36 years, $38 million and 4 parts: Why Kevin Costner believes in 'Horizon'


If watching "Horizon: An American Saga" makes you flinch at times, then Kevin Costner has done his job.

"The frontier wasn't a land in Disneyland. It was real," Costner tells TODAY.com in a sit-down interview about his latest film, a sweeping Western that portrays the hardships of settlers during the Civil War era and their often-contentious, often-bloody relationship with Native Americans.

"Our ancestors went through it and it was a 200-year march. It wasn't, 'Oh, they're there and now things were rosy.' They got there and look what happened to them. There was a way this country was built, there was a way a whole group of people were displaced, there was drama," says Costner.

It's that drama that the Oscar-winning actor and director explores in "Horizon," an epic three-hour film that Costner has spent the better part of 35 years trying to make.

"It was something that started in 1988. So, if you just look at the scope of time, you can realize that it's obviously been a journey," says Costner, explaining he spent decades lobbying to make the film, without success, leading the actor to a personal crossroads.

"No one was going to make it and it's like, 'Do I stop? Do I give up at this? Do I not believe that something I thought was good is good?'" he asks.

Saying he doesn't easily "fall out of love with things," Costner persisted, confident that the film was, in fact, a "really good Western."

The result isn't one movie but a four-part series. The first installment debuts in theaters on June 28 and "Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 2" will be released six weeks later on August 12.

Kevin Costner in Horizon (Richard Foreman / Warner Bros.)
Kevin Costner in Horizon (Richard Foreman / Warner Bros.)

"I didn't make one movie, hope it was good, and then get the chance to make another one," Costner tells TODAY.com. "I decided all four of them were good and all four of them worked together."

"Horizon" is a leap of faith for Costner who not only stars in the film alongside Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington and Luke Wilson, but also directed, produced and co-wrote it. He infused $38 million of his own money into the franchise, according to a recent interview with GQ.

It's an investment of time and money Costner hopes will pay off because, according to the veteran actor, making the "Horizon" series has been one of the most difficult things he's ever done.

"It was hard," he says of garnering the support necessary to make the movies. "And then what happens is you have to look to yourself. And I'm not a bank, but I started to act like one. It just has taken a lot."

Despite the challenges, Costner says that after so many years of doggedly pursuing "Horizon," he's satisfied that he "never let go of the rope" and ultimately accomplished what he set out to do.

"I'm satisfied that I'm just doing what I feel like is important in the work that I've chosen to be a part of. I'm satisfied that I have given it everything," he says.

Keeping the faith

Costner is hopeful that audiences will share his enthusiasm for the series of Westerns he's poured so much of himself into.

"This is keeping faith with an audience that will follow me, the ones that choose to, the ones that are unsure and happen to stumble in ... maybe I create a new following," says Costner.

Kevin Costner (Alamy )
Kevin Costner (Alamy )

Of those who follow Costner, many are likely familiar with "Dances With Wolves," the 1990 frontier-set saga which earned the actor a pair of Oscars including best director and best picture, as well as of Costner's more recent turn as John Dutton in the long-running TV series "Yellowstone."

While there's been some recent controversy surrounding the popular show, Coster told Savannah Guthrie during a June 17 appearance on TODAY that he'd be receptive to returning to "Yellowstone" under the right circumstances.

“I’ve supported that thing and I’ve loved it,” he said on TODAY. “It’s been really important to me. I would love to go back under the right circumstances."

In the meantime, he's firmly focused on "Horizon" and is already working on the third installment of the series, which Costner says will likely be released sometime in 2025.

"Maybe it'll come out the same time next year or maybe it'll come out Memorial Day, I don't know," he says. "But it'll come out when it's done, when I feel like it's right."

Costner's most challenging role

Throughout his tenured career, Coster has played a variety of characters including the accused spy Tom Farrell in the 1987 thriller "No Way Out," a sinister serial killer in "Mr. Brooks" and washed-up baseball player Crash Davis in "Bull Durham."

Of all his countless roles, is there one that's challenged him more than others?

"Being a father," he tells TODAY.com.

The father of seven kids, Costner's youngest son, Hayes, 15, appears in his father's new film as Nathaniel Kittredge, the earnest son of a pair of settlers.

Kevin Costner and family (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images)
Kevin Costner and family (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images)

Costner told Savannah Guthrie that despite not having a lot of experience, his son was "really beautiful" in the film and that the experience afforded them time together.

"Since it was a smaller part, I selfishly wanted him with me. For the two weeks that he was with me, we would drive to the set every day," Costner says.

Hayes joined four of his siblings — Annie Costner, Cayden Wyatt Costner, Grace Avery Costner and Lily Costner — at Cannes for the "Horizon" premiere, where the crowd gave a 7-minute standing ovation, bringing the senior Costner to tears.

"I wasn't expecting that," Costner told Savannah of the emotional moment on TODAY.

Talking to Abraham Lincoln

With two chapters of "Horizon" complete and a third underway, what does Costner, 69, still hope to accomplish in his life?

"Just to feel like I'm still in control of my life, that I can redefine myself, whether it's in movies or whether it's in music or whether those aren't even a part of it. My idea to explore this world with the people I love and care (about) and see things, a new book that I can read," he says.

"My spirit is wide open and I go where I think the next surprise is for me."

When asked if there's anyone, past or present, he'd like to sit down and talk to, Costner names Spencer Tracy and Mark Twain, as well as U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

What would he say?

"I would want to tell Abraham (Lincoln) that he had a successful presidency. That he must have been miserable thinking he had the worst presidency — and he had the best one. That's what I'd want to tell him."

This article was originally published on TODAY.com