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Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren Watched ‘Some’ of ‘Yellowstone’ Before Making ‘1923’

"I admire it...but this is a different period in time, so it is a very different feel," Ford tells IndieWire about "Yellowstone" comparisons.

Harrison Ford as Jacob Dutton and Helen Mirren as Cara Dutton in 1923, streaming on Paramount+ 2022. Photo credit: James Minchin III/Paramount+


James Minchin III/Paramount+

The “Yellowstone” universe continues to expand.

It started in 2021, when the Dutton family tree went back in time to “1883”, starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and now we’re moving forward 40 years from that series with the arrival of “1923.” The Duttons of “1923” are placed in limbo between the wild, untamed world of “1883” and the mechanized cityscape that is being built around them. This new generation of Duttons are grappling with issues regarding immigration, as well as a world where cattle ranching is perceived as passé.

Seeing legendary actor Harrison Ford anchor this series is a major selling point, and much of what brought him to the project was how episodic television has changed. “The old model of episodic television doesn’t really fit this project,” Ford told IndieWire via Zoom. “It’s not conceived as a television [show].” Because of the scale of the locations, Ford said he could easily see this expansively written series being released theatrically.

This juxtaposition and embrace of the natural land was what drew in Ford, who plays the Dutton patriarch of this story, Jacob. “I love the natural world,” Ford said. “I’ve come to see the changes in the West and this story…you’ll see many of the elements of change beginning here.” In the first episode alone audiences get a taste for what’s to come, including a drought, competition for  grass, and a little thing called the Great Depression.

The Depression marks a bit of a change for the “Yellowstone” universe. If you’re watching “Yellowstone,” the Duttons don’t tend to be touched by national changes, but here, the characters will be affected by the Depression. “The Duttons, while they might look protected by their wealth, their wealth is their land. It’s not cash. So they’re living on the edge from season to season,” Ford said.

That different feel might be why Ford admitted he didn’t watch “Yellowstone” in its entirety. “I’ve seen a good deal of it,” he said. “I admire it…and this [is] developed by the same people so it has a lot of the same ambition. But this is a different period in time, so it is a very different feel.”

That desire to keep the different “Yellowstone”-inspired worlds separate was seconded by Helen Mirren, who plays Jacob’s Irish wife, Cara. Mirren said she has watched some of the series but can’t attest to being a “rabid fan” who knows everything about the series. What caught Mirren’s eye is how the various series look at the West, a time period both actors are interested in. “I’ve always been fascinated about the West, and how the West was created, which in a way was the creation of the mythology of America,” Mirren said.

And there’s no denying that “1923” hopes to keep the same operatic elements of grand storytelling. “I see it, in a way, like [Tolstoy’s] ‘War and Peace,'” Mirren said. “You can’t avoid it with that landscape. Landscape creates the the operatic element of it.”

There’s also an intriguing culture clash that’s not necessarily seen in “Yellowstone.” “1923” doesn’t just focus on the Duttons and the Indigenous characters, who spend this season being forcibly anglicized. There is also tension brewing with Irish immigration. It’s a key reason why Mirren decided to use an Irish accent for her character.

“We’re shooting in a town called Butte, in Montana. Butte was an old mining town and the miners came from Cornwall, from Wales, from Scotland, from Ireland, from Moldova from Serbia,” Mirren said. Mirren points out that in old-school Westerns everyone’s accent is American, so she gave her character an enhanced backstory that would necessitate an accent. “She probably came to America, in that early emigration of Irish people coming from the famine in Ireland in the late 19th-century, meeting up with the Harrison Ford character in their youth, and then creating this life together.”

“1923” premieres on Sunday on Paramount+.

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