Kevin Costner debuts passion project Horizon in Cannes to standing ovation and mixed reviews

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Kevin Costner premiered Horizon at the Cannes Film Festival.
Kevin Costner premiered Horizon at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Warner Bros/YouTube

Kevin Costner can’t resist mounting a horse and committing it to film.

The actor and filmmaker premiered his long-in-the-making epic western Horizon: An American Saga over the weekend at the Cannes Film Festival, and depending on who you ask, he was rewarded with anywhere between a six-minute standing ovation (which is standard on the Cannes scale) or an impressive 11 minutes of applause.

A visibly emotional Costner had tears in his eyes as he thanked the audience.

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“I’m sorry you had to clap that long for me to understand that I should speak,” he said.

“Such good people. Such a good moment, not just for me, but for the actors that came with me, for people who believed in me who continued to work. It’s a funny business, and I’m so glad I found it.”

He added that he hoped audiences would share the film with “your sweethearts, with your children”.

Kevin Costner with female stars at Cannes
Kevin Costner and Sienna Miller at Cannes Film Festival. Credit: BANG - Entertainment News

Horizon is Costner’s passion project, and he mortgaged his Santa Barbara estate to finance its reported $US100 million budget. It’s also the first of four planned movies, two of which he has filmed and the other two of which he has shot three days on, so far, while he scrapes together more money.

The saga is set at the end of the American Civil War, following characters who make the journey west as part of Manifest Destiny, the philosophy that it was white settlers’ fate to conquer the continent.

The movie, which stars Costner, Sienna Miller, Abbey Lee, Sam Worthington, Danny Huston and Jena Malone, is told from the perspectives of the pioneers who attempted the arduous journey for the promise of a piece of land and a new life, and the indigenous population they were displacing.

The first instalment is three hours and one minute long and Variety reported the runtime was too much for some with “scores of walkouts” throughout, some of whom did not return to the theatre. The movie ended with a montage of clips from part two, teasing what’s to come.

The first reviews have been mixed. The Hollywood Reporter called it a “clumsy slog” while Variety said it was “wispy” and felt like a “set-up for a TV series”. The Telegraph was keener on it, labelling it “warmly moreish” and reminiscent of the earnest westerns of John Ford.

The first film is to be released in the US in June with the second due in August. Madman over the weekend secured the Australian distribution rights and the first film will be released locally on July 4.

Horizon is Costner’s fourth film as director, following Dances with Wolves, The Postman and Open Range, all of which have been westerns or neo-westerns with stoic men and brutal environments. He has also starred in Western TV show Yellowstone and the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys.

Asked in an interview with Associated Press why he was so enamoured of the genre, Costner replied, “I like seeing behaviour in men that makes sense. I make movies for men. I just want to make sure there’s great women characters because that’s really important to me. The backbone of our movie is actually women. I don’t like boys behaving stupid.”

He also told AP that on Horizon, he considered himself essentially as an independent filmmaker who wasn’t certain as to why he had to self-finance such a large portion of the production.

He said, “It wasn’t an easy decision but it was the decision I needed to make. It’s like, wow, why am I having to do this? I think I’m making mainstream entertainment.”

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