Dick Wolf‘s berth in the producer’s Hall of Fame is absolutely secure, and would have been long ago even if he’d only ever produced one TV show called “Law & Order.”
He has respect, riches and personal fame outside of industry circles to a degree that is unusual for a TV writer-producer.
Wolf’s only problem these days is one of typecasting. He’s had no luck, after a number of shots, expanding his TV empire beyond the familiar “ching-ching” of the “Law & Order’s” durable cops-and-courts format.
But six years ago, Wolf and his longtime pal Tom Thayer, former prexy of Universal TV, took on an ambitious telepic project for HBO that promises to add luster, and diversity, to his resume.
Wolf and Thayer are the shepherds of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” set to bow May 27. Film chronicles the heartbreaking devastation of Native American tribes by the U.S. during a brutal period of Westward expansion in the late 1800s.
The nonfiction book on which it’s based, penned by historian Dee Brown, was a sensation on its initial 1971 publication for its unvarnished look at how the West was won. But it was also considered unfilmable due to its scope, detail and harsh subject matter. Wolf credits screenwriter Daniel Giat and helmer Yves Simoneau for focusing on the right slice of the saga to make it manageable, and still meaningful, as a film.
For the “L&O” boss, the time spent in the re-created Indian village sets in the wilds of Calgary during the 39-day shoot last fall was in many ways far more intense than location filming on Gotham’s mean streets.
“When you’re riding through empty prairies for a half an hour and then come over a mountain ridge to find 30 Indian teepees and guys riding around bareback,” Wolf says, “you know you’ve been transported to another time and place.”