Kevin Costner is best utilized as an actor these days, which is why it’s easy to forget that he’s also an Academy Award-winning director. A filmmaker with both Dances with Wolves and The Postman credited to his name, among others, his career behind the camera hasn’t been without high and low points, but he still has a couple of stories that he wants to tell. Notably, a 10 hour Western, which might live to see the light of day in the world of Peak Television, or might live inside the movie theater.
Costner hasn’t kept this project a secret. He’s mentioned it in the past and knows that it’s ambitious and lengthy, especially in a time when Westerns aren’t necessarily profitable. But he hasn’t pushed it aside, nor will he be giving up on it. Promoting his recently released Hidden Figures, the actor spoke with Variety about the project and said the following:
I’ve been working on it. It’s about 10 hours long, how about that? Maybe I’ll make three features out of it. There’s a fourth one, too, so it’s truly a saga. I could do TV, or I could also make it like every six months, have a big western that’s tied together like [Claude Berri’s 1986 film] Jean de Florette and [1987 film] Manon of the Spring. I think those are fun to watch.
His goal would be to shoot it all at once, then release each chapter throughout one year’s time, i.e. the first one on Memorial Day, the second on Thanksgiving, the third on the Fourth of July, and so on and so forth. In the age of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and 2 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2, that kind of idea isn’t unfounded, but it usually comes after some tested, fertile ground. Who knows how well the first chapter of Costner’s saga would do? And it’s not like Westerns are known to bring in a tidy profit these days. Even Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight fell a little short in terms of financial expectations.
If this epic project doesn’t come to pass, however, Costner’s still intent on directing. As he told Vulture, he’s got another Western cooking in the back of his mind that he’d love to make.
I have another Western I’ve co-written with some people, and I would like to play out the second half of my career directing more. I’ve constantly given the movies I’ve found to directors who I thought could do it better, but there are a lot of voices in my ear from my family saying, ‘You need to direct the movies you fall in love with.’ So I think I will.
The reason Costner often doesn’t get the opportunity to make his passion projects is because the actor/director/producer usually has to front his own money to bring them to life. Dances with Wolves, for instance, was made with $3 million from his own pocket. Still, Kevin Costner is a filmmaker with stories to tell, and we hope that he gets the chance to tell them sooner rather than later.