“It’s an American ‘War and Peace'”

Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford, who shared the big screen in The Mosquito Coast, are reunited 36 years later on the small screen in 1923 – the Yellowstone prequel series, Taylor Sheridan’s epic, century-spanning saga continued by the Dutton family of ranchers.

Sunday night’s series premiere drew 7.4 million viewers across Paramount+ and linear TV shows — the streamer’s most-watched premiere of all time in the United States.

“We signed without reading the script, with a sense of faith and conviction [in Sheridan] and that he would do something extraordinary,” Mirren, 77, told The Post. “I see this as an American ‘War and Peace’ – a look at this vast arc of American history through the intimate eyes of the people who were directly involved in the making of this story.

“I don’t see this as a ‘franchise,'” Mirren said of Sheridan’s Dutton universe, which includes last year’s 1883, which stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as James and Margaret Dutton. “I see it as an extraordinary essay on American history in a way that would not have been possible years ago. We look at history much more critically now.”

As the title suggests, 1923, streaming on Paramount+, unfolds after the end of World War I and the early years of Prohibition. Mirren stars as Irish-born Cara Dutton, with Ford as Jacob Dutton, brother of her late husband James, who later married Cara and took over the family ranch in Montana.

Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as Jacob and Cara Dutton.  They are standing by a ranch fence post;  Jacob has his arm around Cara's waist.  He is wearing a rancher hat and she is wearing a flowing gray dress.
Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as Jacob and Cara Dutton in 1923.
James Minchin III/Paramount+
Helen Mirren as Cara Dutton.  She is wearing a hat and her gloved hands are on her waist.  She has a serious expression on her face.
Helen Mirren as Cara Dutton.
Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Co-stars include James Badge Dale as John Dutton Sr.; Darren Mann as son of John Sr., Jack; Michelle Randolph as Elizabeth Stafford, Jack’s fiancé; Brandon Sklenar as Spencer Dutton, a battle-hardened WWI vet estranged from family and hunting game in Africa; Brian Geraghty (creepy Ronald from Big Sky) as Zane, the trusty foreman at the Duttons ranch; and Sebastian Roche as Father Renaud, the headmaster of an American Indian school (which ties heavily into the “1923” storyline).

“Cara is a survivor. She is a fighter. That has to be her,” Mirren said of her on-screen alter ego. “She is very much the product of an immigrant in this country of immigrants who has to put her eggs in this basket. That’s the nature of immigrants – they didn’t have a return ticket, they had to try here, they just had to do it, and it still is.

“Her marriage to Jacob is a true partnership.”

The eight-episode series was shot on location in Montana, which played a big part in setting the contextual tone, Mirren said.

“The American landscape always blows my mind; Everywhere in America that I go, it’s so beautiful and huge and overwhelming,” she said. “The last day of shooting, it was freezing, 25 degrees, and snow… and I was at the top of Bear Mountain in Montana and I was standing there and I was like, ‘I can’t wait to get back here.’ You cannot overestimate the strength of [that landscape] and visually it’s amazing for the audience to see that too.”

Michelle Randolph as Elizabeth Stafford.  She is standing on a porch wearing a white dress with a blue sash and blue flowers on the dress.  She has blonde hair.
Michelle Randolph as Elizabeth Stafford, who is engaged to Jack.
Emerson Miller/Paramount+
Brandon Sklenar as Spencer Dutton.  He's in the African bush, aiming a gun and ready to shoot.  He wears a brown safari hat and a khaki shirt.
Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar) takes aim at a lion in Africa.
Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Mirren, who has won an Academy Award (“The Queen”) and five Emmys (including two for “Prime Suspect,” for which she earned him three BAFTA awards), said she and Ford – who is making his series debut – get together occasionally meet others at industrial functions in the years after The Mosquito Coast. “I was amazed he even remembered me,” she said. “When I worked with him before, our status was so different. He was a huge movie star and I was basically a successful theater actress who had done a few films but nothing of his magnitude.

“He was always kind and generous back then and more than that,” she said. “The amazing thing about Harrison is [that] He’s been this big movie star for a very long time, and yet he’s a worker. He just wants to work and doesn’t want to make a fuss about it or ask for special treatment. He’s always there and the crew never waits for him. And that’s what I love about him.”

Mirren, who is no stranger to television, said 1923 offers a new approach to the genre, both visually and thematically.

“Our whole idea of ​​television has changed completely in the last 10 years … and Taylor has always portrayed it that way [that[ we’re basically doing a 10-hour film [with ‘1923’] and I like really long movies,” she said. “I love the way characters can be fully developed, and television gives you the opportunity to develop character and storyline in a much more wonderful and complex way than if you only had two hours to develop one to tell story.

“It’s great to be able to sit at home and see some of the scale and beauty of this work that we’re bringing to the screen, but I also love the cinema with audiences,” she said. “I think we need to preserve that culture — there’s nothing quite like sitting in an audience of people all sniffling together or laughing together at the same joke.”

https://nypost.com/2022/12/19/1923-star-helen-mirren-its-an-american-war-and-peace/ “It’s an American ‘War and Peace'”

Emma Bowman

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