Years ago, interviewing Elmore Leonard for American Film, I asked him why he disregarded Hemingway’s dictum “to always get the weather right.” “I don’t,” Leonard replied with a shrug, “do weather.”
There’s no need for a weather report in the coaling mining towns of Harlan County, Kentucky in Justifed, the FX series based on Leonard’s writing that’s headed towards the final episode of its third season tonight. The forecast in Harlan County is always dark.
Leonard’s Harlan and its inhabitants are the greatest creation of a career that has spanned more than 60 novels and nearly a score of films and TV shows. This is the first time he has gone with a recurring character, in this case Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, played so well by Timothy Olyphant that Leonard seems to have begun styling the literary Givens after the TV characterization: In Leonard’s recent novel, Raylan, Givens is more like Olyphant’s Givens than the Raylan of earlier books—a bit less laconic, a little more sly, and given to the witty comeback. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to call both TV and print characters a hybrid. Leonard and Olyphant are listed among the show’s producers, and the two are known to spend quality time “conferring,” as they put it when I talked to them.
In Leonard’s phrase, “Timothy is one of the few actors who delivers the lines the way I heard them when I wrote them.”
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