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What You Need to Know About Kevin Costner’s Western ‘Horizon’

He tells AARP about his most ambitious movie yet, plus reveals he’d return to ‘Yellowstone’

spinner image Jamie Campbell Bower and Kevin Costner talking to each other in a scene from the film Horizon: An American Saga
(Left to right) Jamie Campbell Bower and Kevin Costner in "Horizon: An American Saga.”
Richard Foreman/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Kevin Costner, 69, mortgaged his family’s beachfront Santa Barbara home to finance the $100 million-plus epic he’s been working on for 37 years: Horizon: An American Saga, Chapter 1 (in theaters June 28) and Chapter 2 (Aug. 16), set in the Civil War era but more about the settling of the West than the war. The first movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival May 19 to a 10-minute standing ovation that brought tears to his eyes. It earned rave reviews — but also several pans.

Doubling down on his bold bet, he’s seeking funds for two more films, Chapter 3 and, he hopes, Chapter 4. He doesn’t regret taking the risk of a lifetime on his career-capstone film franchise. “I just believed in it so much that I put my money into it,” Costner tells AARP. “I’ve pushed my chips to the middle and didn't blink.”

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What is the series of films about?

Horizon’s first chapter is awash with characters and multiple storylines that resonate with Western mythology. In the 1860s, an Apache man (Tatanka Means) and his warriors set fire to Horizon, a tiny settlement in Arizona’s San Pedro Valley. A homesteader (Sienna Miller) hides with her kids under her home’s floor, using a rifle as a breathing tube as her husband (Will Patton, 69) dies. She’s rescued and takes shelter at Fort Gallant, led by a gallant, hunky Union Army lieutenant (Sam Worthington).

In Montana territory, a gorgeous floozy (Abbey Lee) and a single mom (Jena Malone) are menaced by two outlaw gunmen. In rides a drifter (Costner) who’s likely a better shot than John Wayne and Gary Cooper combined, and he takes the women and a child on the run.

Meanwhile, on the Oregon Trail in Kansas, a wagon train leader (Luke Wilson, 52) tries to keep his settlers safe, including a rather spoiled British couple (Ella Hunt and Tom Payne).

The plot is sprawling, covering about 15 years. Several critics compared it to 1962’s Cinerama blockbuster How the West Was Won, which had five plots and might have had more dramatic impact with one. (It won three Oscars and grossed $791 million in 2024 dollars.) But Chapter 1 just sets up Horizon’s stories without resolving them, so we’ll have to wait to see how they turn out. Deadline’s Pete Hammond says it’s “an impressive beginning, with the promise of more to come.”

How are the early reviews?

So far Horizon has a weak 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which averages 15 critics’ opinions from Cannes. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman calls it “convoluted, ambitious, intriguing and meandering. But it’s never quite moving.”’s Robert Daniels calls it “a chore to sit through.”

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But some critics give it a thumbs-up. It’s certainly a gigantic, old-fashioned movie with stunning landscapes and dramatic gunfights, packing in things you’ve loved in Westerns from 1948’s Fort Apache to Costner’s own 1990 Dances With Wolves.

“Director Kevin Costner may have just invented granddad cinema,” raves Britain’s The Telegraph, “a Western of the breed John Ford made in the 1940s and ’50s: earnest, stately and — even in the face of dire odds — humane and hopeful; full of crisply drawn characters and wide landscapes golden with promise, and without a crumb of cynicism in sight.”

The vast majority of critics won’t weigh in until the movie is out June 28. And maybe Chapter 2 will wrap up some of the storylines satisfyingly — it’s too bad the two parts of the story aren’t premiering together, so we could binge-watch them on the big screen.

How did Horizon impact Yellowstone?

Costner has long had a Midas touch with Westerns, from Silverado in 1985 to 2012’s Hatfields and McCoys, cable TV’s top series, which revived his career. But Yellowstone made him bigger than ever. The modern-day cowboy epic about a Succession-like Montana family feud became TV’s No. 1 scripted series, broke ratings records and was the No. 1 DVD bestseller.

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Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, 54, was eager to do more seasons of the original show with Costner. But Costner was determined to make Horizon and quarreled with Sheridan. One insider compared them to “silverbacks wrestling,” and Sheridan’s camp blamed Costner for his departure from the show.

Costner tells AARP the problem was that Yellowstone got so successful, it started generating spin-off sequels and prequels (1883, 1923, 1944, 2024), and Yellowstone’s scripts did not arrive in time before he had to go shoot his own Western.

As for him being depicted as the bad guy in the black hat who threatened Yellowstone, he says, “That was really unfair. I had 300 people waiting for me in Moab, all of them ready to begin work on Horizon.”

But don’t give up hope, fans!

Yellowstone just announced plans to start shooting a new season, premiering in November 2024. Costner tells AARP he’s open to a future season as its hero, John Dutton: “I loved Yellowstone. I’d go back and do it again.”

How will viewers react to Horizon?

“Movies aren’t just about opening weekend,” says Costner. “Ten years later a good movie will still be shared. Success is: Will you revisit it and show your daughter, show your son?” He points out that prospects and buzz were so bad for Dancing With Wolves that he had to put his own money into that too. It grossed just under $1 billion in 2024 dollars and won seven Oscars, including best picture and best director.

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