ST. GEORGE — Utah’s Southwest scenery plays a key character in Kevin Costner’s film “Horizon: An American Saga,” and it’s one of the reasons the award-winning director is betting the film will resonate with viewers long after it hits theaters on June 28.

“Horizon: An American Saga 2” crew prepares for filming, on location near St. George, Utah, directed by Kevin Costner,
copyright Territory Pictures, Inc., Ivins, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes, St. George News

The film is the first of four chapters that span 15 years of pre- and post-Civil War settlement of the American West.

“I want people to feel in the dark that suddenly they just absorb themselves (into the movie) — take the ride,” Costner told St. George News during a press conference. “We all know what happens when the lights go out, either something good, something average or something great. I hope this is something that stays with them forever when they see the movie,”

Southern Utah’s striking red vistas and meandering rivers captured the director’s heart and imagination. Costner also thanked the people of Utah, many of whom worked on the film due to the Rural Film Incentives plan previously passed by the state Legislature.

“It was the best place in the world for me to go. I travel through the country and I always go through there,” Costner said. “My head is on a swivel when I go through Utah. It’s magic.”

Costner explained that when he traveled through Southern Utah and saw the flat mesa tops, he would return to his 30-year journey of wondering where he would make the movie he had chosen. Initially, the film was called “Sidewinder.”

But making the film in the Beehive State was a challenging path.

“Horizon: An American Saga 2” crew prepares for filming, on location near St. George, Utah, directed by Kevin Costner,
copyright Territory Pictures, Inc., Ivins, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes, St. George News

“I kind of bypassed the smart business decision to go where my money could stretch farther. I didn’t want to rob the audience of a second of what Utah is,” Costner said. “The state has had an impact on me. I’ll never forget Utah. Utah is where I wanted to be.”

Costner said many Westerns aren’t good because they get too simplified and Westerns are complicated.

“This isn’t Disneyland — these are real lives, people just making their way,” Costner said. “I’m drawn to that. I’m always gonna get to my gunfight, but I’m drawn to the little things people had to endure.”

As a storyteller, Costner said he wants to take the audience to places that could thrill, expose and challenge them to understand the characters.

“We have to create a movie that has a level of authenticity that you actually can parallel your life with, to look at the people, they’re just trying to scratch out a living,” Costner said.

He added that dreams of going West are always on the horizon because everyone is looking for something, even today.

When a movie, song or new book is done well, it’s human nature to want to pass that feeling along to others.

“I’ve always liked that feeling — when I’m really touched — that I told people about it the next day,” Costner said.

He predicts the first installment of “Horizon: An American Saga” will excite moviegoers and inspire them to watch the other three movies planned.

Even though the film comes with an “R” rating, Costner said he hopes families enjoy attending together.

“I don’t make R’s gratuitously,” he said. “If somebody says that this is gonna be a little hard at the moment, but I want you to see it. I want my little girl to see what their great-great-great-grandmother went through.”

Another reason Costner is confident about the film is his attention to detail, despite the short time frame his film crew had compared to other films. For example, he shot “Dances With Wolves” in 106 days and created “Horizon” in 52.

Ava Duran, Paiute Restoration Pow Wow Princess 2023-24, visits the film set on location for “Horizon: An American Saga 2,” directed by Kevin Costner (right), copyright Territory Pictures, Inc., Ivins, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes, St. George News

Costner said he believes the movie will also be a success due to its strong ensemble cast. Aiming to create a compelling narrative without judgment, he said all of the actors bring depth and complexity to their roles. Starring alongside Costner are Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Jena Malone, Michael Rooker, Danny Huston, Luke Wilson, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Jamie Campbell Bower. Costner’s teenage son Hayes also has a role in the film.

It’s the attention to detail that ensures the Western will remain relevant and timeless, he said.

“Relevance will be in the level of detail, humanity and character that it tends to portray. When we are more honest, our movies travel farther,” Costner said. “We tend to dismiss things that we just don’t really feel attached to.”

Westerns have a classic feel so they don’t fall out of touch.

“I think Westerns exist in any decade. That’s the opportunity we have of cinema is to make something that lasts past its opening weekend,” Costner said. “I’ve never banked on opening weekends; I’ve banked on people wanting to revisit something or tell someone about it.”

The country looked west again when the Civil War was over in 1865. He said in 25 years, something that had been there for thousands of years was destroyed. Costner said the nation’s appetite was to be satisfied at “the disadvantage of those who had been there and flourished and were living in their own way.”

Costner called this a “great injustice” that “crushed” Native Americans.

“Under this movement, Native Americans didn’t stand a chance,” Costner said.

Still, Costner added, it doesn’t minimize the courage it took for his ancestors to pioneer. He said he recognizes the resourcefulness and bravery of all those leaving the East Coast and marching across the country in search of a better life.

Costner added that many people traveled West with hope and brought their families. In contrast, others came because they were damaged or were running away from something.

“People caught on very quick in the West, that if they were strong enough like the trailer says — if they were mean enough — they could hold on to something,” Costner said. “And they could take it away from you. When you can create that architecture in a movie where anything is possible, some people get lucky, and some people do not.”

Costner recently announced he is building a studio for his Territory Pictures company near the St. George Regional Airport.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.