of a miniseries filled with Tombstone actors in one clan and Wyatt Earp actors in the other. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hatfield-McCoy tale, here’s a history lesson from the network:
The Hatfield-McCoy saga begins with “Devil” Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy. Close friends and comrades during the Civil War, they returned to their neighboring homes — Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy just across the Tug River border in Kentucky — to increasing tensions, misunderstandings and resentments that soon exploded into all-out warfare between the two families. As hostilities grew, friends, neighbors and outside forces joined the fight, bringing the two states to the brink of another Civil War. Their story also includes: a tempestuous love affair between Hatfield’s son and McCoy’s daughter, which had disastrous consequences; the execution of McCoy’s three young sons in retaliation for the Rasputin-like murder of Hatfield’s beloved brother; a New Year’s Massacre of the McCoy clan and burning of their home, which also sparked international headlines; a public clash between state governors; and ultimately the involvement of the United States Supreme Court.
Also enjoyable: Kevin Reynolds will direct the miniseries. You may recall that he famously quit Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves after butting heads with Costner and producers over the star’s screen time. And then there was Waterworld. ”In the future Costner should only appear in pictures he directs himself,” Reynolds told EW in 1995 after ceding final cut of the film to Costner. ”That way he can always be working with his favorite actor and his favorite director.” Obviously they’ve made up. Last year, they announced plans to reteam for the feature spy comedy Learning Italian.
I’m excited for The Hatfields and McCoys, and not just for the potential for a behind-the-scenes high noon. I remember sitting in the movie theater watching Open Range, thinking how beautiful it looked on the big screen, and wanting to thank Costner for keeping the Western alive. Even on the small screen, I’ll take it.