Ian McShane, <EM>Deadwood</EM> Ian McShane, Deadwood

This Sunday at 9 pm/ET, HBO shuts the saloon doors on Deadwood with a series finale in which, the press notes say, "Deadwood turns out to vote, Alma makes a deal, and Utter receives one body for Hearst, who demands to see another." In other words, more of the frickin' good down-and-dirty times that fans have come to love and look forward to. So why even say goodbye to this town full of ne'er-do-wells?

Ian McShane suggests, "It was a very expensive show to do." Expounding on that thought, Swearengen's portrayer says, "On Deadwood it's 15 working days, usually, to do a show, and that was one of the contentious reasons why I think the show was abruptly halted."

Halted, yes, but it also was exalted, by critics as well as viewers. "You'd think with the acclaim it got, we could've reached some kind of finish," McShane shrugs. "And we will, in two two-hour movies" tentatively scheduled to start production in May 2007.

Pressed by TVGuide.com for any early whiffs about what the Deadwood movies will cover, McShane comes up empty, saying it's business as usual with series creator David Milch. "We never see scripts [well ahead of time] when we do the show, never mind the movie," he chuckles. "No, David's got it all in his head, so the script appears maybe a day, two days before[hand]. An e-mail will suddenly come up and there's pages in there."

Above and beyond what happens in the series finale, will Deadwood, in its final four hours' worth of movies, go out with an appropriate #@%$ing bang? Some major, defining, and perhaps calamitous event? "Well, you know, David has his way of doing things," McShane tells us with a wink. "The real Deadwood," he notes, "burned down twice, so I think he'll have it burn down."

As for Swearengen's own fate, McShane says the real-life basis for his alter ego "died in the Denver stock yards, broke, in 1899 and nobody seems to know why. When you look at the history of Deadwood, there's a lot more known about other characters than about Swearengen, except that he was married twice, divorced twice and was a wife-beater. A terrible guy. But David has taken the myth and the truth about all the characters and tried to make them serve each other.

"As John Ford once said," McShane relates, "'If you're going to print the truth or the myth, print the myth. It's much better.'"

Send your comments on this article to online_insider@tvguide.com. 

With special thanks to Edward Douglas at ComingSoon.net