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For 'Horizon,' Kevin Costner sought inspiration in Frederic Remington's work

Rosa Cartagena, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

PHILADELPHIA — In "Horizon: An American Saga," Kevin Costner’s latest Western coming to theaters June 28, the actor-director-cowriter delivers a sprawling film — the first installment of four — following various story lines in the Southwest, beginning in 1859. Costner plays Hayes Ellison, an illiterate cowboy who appears, about an hour in, sporting a blue coat, a tall, round hat, and paisley scarf as he traverses the vast plains.

In crafting the aesthetics for his character, Costner focused on practicality. The cowboy has two outfits, which is about all he can afford, and everything he owns is on his horse.

“He felt he looked good, he had his own ego — he’s not a dandy, for sure,” said Costner. “I kind of just studied [Frederic] Remington pictures and [Charles Marion] Russell paintings.”

Both artists are renowned for capturing the American West in paintings and sculptures. Costner has turned to them for inspiration throughout his career acting in Westerns, including his 1990 blockbuster Dancing with Wolves. Remington in particular sculpted bronzes of various cowboys — and Philadelphia holds his only large-scale work.

Cowboy (1908) towers over Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park. Remington modeled the sculpture on his friend Charlie Trego, a Chester County horseman. Like Costner’s Ellison, the sculpture is stern, mustachioed, and wears a cowboy scarf. According to the historical marker, Trego was a manager of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

 

In Remington’s and Costner’s eyes, cowboys are essential figures in American history. Costner says he returns to Westerns because they represent a treacherous and illuminating era. He wants audiences to imagine how they might have fared and recognize how “we really haven’t changed too much.”

“It’s not Disneyland, it was real. Our ancestors lived it and the Indigenous suffered from it and never recovered from our national appetite,” said Costner. “I want you to be able to close your eyes, and for a minute, you’re not on the freeway, you’re not having an appointment — you go west, and you just watch, and you feel the poetry, the majesty, and how dangerous of a place it really was.”

The film, in which Costner put $38 million of his own funds, premiered at Cannes and has since garnered mixed reviews. Part two will premiere in August and he’s currently filming part three.

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