If you're traveling between Butte and Dillon Wednesday or Thursday afternoon and evening, you may be slowed down a little. But it's for a good cause — the first network TV series to be filmed in Montana in anyone's memory.
Paramount Network, a division of Viacom that will be replacing the cable network Spike next year, is filming "Yellowstone," a straight-to-series drama starring Kevin Costner. And for these two days, they are filming a scene on I-15 near the Big Hole River, which means that from 1:30 to 7:30 Wednesday and Thursday, traffic between exits 102 and 93 — from Divide to Melrose — is being shunted onto the frontage road.
In the series, Costner plays John Dutton, who operates the largest ranch in the United States, constantly battling with land developers, an Indian reservation and Yellowstone National Park.
When the series was announced by Paramount this spring, Deadline.com writer Denise Petski characterized it as "an intense study of a violent world ... where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: they are a consequence of living in the new frontier. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both."
Allison Whitmer, Montana's film commissioner, who worked hard to find locations for the series in the state, said Wednesday, "We're very happy to have "Yellowstone" coming here to Montana."
She said if all goes well with the series, it would not be unusual to expect a 5- to 7-year run. Much of the filming will occur near Darby in the Bitterroot Valley, where the property being used for the fictional ranch headquarters is located.
The Big Hole River area shoot was jeopardized by the persistent smoke from this summer's fires.
"We rescheduled it twice," said location manager Paul Knaus. "We were beginning to look at highway stretches in Colorado, Wyoming, even Canada as backups, but then the smoke cleared." Contacted Wednesday afternoon, he said the first day of filming "is going very well."
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