Our state portrayed in the movies and TV

Wyoming has been the home for four years to bright young movie and television show director Taylor Sheridan, and his love for our state has shown in his work.

If you liked Sheridan’s movie “Wind River,” you’ll probably love his new T.V. series “Yellowstone.”

His new show stars Kevin Costner as the owner of the largest ranch in Wyoming, which borders both Yellowstone National Park and a neighboring Indian reservation. The show will debut in 2018. 

If this new show is anything like the Longmire T.V. series, I expect it will include lots of references to Wyoming places and names. 

As far as I can tell, Sheridan lives near the Salt River in Star Valley. So why does this guy love Wyoming so much?

I read up on him through interviews with Variety, Rolling Stone, Dallas News and Detroit News and came up with the following:

Sheridan grew up in Texas. He was angryabout his parents getting divorced, which led to his mother moving to Wyoming. 

Sheridan told Dallas News that he was a Texas kid and did not speak to his mother for five years. She begged him to come to Wyoming. 

“This place will change you,” his mother told him. He relented, and his mom was right. “It was true wilderness,” Sheridan says. “It was a place of solitude.” 

Ultimately he spent part of his childhood in Wyoming and grew to love it.

Later Sheridan became an actor and lived in Hollywood. After he became a father, he made big changes in his life. He sold everything and moved to Texas, where he wrote three scripts for the movies: Sicario, Hell or High Water and Wind River. The first two were smash hit movies. But Sheridan said he wanted to direct Wind River out of his respect for Native Americans. 

“The reservation is less than 100 miles from Jackson Hole,” Sheridan said. 

Sheridan said the reservation’s county (Fremont) “is one of the poorest counties in the nation up against one of the richest counties. 

Sheridan said he spent a lot of time with American Indians and counts many as his friends. He wanted his movie Wind River to be honest and meet their expectations.

“There’s no way to describe the reservation,” says Sheridan, who says he has had Shoshone and Arapaho friends. “People won’t believe that it exists. They won’t believe a place with that much inequity exists in the United States, with that much exploitation.  And yet, it’s a community that is fighting; they don’t give up.”

One magazine article said Sheridan spent some years of his 20s on the Wind River Indian Reservation, finding the simplicity as appealing as he did the social challenges distressing. He said the reservation would be a natural setting for a story about unsolved assault.

Because he is not Native American, Sheridan said he felt internal pressure to get the portrayal correct. 

“I knew I had to be respectful with their culture,” Sheridan said. “I have Native American friends that I can turn to and say, ‘Hey man, give this a read. What do you think?’”

 “I didn’t know if I could make a good movie, but I knew I could make a respectful one,” Sheridan said.

Wind River is about a wildlife tracker (Jeremy Renner) and an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) hunting down a killer in the snowy mountains of western Wyoming. The former has stumbled across the frozen body of teenage girl from the Wind River Indian Reservation. One of Sheridan’s motives for making the movie is what he observes as the large number of unsolved murders on Indian reservations that involve women.  

My wife Nancy and I watched Wind River recently and found it to be compelling and an exciting movie to watch. The movie’s portrayal of the problems of solving reservation crimes is accurate. The snowy mountain landscapes looked familiar to those of us who have lived here a long time, especially in winter.  

Lately, Sheridan has been splitting his time between his Wyoming digs and Park City, where his new TV series is being filmed.

When in Wyoming, he says his favorite activity is his and his six-year old son’s quest to find the biggest garter snake by the Salt River near their home. He said the biggest one they have found, so far, is just three feet long.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 30,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

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