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A Different 'Dove' Takes Flight at CBS : Television: Follow-up to the hit miniseries based on Larry McMurtry's novel features a nearly all-new cast and bears 'no relation' to author's own sequel.

April 22, 1993|DANIEL CERONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the nearly two years since CBS Entertainment President Jeff Sagansky told a press conference that the network had signed the original cast of the smash Western miniseries "Lonesome Dove" to star in a sequel for 1992, word about the project has been quieter than a tumbleweed blowing through a ghost town.

Finally, however, cameras are scheduled to roll in June, most likely in Montana, on "Return to Lonesome Dove," to air on CBS in November.

But not with the original cast.

What's more, the TV sequel will not be based on anything written by Larry McMurtry, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was the source of the original 1989 miniseries--even though Simon and Schuster will publish McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" sequel, "Streets of Laredo," in August.

In fact, the two sequels tell completely different stories set almost 20 years apart. And McMurtry thinks CBS may be setting itself up for criticism from disappointed fans, once they discover what he says are inconsistencies in the two stories.

"The stories have absolutely no relation to one another. None," McMurtry said. "I have to emphasize that. I wrote one, John Wilder the other. And mine will come out first. So if America loves the book, and then sees the discrepancies between the two stories, too bad. The onus is on them, not me."

Veteran TV writer Wilder's "Return to Lonesome Dove" picks up where the original miniseries left off. After bringing the cattle safely from the Rio Grande to Montana, the retired Texas Rangers become embroiled in a range war over wild mustangs.

McMurtry's novel "Streets of Laredo," on the other hand, takes place nearly two decades later, in Mexico. Capt. Woodrow Call (the character played on TV by Tommy Lee Jones), now an aging bounty hunter, is hired by a railroad baron to capture a crafty Mexican boy who robs trains.

At this point, the only original cast member who appears to be doing "Return to Lonesome Dove" is Rick Schroder.

Last year, Anjelica Huston was considering coming back if the script was strong enough. Now, her spokeswoman said, Huston simply doesn't want to do another sequel after filming "Addams Family Values." Diane Lane, meanwhile, is pregnant and will not return.

New cast members include Jon Voight, to replace Jones, and Louis Gossett Jr. in a new role, with a promise of more high-profile cast members still to be announced. Robert Duvall's character, in case anyone forgot, died in the first miniseries.

Robert Halmi Sr., who is producing CBS' sequel, denies reports in the industry that problems getting a satisfactory script delayed the start of production and soured original cast members on returning. "A seven-hour epic just takes a long, long time to write," he said. "Whenever something is announced, and it takes a while to happen, people start thinking this and that. It just takes time to do something well."

But at least one original cast member, Jones, apparently declined to do the second miniseries because of the script.

"Tommy was not in any way brought in and consulted and made a part of developing this thing, which Sagansky felt he was," said Michael Block, Jones' agent at ICM. "But he really wasn't. When he read the completed script, it was so different to him in spirit than what ('Lonesome Dove' screenwriter) Bill Wittliff had so aptly adapted from McMurtry, that he said, 'Not for me, guys.' "

Halmi said that McMurtry was closely involved in the development of the sequel to ensure there were no story conflicts with his forthcoming novel. When Halmi's RHI Entertainment purchased the TV rights for "Lonesome Dove," the deal included rights to use McMurtry's characters for a sequel.

Halmi also said that RHI will turn "Streets of Laredo" into a third miniseries. And after that, RHI plans to make a "Lonesome Dove" prequel, a TV series based on the young lives of the Texas Rangers before they were introduced in "Lonesome Dove."

But McMurtry and his literary agent, Irving Lazar, tell a different story.

First off, McMurtry said that while he was a consultant to "Return to Lonesome Dove," his input consisted primarily of "craftsman-like" advice. As a result, there are what McMurtry perceives to be possible inconsistencies between the two sequels, including the death of a major character and the marriage of another in his novel that are not reflected in the script for the miniseries.

Furthermore, McMurtry and Lazar insist that Halmi has not purchased TV rights to "Streets of Laredo." The author is seeking $500,000 for those rights, and Halmi's highest offer came in at $300,000, Lazar said.

"When we sold the book originally, we sold it giving them a right to the sequel," Lazar said. "At that particular time, before it won a Pulitzer Prize, we were not in a very good bargaining position, because they weren't making very many Westerns at all." The miniseries was a ratings smash and subsequently was repeated twice by CBS, released successfully on videocassette and shown on cable's TBS.

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