'Dances With Wolves' & More Kevin Costner Westerns You Must Watch
The actor Kevin Costner was the ideal candidate to portray John Dutton in Yellowstone due of his background as a director and actor in popular Western films. He took home the major prize at the Academy Awards in March 1991. His Western saga Dances With Wolves won seven Oscars at the glitzy evening, including Best Picture and Best Director for Costner. How significant were those victories? Only two other classic Westerns have ever won Best Picture at the Academy Awards: Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, which won two years after Dances With Wolves, and Cimarron in 1931. (Like Costner, Eastwood won his own Best Director award.)
It makes sense that Taylor Sheridan, who co-created Yellowstone, would cast Costner in the starring role of his own modern Western epic 26 years later. When the series' 2018 premiere rolled around, Costner had matured into the ideal icon to play a contemporary Montana patriarch with an empire to protect: experienced, commanding, and gravelly voiced while looking natural in a Stetson and riding a horse. The acclaimed screenwriter and director has consistently cited Dances With Wolves as one of his major influences.
Sheridan is credited with revitalising the Western genre on television due to the current popularity of Yellowstone, just as Costner is credited with doing the same for the silver screen thanks to Dances With Wolves more than three decades ago. Another connection between the two Westerns is that Sheridan respects the complexity of contemporary Native American life in Yellowstone, just as Costner did in his portrayal of Native American life in the film and his use of Indigenous (in that case, Lakota) language onscreen.
'Yellowstone': The Owner of the Dutton Ranch Explains Why Taylor Sheridan Selected It
One further aspect that these two American Westerns are similar is highlighted by a funny casting note: In the movie Dances With Wolves, Graham Greene portrayed Kicking Bird, a Sioux medicine man who assisted Kevin Costner's character John Dunbar in becoming accepted by the tribe. Sheridan chose Greene for the role of Spotted Eagle, a Crow elder who leads the Dutton ancestor James (Tim McGraw) and his daughter Elsa (Isabel May) to Elsa's ultimate burial place, which becomes the Dutton Ranch, in the Yellowstone prelude 1883.