Screenwriter Bill Wittliff explained that the most difficult aspect of writing the Lonesome Dove screenplay was condensing the storyline, “There is a rule of thumb, and it’s not totally accurate, but when you look at a script, there are around 115 to 120 pages . . . . One page of film script, generally speaking, equals one minute of film. You have 120 pages and that is essentially a two hour movie.”
These three final pages of the first draft of Wittliff’s screenplay contain not only the dialogue for characters Call and the Young Man, but also direction regarding character movements, the manner in which words will be spoken and Call’s thoughts. Note the difference between the screenplay and the novel draft. Wittliff has replaced McMurtry’s final scene with an earlier scene from the novel in which Call has a conversation with a young Denver newspaper reporter. Call’s phrase “hell of a vision” is attributed to Charles Goodnight, the legendary Ranger and rancher who may have been McMurtry’s inspiration for Call’s character.