The Discovery Channel’s expensive gamble on gold-rush fever — and Alberta — is paying off big time for the network, bringing it its biggest Monday prime-time numbers in the U.S.
The six-hour miniseries, which finishes its three-night run tonight (Wednesday), reached 1.9-million viewers in Canada and 3.4-million American viewers. Shot in Alberta last year, it stars Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Sam Shepard, Tim Roth and Augustus Prew.
The miniseries, loosely based on Charlotte Gray’s historical book Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike, tells the story of gold-rush fever in Dawson City. Reviews have been mixed — although it earned a respectable 73 per cent approval rating on metacritic, which aggregates reviews — but critics who enjoyed it were lavish in their praise.
The San Francisco Chronicle said “With a cast headed by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden, Klondike grabs you with terrific performances, an unusually rich script, magnificently sweeping visuals of jagged mountains overlooking valleys of ice and snow, and such a convincing attention to period detail, you’ll believe you’re back in Dawson City at the end of the 19th century.”
While the Hollywood Reporter said it mixed “sweeping, awe-inspiring images of nature with the up-close ugliness of dank, mud-packed streets, Klondike stands out instantly with its large canvas.”
My Favorite Westerns: If you’re going to shoot a Western period piece – in the mountains – in the winter, why not choose the most brutal winter we’ve had in years?? Because that’s exactly what they’ve done with Klondike.
Maybe the weather is different up there in the mountains? but down here in Calgary we’ve had at least 3 blizzards – so far.
So I gotta believe a lot of the hardships that will be depicted in Klondikewon’t require a great deal of acting.
Anticipating a good show – with a lot of snow.
Reposted from CBC News site:
Klondike series could bring gold rush for Discovery Channel
Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Tim Roth among big-name stars
CBC News Posted: Jan 12, 2014 11:46 AM MT Last Updated: Jan 12, 2014 1:01 PM MT
Discovery Channel is set to launch its first-ever scripted venture, Klondike, in a bid they hope will help them strike it rich with viewers.
The six-hour, three-night miniseries begins Jan. 20 on Discovery Canada before continuing the following Tuesday and Wednesday. Scottish actor Richard Madden, best-known for his role as the brutally-murdered Robb Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, is among multiple high-profile stars who have been in Alberta filming for the series.
Abbie Cornish, Tim Roth, Sam Shepard and Augustus Prew also star, while powerhouse producers Ridley Scott, Paul Scheuring and David Zucker have been working away behind the scenes to bring the series to life.
It’s all based on Charlotte Gray’s 2010 book, Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike.
On Thursday, the cast and producers took questions from reporters as part of the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour.
According to Scheuring, who wrote the script, said he wasn’t intimidated to be writing for Shepard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, “because the part was written, thank goodness, before he was cast.”
Days of Heaven actor returns
Shepard was a last-minute replacement for Chris Cooper, who had to withdraw with an illness right before production was scheduled to begin.
The 70-year-old actor had worked in Alberta before, memorably on Days of Heaven in 1978.
He was apparently hard to reach after Cooper pulled out because he was offline and out fishing, something he indulged in while on location in Alberta.
“Some of the biggest cutthroats I’ve ever seen in my life,” Shepard said about fly fishing “way up there on the Athabasca River.”
No chance of shooting in Dawson City
The producers say there was never any thought of shooting the series right in Dawson City, despite the fact that the picturesque Yukon town retains much of the look it had back in the gold rush days of the 1890s.
The usual lure of tax grants and funding — from the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Film Development Program — lured production to Alberta.
And it was damn cold, says Brittish-born Prew,
The actor plays Byron Epstein, who teams up with Madden’s character, Bill Haskell, as the two childhood friends set out to make their fortune along with thousands of others during the peak year of the Klondike gold rush.
“We were in period costumes, no thermals,” Prew said of his experience on location in Alberta last April through July. “I went on holiday right after to Turkey. It was lovely and warm there.”
‘Brutal’ shooting conditions in Rockies
The cast, producers and crew faced a 40-minute snowmobile ride followed by another 40-minute trek — sometimes by helicopter — for scenes shot in a tiny town high up in the Rocky Mountains, northwest of Calgary.
There are Canadians in the cast, including Brian Markinson (Da Vinci’s Inquest), who is currently shooting Fargo in Calgary, and Saskatchewan native Michael Greyeyes.
While Prew said the relatively isolated mountain-top locales could be “rather meditative,” he won’t miss the 18-hour days.
“I only saw my hotel six hours a night,” he said.
According to Zucker, one of the series’ producers, much of the shoot “was brutal. There was so little time to shoot such a big thing and it took four months of 18-hour days.”
Despite that, the real-life struggle and challenges look good on screen.
“We wanted to emphasize that it was miserable,” Zucker said. “A lot of that was in the script and I pushed it even further. It is about the battle with nature and we didn’t want that to look easy.”