The Tudors and Vikings creator Michael Hirst has branded his upcoming big budget Billy the Kid drama a “new kind of western.”
Delivering a keynote as Series Mania closed for the day, the revered British historical film and TV director described Epix/MGM’s project, which is being handed its world premiere in the Series Mania International Competition, as a “pre-Western that starts just before the West we’ve seen before.”
The epic romantic adventure charts Billy’s life from his humble Irish roots and early days as a cowboy and gunslinger in the American frontier, to his pivotal role in the Lincoln County War and beyond.
Hirst described the show as “more intimate, lean, lyrical and character-driven” than his previous work, which has included Showtime’s The Tudors, History’s Vikings and several other historical pieces.
“I’ve loved this deeply and I’ve loved Billy since I was seven so I’ve redeemed my childhood,” he added, during a one-hour career masterclass.
“People think they know something about Billy but they don’t know he was a sensitive guy and someone who took his moral compass from his mum. So the drama is about immigration, Americans kicking out Mexicans from their land and all sorts of things but above all it’s a human story and Billy is at the core of it.”
Hirst heaped praise on lead Tom Blyth (The Gilded Age) and the “rare” opportunity to cast someone who looks similar to the historical figure he’s playing.
“We looked in many countries but Tom kept coming back into our consciousness,” Hirst added, saying he “kept throwing stones in [Blyth’s] path and he kept responding,” such as when he told Blyth Billy the Kid needed a good singing voice and Blyth responded with a “video of him singing beautifully and playing guitar.”
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