hollywood authentic, cannes dispatch, cannes film festival, greg williams, hollywood authentic
kevin costner, horizon: an american saga
sienna miller, horizon: an american saga

Photographs by GREG WILLIAMS

Kevin Costner believes in the magic of movies so much he’s willing to bet the farm on it. Literally. The actor-filmmaker sank millions of his own cash into funding his planned four-part Western epic, Horizon (part one of which premiered in Cannes this week) when he could find no studio interest and admits he gambled his own homesteads on making it. 

‘I’ve had good luck in my life and I’ve acquired some land and some homes that are important to me and they’re valuable,’ he admitted, ‘but I don’t need four homes. And so I will risk those homes to make my movies. I wish I didn’t do it because I want to leave those homes to my children. But my children will have to live their own life and if I’ve not made a mistake, they will have these four homes. If I’ve made a mistake, I’ll say “you have to live your own life – I’ve lived mine and I’m really happy!”’

Costner was certainly happy after the reception his film received at the premiere, shedding tears of emotion as he saw his dream project finally reach an audience. ‘It was a remarkable moment for me,’ he said of the premiere and standing ovation. ‘I started to walk my life backwards, thinking how in the world did I get here?’

kevin costner, horizon: an american saga
kevin costner, horizon: an american saga
kevin costner, luke wilson, horizon: an american saga

The road to Horizon has been long – Costner first dreamt up the saga in 1988 and the lead character of Hayes Ellison, who he plays in the movie and the name he gave his son he was so obsessed with the project. His now fifteen-year son makes his film debut in the movie in a full-circle moment for the filmmaker.  ‘I had trouble making this movie, but the name Hayes was part of my journey. I couldn’t make it but I couldn’t fall out of love with it. So 15 years ago I named my son Hayes cos I couldn’t let go of it. And then all of a sudden I put him in the movie and he’d never acted before. I don’t automatically give parts to my children because I know how coveted this is and there’s young people who do anything to have a part on a movie. But I’m also a father and it was a part that wasn’t that long and I wanted him to be close to me. And I thought he was just beautiful in the movie. The movie at that moment is everything I want film to be about.’ 

Costner has long been associated with Westerns – and betting on them – having previously made Dances With Wolves in 1990, a film that Hollywood considered so unfashionable and a folly it was nicknamed ‘Kevin’s Gate’ after previous oater flop Heaven’s Gate. Back then Costner poured his own money into the film and was rewarded with epic box office and seven Oscars. He also championed Open Range in 2003. This time around he worked more nimbly to conserve cash (Dances lensed for 106 days, Horizon for just 52) and he recognises that history is repeating itself with his latest work.

kevin costner, sienna miller, horizon: an american saga

‘I don’t know why it was so hard to get people to believe in the movie that I wanted to make. It’s a pattern for me: it’s happened with Dances With Wolves, Field Of Dream, Bull Durham, Open Range. It seems to be a pattern that some of the things that I like are harder to make. My problem is I don’t fall out of love with what I think is something good. Part of why I wanted to make 2, 3 and 4 was to make it for myself cos I know what it’s like to sit out there in the audience and the curtain open and something magic’s going to happen, a story’s going to transport us. The movies have always been a place for us to go and have a chance at magic. So I have made the second one and I’m trying to make the third one.I will have to figure out with my friends, with the things I own – how do I make three to bring us back [to Cannes], I would like to come back with the third movie.’

‘I wrote the best Western that I would write with Jon Baird. A Western that included women as being the biggest characters in the movie, it made sense to me. Movies have to have something in common with you or you lose track of what you’re watching in the dark. You go ‘who the fuck is this?’ It’s when we recognise ourselves that we create moments that we’ll never ever forgot.’

The women leading the charge to the frontier include First Nation wives, Chinese laundresses, wagon train ladies, wily seductresses and widowed mother, Frances Kittredge, played by Sienna Miller. For Miller, the idea of appearing in a Western was a long-held ambition, especially one helmed by Costner.

sienna miller, horizon: an american saga
sienna miller, horizon: an american saga
sienna miller, horizon: an american saga

‘I grew up watching Westerns. I think my idea of cinema was a Western when I was a little girl, and then Dances With Wolves was a huge, huge part of my life. I had two rabbits called Two Socks and Cisco,’ she said, the names of the wolf and the horse in Dances With Wolves. ‘I got this call that Kevin wanted to talk to me, and then I got sent four scripts and I thought it must be a series. There are four of them, but they’re so big, so it didn’t really make sense. And then we had this great conversation. I’d really go to the ends of the earth for him, I think he’s phenomenal.’

For Costner, the decision to put women front and centre in a Western – and to bring all his female leads to Cannes – isn’t a cynical one. ‘It’s almost impossible to imagine a West without women, isn’t it? The West doesn’t carry on without women,’ he said. ‘I am not looking for kudos because women are in it. For me, they’re not in it, they actually dominate the movie, to be honest. Every one of those women dominate when they’re on the screen.’

He hopes that he can get funding to finish his magnificent obsession and make the third and fourth instalments (the second is already in the can). ’I used to get no money to do this, then I got a lot of money to do this, now I have to pay my own money to do this,’ he notes. ‘I love the dreaming part of movies and the writing of them. The red carpet is an incredible thing, but if you’re only in the movies for the red carpet, for the glamour of it, for the fame… I like to think I got to this place because I like the work. The dreaming part.’

Kevin Costner wears Brioni. Watch by Chopard
Sienna Miller wears Chloé and Schiaparelli
Horizon: An American Saga premiered at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and Release date 28 June. To see our review out of Cannes click here


From his Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves to 2003’s Open Range, not to mention his recent Paramount series Yellowstone, Kevin Costner has defined the modern-day western like few other actor-directors. Yet even he surpasses himself here, crafting an epic – and we do mean epic – story set in the Old West. With the first part being presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, Horizon: An American Saga is an enormously ambitious project for Costner, who partly funded it himself, with the intention of ultimately directing four parts (the first two are in the can, the third should begin shooting in August). 

On this evidence, one can only hope Costner gets to deliver his vision in full. Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 is a richly handsome and evocative look at the expansion of the American West. Co-scripted with Jon Baird (the British filmmaker behind Stan and Ollie), Chapter 1 runs at an immersive three hours, allowing the viewer to luxuriate in character development, in phenomenal landscapes of Wyoming and Montana and the occasional jaw-dropping action scene. 

Set during the American Civil War, settlers arrive at a newly-formed town called Horizon, where they are at risk from indigenous tribes who hunt the land and will risk everything to battle against being colonised. One of the film’s most staggering sequences comes early, when Frances (Sienna Miller), a married mother of two, is caught up in a vicious attack that sees her and her daughter hiding out beneath the ground as her house and others are set ablaze. 

An ensemble story, characters come and go, and even Costner himself doesn’t arrive on screen until the hour mark as Hayes Ellison, a lone wolf figure who knows the West like the back of his weather-worn hand. He will ultimately find company with the spiky mother Marigold (Mad Max: Fury Road star Abbey Lee), although you sense that his story is only just beginning. The same goes for First Lt. Trent Gephardt (Avatar star Sam Worthington), one of the leading lights in the United States Army called in to protect the settlers. 

Making nods to John Ford westerns, Costner’s return to directing after a two-decade hiatus is a joy to behold. Charting events with a no-frills approach, it’s as traditional as they come, a real nod to old-school filmmaking. At one point, Hayes shoots down an assailant, the camera lingering on his reflection in a trough of water. It’s a beautiful moment in a film full of them.

Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga starring Kevin Costner, Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington and Abbey Lee) is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Release date 28 June