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Wooly Boys

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It’s not often a major motion picture set in North Dakota or filmed here, let alone stare Hollywood royalty. On this date in 2000 the Bismarck Tribune reported on the excitement that descended on Medora as the town hosted 150 cast and crew members for the filming of Wooly Boys. It starred Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, and Joseph Mazzello and followed the story of a Badlands sheep rancher and his grandson.

The residents of Medora were not only thrilled to see big Hollywood stars in their small town, but were happy to see the economic impact of hosting so many people during a time of year when tourism winds down. The cast and crew ate at the local restaurants, stayed in the local hotels, went for runs in the park, and of course signed autographs. Tourist also came to town to see the movie being filmed and hoped to see the celebrity actors.

The film proved to be a huge deal for the state. The Bank of North Dakota lent $4 million to finance the film. John Hoeven was the president of the bank at the time. A commission comprised of Governor Ed Schafer, Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, and Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson approved the loan.

The film was such huge news for the state that the Governor announced the start date for filming from the south lawn of the Capitol. There was hope that the film would increase tourism and have an economic impact.

Locals flocked to the Medora Community Center to be cast as extras. A local rancher lend his ranch and ranch house to be used as a set.

Unfortunately, Wooly Boys did not prove to be the boon hoped for. Distribution of the film was delayed. Initially planned for released in August 2001, there were difficulties in finding a distributor. The film finally came to five theaters in North Dakota in January, 2004. However, the film only made it into a few more select theaters in Idaho and Minnesota, and it was never released nationwide. Wooly Boys was released on DVD in April 2005, five years after filming. In 2006, the Bank of North Dakota wrote off $1.6 million of the loan.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


Associated Press, “’Wooly Boys’ Producer Blames its Distributors,” The Bismarck Tribunne. January 31, 2006, pg. 12.

Canton, Don, “Movie to Be Filmed in N.D. has Star Power,” The Bismarck Tribune, August 25, 2000, pg. 1.

Donovan, Lauren, “’Wooly Boys’ Distribution Still in Works,” The Bismarck Tribune, August 14, 2001, pg. 1.

Donovan, Lauren, “’Wooly Boys’ Seeks Extras,” The Bismarck Tribune, September 7, 2000, pg. 11.

Donovan, Lauren, “Bully for Medora: ‘Wooly Boys’ Movie Keeping Town Hopping,” The Bismarck Tribune, September 30, 2000, pg. 1.

Donovan, Lauren, “Kristofferson Enjoys Badlands,” The Bismarck Tribune, October 9, 2000, pg. 1.

Splide, Tony, “’Wooly Boys’ is Coming Out on DVD,” The Bismarck Tribune, April 19, 2005, pg. 9.

Wetzel, Dale, “State Puts Up $4 Million for Film,” The Bismarck Tribune, August 10, 1999, pg. 2B.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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