Susan Sarandon was supposed to star in a Big Valley movie, but it was cancelled

The details behind the film's cancellation are salacious enough for a theatrical release of their own.

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What would Hollywood be without scandal? Sometimes, the stories behind movies that don't happen are even more interesting than the movies we get to see. This was the case for a big screen adaptation of the '60s TV western The Big Valley, which was set to begin production in 2010. While we can't speak for how good the movie would've been, the details behind its cancellation are salacious enough for a theatrical release of their own.

Louis F. Edelman produced 39 movies between 1935 and 1952 before shifting his focus to television. His success would continue with a string of hits including The Joey Bishop Show and The Barbara Stanwyck Show, the latter of which established a professional, collaborative raport with the eponymous actress. Edelman built upon that relationship by casting Stanwyck five years later in the ABC western drama The Big Valley. Here, Stanwyck played the matriarchof the wealthy Barkley family, one of the largest ranch-owning families in California in the 1880s.

Forty years after the show's cancellation in 1969, and the western was back in fashion. A cavalcade of successful westerns like 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford renewed interest in the once-dominant genre; suddenly, cowboy movies were once again en vogue. As such, Kate Edelman Johnson, daughter of the aforementioned film and television producer, looked to capitalize on her father's legacy by greenlighting a big-screen adaptation of The Big Valley

In February 2010, The Hollywood Reporter announced Susan Sarandon's attachment to the feature film remake. The article also claimed that the movie would be co-produced and directed by Daniel Adams, and this is where the story develops some intrigue. Adams was fresh off directing The Lighthouse, a movie which despite some acclaim, grossed only $32,307. While co-star Bruce Dern was quick to compare Adams to legendary filmmakers like Hal Ashby and Alfred Hitchcock, Adams' impact wouldn't get the chance to reach those levels of significance due to some tricky legal issues.

A year after reporting Sarandon's attachment, The Hollywood Reporter released another article detailing Adams' indictment in a $4.7 million tax fraud case. Specifically, the director would face up to 32 years of jail time from a wide array of offenses. Among them was the allegation of false payment to actor Richard Dreyfuss, who'd co-starred with Dern in The Lighthouse. While it was reported that Dreyfuss was paid $2.5 million for his role, the investigation revealed the number, in truth, was closer to $400,000. The article also detailed the list of other creatives and executives who worked on the movie and went completely unpaid. 

Twentieth Century Fox opted not to move forward with The Big Valley on the big screen, and we never got a chance to see Susan Sarandon as Victoria Barkley. With no new plans in place, Barbara Stanwyck will continue to be the one and only Victoria Barkley.

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6 Comments

CaptainDunsel 11 months ago
"Adams was fresh off directing The Lighthouse..."
I think you mean 2009's "The Lightkeepers".
Delmo 14 months ago
Lee Majors told me at a convention some years ago that he had filmed a Big Valley remake where he played Tom Barkley and Jessica Lange played Victoria Barkley but it had been put on the shelf because they were waiting for the right time to release it.
Bapa1 14 months ago
If lee Majors was in it, would Heath been bionic?
Runeshaper 14 months ago
I’m sure Susan Sarandon would’ve been solid. I love Barbara Stanwyck!
Cougar90 14 months ago
Lee Majors once said in an interview in 2012 about a "Big Valley" tv movie that he would be both Heath in his later years narrating the story and his father Tom Barkley in the early years of his ranch. I'm guessing the age question would be resolved by having Tom Barkley being much older that Victoria.
MrsPhilHarris Cougar90 14 months ago
Interesting.
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