Bass Reeves and Hollywood

Jason Johnson costars as fictional Sam Tanner beside Isaiah Washington as Bass Reeves in the Western Corsicana. The film’s production was delayed because of the pandemic in 2020 and is currently back in production in 2021. – Courtesy Robert Johnson Productions –

The real law-and-order hero’s long and Winding road to cinematic and television fame.

Interest was generated in Hollywood on Western lawman Bass Reeves after the publication of my first book, Black, Red and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870-1907, in 1991. The longest chapter in the book is on Bass Reeves. The first phone call I received interested in Bass Reeves was from actor Lou Gossett, who had just won an Oscar for An Officer and a Gentleman. Shortly thereafter, my book was optioned periodically by actor Don Johnson, Suzanne de Pass, Sinbad and Maury Povich, in that order, all looking to make a film or series on Bass Reeves. Nothing came to realization regarding film development.

When my Bass Reeves biography, Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves published in 2006, actor James Pickens Jr. optioned that book. It was later optioned by Morgan Freeman and his company, Revelations Entertainment Inc., and has currently found a home at a streamer for a television series. In 2015, two docudramas were made about Bass Reeves for cable television, the first was from FOX Television, produced by Bill O’Reilly for his Legends and Lies Western series, “Bass Reeves: The Real Lone Ranger.” Bass Reeves was portrayed by the actor D. L. Hopkins. The second docudrama was from the Discovery Channel for the second season of its Gunslingers series, and was also titled “Bass Reeves: The Real Lone Ranger.” Bass was portrayed by Joseph Curtis Callender with onscreen remarks by
True West magazine editor Bob Boze Bell and me.

In 2017, Bass Reeves was intelligently portrayed by Colman Domingo in the NBC series Timeless in the fictional episode titled “The Murder of Jesse James.” In January 2020, the independent small-budget movie titled Hell on the Border was released. It was filmed in Alabama and starred David Gyasi as Bass Reeves as the lead character. The movie had a weak plot and was not historically accurate. Another independent small-budget movie was directed by and stars Isaiah Washington as Bass Reeves. This film, titled Corsicana, based on a fictional storyline had a December 2020 release date but as of this writing had not yet been viewed by the public or critics.

Joseph Curtis Callender starred as Bass Reeves in the AHC docudrama Gunslingers episode, “The Real Lone Ranger.” Author Art Burton, along with True West’s columnist Johnny D. Boggs and executive editor Bob Boze Bell all participated as commentators for the episode that explored the legendary connection between Reeves and the mythical Lone Ranger.
– Courtesy AHC –

Chloe’ Zhao, an award-winning movie director stated that she was writing and developing a Bass Reeves biopic movie to be produced by Amazon Prime. Netflix is developing a fictional Black Western movie produced by Jay-Z, who also is providing music, for a 2021 release titled The Harder They Fall. This film uses the names of various Black characters of the real Western frontier, including Nat Love, Rufus Buck, Jim Beckwourth and Cherokee Bill. Noted film actor Delroy Lindo will possibly portray lawman Bass Reeves.

British actor David Gyasi (left) portrayed Bass Reeves in the movie Hell on the Border. The 2019 film was written and directed by Wes Miller and filmed on location in Alabama. – Photo and Poster Courtesy Lionsgate –
Jamal Akapo appears as Bass Reeves and Louis Gossett Jr. (left) as Will Reeves, the fictional son of Bass Reeves in HBO’s alternate-history series Watchmen.
– Photos Courtesy HBO –
Actor, producer, stuntman, historical reenactor Ernest Marsh (left) stars as Bass Reeves in The Righteous Twelve, the latest Reeves Western in production in 2021. Marsh is currently considered the leading historical Reeves reenactor.
– Courtesy Avondale Productions –
Colman Domingo starred as the lawman Bass Reeves in the NBC series Timeless.
– Courtesy NBC Television –
Writer-director Jeymes Samuel directed an ensemble cast in his 51-minute, 2013 Western short, which featured veteran actor Harry Lennix as legendary lawman Bass Reeves.
– Courtesy Tidal Productions –
Writer-director Marlon Ladd starred as Bass Reeves opposite Derek Ray Duncan as Ben Carver in the 2017 movie Bass Reeves. Ladd, who was also executive producer, made the short film on location in Oklahoma. – Courtesy Marlon Ladd Productions –
Guy Davis was cast as the famed deputy U.S. marshal in “Bass Reeves and the Brunter Brothers,” a 2017 episode of Tales of the Wild West. An unexpected plot twist has Davis’ Reeves partnered with Richard Cutting’s Wyatt Earp in tracking the wanted (and fictional) Brunter Brothers.
– Courtesy Amazon Prime Video –

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