EXCLUSIVE: Slight spoiler alert. When the first two episodes of Taylor Sheridan’s Paramount+ Yellowstone prequel 1883 get their gala premiere tomorrow at Wynn Las Vegas, there will be a very familiar face in the second episode. A famous photograph of the carnage in the brutal Civil War Battle of Antietam comes to life, with Tim McGraw’s James Dutton character picking himself off the ground following the concussive conflict. A Confederate officer, Dutton can only sit dazed as he surveys death all around him. As Union troops approach, a gloved hand falls on Dutton’s shoulder. He looks up and it is a sympathetic three-star general, inspired by General George Meade. Playing him is two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks. This follows an electric scene with Billy Bob Thornton as a no-nonsense sheriff in Fort Worth, Texas who shows no quarter to an ornery group of horse thieves who commit crimes against the caravan of settlers heading west to Montana.
How does Hanks happen? Sheridan told me there will be several star surprises over the course of the first season of 1883, this epic that has the sweep of Lonesome Dove, which premieres Sunday, December 19. The former character actor turned prolific series creator/writer, Sheridan is having a true moment with the continually growing ratings and audience allegiance of Yellowstone. As he becomes a stalwart generator for Paramount+, Sheridan is using the momentum to get some of his favorite actors to take part. He just secured Sylvester Stallone to star in Kansas City, a series he’s doing with The Sopranos vet Terence Winter. Some familiar faces will show up in short stints, like Hanks. A history buff who teamed with Paul Greengrass in News Of The World which was also set in a post-Civil War time period, Hanks shot his 1883 scene in a day in late September, outside Weatherford, Texas.
In the Battle of Antietam, a total of 22,717 soldiers on both sides were reported dead, wounded or missing, making it the bloodiest day in American history. 1883 stars McGraw, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott, Isabel May and LaMonica Garrett.