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Kevin Costner Talks Diversity in Western Horizon

Kevin Costner Talks Diversity in Western Horizon

Kevin Costner defended his depiction of the old West in his latest film, particularly the portrayal of Native American, Black and Asian characters, saying he “is absolutely conscious of what’s at stake” when it comes to representation.

Speaking at the Cannes film festival after Sunday night’s world premiere of Horizon: An American Saga – Part 1, the first of a planned four-part Western epic, Costner said he aimed to show Native and minority characters in the film as “well-rounded people” much in the same way as he did with Dances With Wolves more than three decades ago.

“I can’t fill every box every time I try to make a movie. But I’m absolutely conscious of what’s at stake,” said Costner. “The Chinese [for example] are a very important part [of American frontier history], as were African Americans obviously, who also began to populate the West. So they’re important to me.”

Horizon, which stars Costner alongside Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Jena Malone and Luke Wilson, follows white settlers as they head west, taking land, as the director put it, “from people that had been there for 15,000 years. [In] the consistent march across America. we destroyed over 500 cultures.”

Some critics, including at The Hollywood Reporter, have taken issue with Costner’s depiction of Indigenous characters in the film, who are initially portrayed from the settlers’ perspective as dangerous and threatening. Only well into the movie does Costner broaden the perspective to show how Native attacks on settler homesteads are a direct response to the occupation of their ancestral lands.

Costner admitted that he’ll “probably fail and succeed at every turn” in his efforts to depict Native characters in his films, but argued that “my aim is true.”

The director, however, didn’t lay claim to be telling a Native story with Horizon. As with Dances With Wolves, Costner’s new film is clearly told from the perspective of its white protagonists.

“A lot of people talked about Dances with Wolves as being a Native American story and I said no, it’s not. It was a story about me,” he said, “a story about a calvary man who went out to the West. The difference was the [Native] people that he ran up against I tried to make look like people [not stereotypes]. I couldn’t be the person that ‘sets the record straight’ for Native Americans or for African Americans or for anybody. I just tried to make it as real as I [could]…I made it from [my] point of view.”

Costner has already finished production on his second Horizon movie, with Warner Bros. set to release the first film in the saga in the U.S. on June 28, following up with Chapter Two on August 16. Costner said he had started production on Chapter Three before shutting down the shoot after three days to come to Cannes for the first film’s premiere. “Which is unheard of, but coming here was so important for me, to come to a place where movies are viewed in a very open way was important to me.”

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Costner also used the Cannes trip to pass that hat, saying he “knocked on every boat in Cannes” to try and get the floating 1 percent to get their checkbooks out and bankroll the final two Horizon films. He joked that the assembled press should join him outside at the harbor and stand in front of one boat “don’t let those rich people off” until the agree to bankroll his movies.

Costner is on track to invest around $100 million of his own money into his Horizon saga. At the press conference, he noted that he wanted to leave the four properties he owns to his children but will “risk those homes to make my movies… my children will have to live their own lives.”

After he returns from Cannes, Costner said he’ll return to shooting Horizon Chapter 3 and continue “to go as far as my money takes me.”

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