Aug 4, 2009


By Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit CBS Films is headed back to Dodge. The movie unit is developing a feature reboot of “Gunsmoke” and has hired “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” writer Gregory Poirier to pen the screenplay. Craig Baumgarten, who has produced such pics as journalist drama “Shattered Glass” and martial arts tale “Never Back Down,” will produce the new take. The action-adventure will re-imagine Marshal Matt Dillon, the hero of the classic Western, for modern audiences. The story will serve as a prequel, exploring how the characters came to be that way. It will be set in the same American West as the original but will feature a contemporary look and modern action twists. Poirier is said to be close to completing a first draft of the script. “Gunsmoke,” which holds the title of the longest-running primetime scripted drama (it had been the longest-running primetime series until “The Simpsons” eclipsed it this year), revolves around a number of characters in Dodge City, Kan., at the time of westward expansion. It focuses principally on three characters: Dillon, the crimefighting leader of Dodge; town physician Galen “Doc” Adams; and Miss Kitty Russell, owner the Long Branch Saloon. The show’s plot lines revolve around dramatic, sometimes gritty, events and a fair share of outlaws and desperadoes. Originally conceived and aired by Norman MacDonnell and John Meston as a CBS radio serial starring William Conrad as Dillon, “Gunsmoke” morphed into a CBS television series in 1955, with James Arness as the marshal. It received a boost from John Wayne, who was at the peak of his popularity and helped promote it. The series held the top spot in the Nielsen ratings for a number of years in the late 1950s and early ’60s and concluded its run in 1975, with much of the cast remaining on board throughout the 20-season run. The WME-repped Poirier is no stranger to action pics or frontier tales: He’s the scribe behind the upcoming Jackie Chan action comedy ‘The Spy Next Door” as well as Disney’s update of the stranded-family saga “Swiss Family Robinson.” The move marks one of the first attempts by CBS Films to plumb its vast television library for titles that merit a big-screen reboot. The Amy Baer-led division is set to release a number of pics during the next 12 months, including the medical drama “Crowley,” the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy “The Back-Up Plan” and the high school fairy tale “Beastly.”