Fans of "Deadwood" are thrilled we're finally getting a movie follow-up to the acclaimed series. But it's bittersweet for the series creator, David Milch, who revealed to Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz that he's in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Milch started noticing something was wrong about five years ago, when he noticed he had "imperfect recall and tardy recall and short temper. I became more and more of an acquired taste." He says writing also became more difficult.
Then, about a year ago, Milch finally got a brain scan and received the devastating news. "As best I understand it, which is minimally, I have a deterioration in the organization of my brain," he said "And it’s progressive. And in some ways discouraging. In more than some ways — in every way I can think of."
He realizes, looking back, that his father probably had the disease as well: "That was a while ago, and the diagnosis was not as sophisticated or specific, but in retrospect, he exhibited all the symptoms of the illness."
Reassembling the "Deadwood" cast was tricky, and it sounds like the knowledge that this might be the last time that this particular cast and crew work together comes through on the screen.
Writes Seitz, "Milch’s Alzheimer’s is insinuated in fleeting exchanges — as when Brad Dourif’s Doc Cochran asks Al [Ian McShane] what day it is and he mistakenly says Tuesday when it’s Friday. The tale is suffused with a melancholy acceptance of the passage of time and the certainty of aging and death."
"You walked on the set, everybody was the same again, except they were older,” McShane said of getting everyone back together for what is likely the last time. “But this time, when you finished a scene with them, you were actually saying good-bye."
Milch hasn't said he's retiring. His only announced project right now, however is his autobiography.
His wife Rita explained that Milch's having written all these years give him an advantage other people might not have. "I compare it to a musician who can still play and has access to the memory of how to do that and is still able to exercise his talent,” she sad. "The brain is David’s most exercised muscle."
"Deadwood: The Movie" airs on HBO on May 31.