Dark Winds: How Robert Redford & GRRM Got AMC to Invest in TV Series

It's a story itself that's born out of struggle, tragedy, and hope to adapt Tony Hillerman's Navajo crime thriller series following the adventures of Dets Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee to the screen. With AMC's recent announcement to adapt the late author's work to television in Dark Winds is largely thanks to two giants in the entertainment industry in screen legend Robert Redford and writer George R. R. Martin, the mind behind A Song of Fire and Ice novels that inspired the HBO TV series Game of Thrones. The Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd, who also wrote the behind-the-scenes book "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon" that followed the long-running fantasy series through its controversial eighth and final season, chronicled the duo's journey to get the network to commit.

Dark Winds: AMC to Develop Tony Hillerman's Crime Novels to Series
Image courtesy of Carolco Pictures

Dark Winds Early Struggles

Hillerman wrote 18 Leaphorn and Chee novels starting with "The Blessing Way" in 1970. Martin met the author, who hosted a monthly luncheon at the Albuquerque Press Club for writers in 1979 when he moved to New Mexico. Both became friends and Martin became of fan of Hillerman's series. In 1988, Redford also discovered the works and secured the rights with the intention of making a series of Leaphorn and Chee films. Unfortunately, even for someone with as much history and clout one would assume Redford has in Hollywood, he struggled to find a major studio to take a chance telling the Los Angeles Times in 2002, "Getting an all-Native American cast financed above a certain budget was just really hard to do."

Dark Winds: How Robert Redford & GRRM Got AMC to Invest in TV Series
Author George R. R. Martin (Photo by Krista Kennell / Shutterstock.com)

Redford was able to get The Dark Wind made in 1991 that starred Lou Diamond Phillips, which was panned and went straight to home video. There were three better-received telefilms as PBS' American Mystery! Specials with Skinwalkers (2002), Coyote Waits (2003), and A Thief of Time (2004). Chris Eyre, who caught Redford's eye with his film Smoke Signals at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, directed two of the films. He, Redford, and Martin met in 2015, which coincidentally happened as the three lived in Santa Fe at the time to discuss their love of Hillerman's work, who sadly passed in 2008.

Venice, Italy. 01 September, 2017. Robert Redford walk the red carpet ahead of the 'Our Souls At Night' screening during the 74th Venice Film Festival (Matteo Chinellato / Shutterstock.com)
Venice, Italy. 01 September 2017. Robert Redford walk the red carpet ahead of the 'Our Souls At Night' screening during the 74th Venice Film Festival (Matteo Chinellato / Shutterstock.com)

For more on how Dark Winds from Native American representation and how the project changed hands from HBO to AMC, you can check it out on THR.

daily dispatch
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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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