Lewis and Clark Casting Calls Stir Hollywood Buzz in Montana

Producers will hold casting calls in Polson and Browning in search of a woman to play Sacagawea and male horseback riders

By Justin Franz

Polson and Browning are a long way from the glitter and buzz of Hollywood, but a series of castings calls this month for an HBO miniseries are certainly causing a stir in Northwest Montana.

Producers who are working on an HBO miniseries about the Lewis and Clark Exhibition will be in Polson on Nov. 8 and Browning on Nov. 10. According to a press release, they are looking for Native Americans to play Sacagawea, as well as extras who are native speakers or experienced male horseback riders.

Denny Staggs, bureau chief of the Montana Film Office in Helena, said the project has not been green lighted yet, but the casting calls indicate it could be soon. If it were given the OK from producers, Staggs estimates it could start filming within a year.

The miniseries will be based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s book “Undaunted Courage” about Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Ambrose also wrote “Band of Brothers,” about the 101st Airborne Division’s Easy Company during World War II, which was also turned into a successful HBO miniseries in the early 2000s. Tom Hanks produced the series and he is rumored to have a role in the upcoming Lewis and Clark series. Joining Hank’s on this project is Brad Pitt’s Plan B Productions and Edward Norton’s Class 5’s Productions. Casey Affleck has already been cast to play Lewis.

Staggs said the Montana Film Office has been involved with the project for six or seven years and has helped producers scout filming locations across the state. However, it is still too early to know where it may be shot.

“It’s a really exciting project and, even if it is not shot in Montana, it will be a good thing for Montana,” he said. “They could shoot it on the moon, but if people are interested in Lewis and Clark after they see the series they’re going to want to visit Montana.”

Staggs said when producers look for locations, they often select places that can replicate a lot of different spots from the story. In this case, they’ll need places that look like Missouri, the Dakotas, Oregon, Washington and Montana.

Regardless of the location, Staggs said the state would be represented in the final production, especially if locals are hired during the casting calls this month. Casting director Rene Haynes is a Montana native and headed up casting in the Twilight series. Staggs said he is confident that Haynes will be able to find real talent in Montana.

“We will have some Montanans in this story, especially Montanans representing our First Nations, and I’m really psyched about that,” he said.

Casting calls are taking place at the KwaTaqNuk Resort in Polson on Nov. 8 from noon to 6 p.m. and in Browning at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Nov. 10 from noon to 6 p.m. For more information visit www.rhcsearch.com.