‘Horizon’ marks the first sequels of Kevin Costner’s career: ‘This one really tested me’

Kevin Costner is from a slowly decaying era of Hollywood, and that he is as relevant in 2024 as he was in 1988 is more impressive than any of his Academy Awards.

Not many 69-year-old leading men can tell a Hollywood studio, “This what we’re doing.”

Sitting in a recliner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Las Colinas, Costner looks and sounds like Kevin Costner does on screen. The man oozes California cool with a voice built for narration.

Having done nearly everything a person in his profession could ever aspire to do, Costner will just keep doing it until you, the audience, tells him they’re done. Even then he might not stop.

Buoyed by the popularity of his leading role in the Paramount show “Yellowstone,” Costner continues to rely on an older audience that still loves him from an array of different parts from previous decades, and a new generation of viewers that see him as John Dutton.

(Writer’s note: One “ask” of this 1-on-1 interview was no questions about his personal life, or “other projects.” If you’re looking for updates on his future in “Yellowstone” they won’t be in this interview.)

Costner’s focus currently is the type of risk that have come to define a film career that began in 1981. “Horizon: An American Saga” is a four-part Western about America’s westward expansion before and after the Civil War; Chapter 1 will debut in theaters on June 28.

Chapter 1 is a three hour ...

“It’s 2 hours and 51 minutes,” Costner said.

Chapter 1 is a 2 hour and 51 minute film covering a variety of stories in a series that covers the development and land grab that was America’s slow march to the Pacific Ocean.

In a 20-minute interview, Costner discussed why he made a film that he personally helped finance, why he never made a sequel before this, and whether the “customer is always right.”

Star-Telegram: Are you aware that you are quite popular in Fort Worth, Texas?

Kevin Costner: Not really. I am not from these parts but I think relate a lot to that feeling, and that DNA.

S-T: Years ago you were included in a featurette about your role in the 1985 Western, “Silverado.” In that you said of your character, “I felt like Jake started to relate to the horizon. That big ole west, I started to relate not to anybody but the horizon.”


KC: It sounds like (a coincidence). I know why I say it; I just ramble. When I was in ‘Silverado,’ I knew that I was going to make Westerns. I knew in my heart how to play the laconic role. Those characters I understood. They were reticent. They kept their peace.

S-T: Is “Horizon” in any way a return to “Silverado?”

KC: No. It’s not. There was hope we would do another ‘Silverado,’ and that just never happened. I would have been prepared to do it but it never happened.

To make “Horizon: An American Saga,” Kevin Costner self-financed some of the project to complete the four-part series.
To make “Horizon: An American Saga,” Kevin Costner self-financed some of the project to complete the four-part series.

S-T: Mark Kasdan co-wrote “Silverado,” and he’s listed as a story creator for “Horizon.” Is this film your idea or his?

KC: Mark and I had such a good time on that film together we talked about this idea (for ‘Horizon’). He crafted a story, which I liked very well. I tried to make it in 2003 but no one was in a hurry to make it. But I don’t fall out of love easy.

(The film) started with a town already there, all of these towns weren’t there at first. What about a story that deals with the first stake in the ground, and the struggle for that? Between the people who were trying to live there and the people who had lived there forever. Out of that it became four (films).

When I was done I was pretty happy with myself, and everybody goes, ‘Gee, that’s interesting.’ Nobody wanted the first one and you just made four more. I went, ‘Yeah. I know. That’s kinda me.’ At the end it was too much of a struggle, and it wasn’t going to get made. I couldn’t give it up.

I don’t know what your experience with the movie was, but that was the movie I wanted to make, and it ties into Chapter 2. If you don’t like it, it all rests on me. If you do, you’ll really love Chapter 2.

S-T: I’m curious to see Chapter 2. It hooked me. From your standpoint, is that good enough?

KC: Well, is a movie good enough that you would want to re-see it? Is there enough to re-visit it? There are movies that we love to point out scenes to someone. Or re-visit ourselves.

S-T: Is this character that you wanted to play for yourself? A Gary Cooper type?

KC: I never wanted to be Gary Cooper. I really enjoyed Gary Cooper. I wanted to be a part of stories that felt literate, and the empathy you are seeing a real person.

S-T: This film portrays an American West that is hard, brutal and tragic; do you think audiences 35 years ago would have wanted a Western this raw?

KC: I do. I believe these characters are just like you and I, but dealing with different norms. There are peeping toms, bullies, sociopaths in every decade. There are people who are just carving it out, working really hard. People wanting to find their way, and make life better for their children.

And there are women working themselves to death, and it shows how vulnerable they are. If they lose a man, they have to get another one really quick.

S-T: Reviewing your film career, one thing is missing ‘til now. You have never done a sequel. Is that deliberate?

KC: It was deliberate in that I didn’t flat out go do a sequel because now we should cash in. I would have done one if the script that came behind it was really good.

I was going to do a ‘Bodyguard 2,’ with Princess Diana. I would have done a ‘Tin Cup 2.’ I would have done a ‘Bull Durham 2’ or another ‘Silverado.’ I was never against them, but I didn’t go rush to make them, which is not the best career advice you could give someone.

S-T: Why isn’t that the best career advice?

KC: The people that are in these franchises they have a built-in security. I never had that; I just kept going to another movie. When people wanted me to do a franchise, and I finally brought one to them, I brought four (movies; ‘Horizon’) and they go, ‘Whoa; wait.’

I said, ‘But they are already written.’ My career has been funny in that way. It’s like, ‘I’m giving you something you wanted me to do.’ I decided to self-finance this.

S-T: Did anyone in this process tell you, ‘This isn’t a great idea’ (to self finance)?

KC: I did it with ‘Dances With Wolves’ and it wasn’t a great idea, but I did it because I needed to. I did with ‘Black or White;’ I did that with a partner of mine. I wanted to do a movie about my version of racism.

(Self financing) is not normally a great idea, and it might not be a great idea here. In this instance my dream, my voice of doing this movie, I had to complete it. If I had to put something that I have earned at risk, I just don’t want this part to control my life. I have to keep a balance so I can live the rest of my life.

You can talk about the wisdom of it, but maybe I’m the person who goes West and bets it all.

S-T: Is there any precedent you could look at and say, ‘Horizon’ is going to be like this?

KC: They could look at ‘Lord of the Rings,’ I guess. I didn’t have a book, or a built-in audience. That book was world wide famous and great awareness of that book.

S-T: The American ‘old west’ wasn’t very long, but audiences love it more than any other era; why?

KC: If they are done right, and they are often not done right. I only have a handful of Westerns I like. I like the drama of a tough guy, like Lee Marvin going against John Wayne. Because now he doesn’t have a buffoon to beat up. Now maybe he doesn’t beat up Lee Marvin.

I like ‘The Searchers.’ (Westerns) are hard to make.

S-T: Why?

KC: The ones that are made, when they are obvious, they are black hat, white hat. I am not really interested in that. I like seeing the dilemma against the background that feel authentic. It’s not just people twirling their guns.

Most people didn’t kill anyone in the West. A person who actually killed someone, when they walked into the room, that was something no one had done.

S-T: In the ‘80s, you appeared on ‘The Johnny Carson’ show and you recounted a story from one of your first day jobs where your boss told you, ‘The customer is always right.’ And you told Carson, ‘That’s bull (bleep).’

KC: I think it is.

S-T: You work in an industry where audience consumption defines success; is the customer always right?

KC: What you might be saying is that if it’s No. 1 at the box office, then I was right. That’s not what drives me. There is a difference; when the ‘customer is always right’ that does not mean he can bully you, like, as my waiter. I will not allow that.

He has to go. I need to find out, did you insult him? But I stick up for you, so it’s not just the ‘customer is always right.’

I think there are generalizations in life, and we’re talking about one. But I won’t let money define this movie. This movie will play the rest of its life. This will stand, and I am really comfortable with that more than anything.

S-T: Part of your legacy in American cinema is a willingness to take big risks, like ‘Dances with Wolves’ or ‘Water World.’ Is ‘Horizon’ a big risk?

KC: This one really tested me, and continues to test me. But I am focused on what the experience is for the one who sits in the dark for it. When I was 7, I watched ‘How the West Was Won.’ I had seen crummy Westerns all throughout, because that’s all that played on TV.

I was at a little boy’s birthday party, in a ‘cinerama’ dome and this movie came on. I didn’t know about reviews. It was going to be a four hour movie. I just sat there. Other 7 year olds are running around, you couldn’t control them.

I sat in that seat. I was launched in that movie. I knew the difference between authentic and the best that Hollywood could do, versus the least that they could do. It was something real about that movie and I never left my seat; it had an intermission and I never left my seat.

When I make a movie, I am making it for someone just like me. And I don’t think I am very different than a lot of people.

S-T: Thank you very much for your time. Best of luck.

KC: Thank you for doing this, and I can’t wait for you to see Chapter 2.