Kevin Costner Classic ‘Dances with Wolves’ Premieres in Theaters on This Day in 1990

by Keeli Parkey

These days, Kevin Costner is entertaining millions of television viewers with his performance in the wildly popular show “Yellowstone.”

Set in Montana, it’s a show that focuses on the Dutton family and their battle to keep their land. The 66-year-old Costner plays family patriarch, John Dutton, in the series.

“Yellowstone” is not the only popular project of Kevin Costner’s that was based in the American West. Another of those is the 1990 film, “Dances With Wolves.” It premiered 31 years ago today (Nov. 9, 2021).

“Dances With Wolves” was based on the book by Michael Blake. In the film, Kevin Costner plays Lt. John Dunbar. The character is a veteran of the Civil War and fought for the Union forces. Following his service in the war, Dunbar heads out West to an abandoned military outpost. While living there, he meets – and becomes friends with – members of the Lakota people.

One factor that made the film unique when it was released was its use of the Lakota language. Actors spoke Lakota and English subtitles were used to allow audiences to follow the story.

Kevin Costner Wore Multiple Hats During the Production of ‘Dances With Wolves’

Not only was Kevin Costner the star of the film – he was also its director and was a producer. The film was both a box office and a critical success. It earned more than $400 million worldwide.

The film also went on to win an impressive seven Academy Awards. It won the Oscar for Best Picture and Costner won Best Director. Its five other Academy Awards were for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; Best Cinematography; also Best Sound; Best Film Editing; and Best Music, Original Score.

The cast of “Dances With Wolves” was one reason the film was such a box office and critical success. In addition to Kevin Costner, the cast also includes Mary McDonnell as Stands With a Fist; Graham Greene as Kicking Bird; Rodney A. Grant as Wind In His Hair; Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman as Ten Bears; Tantoo Cardinal as Black Shawl; Jimmy Herman as Stone Calf; Robert Pastorelli as Timmons; and Charles Rocket as Lieutenant Elgin.

Costner, McDonnell, and Greene all received Academy Award nominations for their performances in the film. “Dances With Wolves” was also nominated for Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

In scenes that show the character Stands With a Fist as a young girl, Costner turned to someone very close to him to portray the character. That person was his daughter, Annie Costner. She was just 6 years old when she appeared in her famous father’s film.

One of the most famous scenes from “Dances With Wolves” is the buffalo hunt. This scene was a major endeavor to capture. Kevin Costner and company required a helicopter and 10 trucks to film the scene. Also involved were 24 riders, as well as 20 wranglers, 150 extras, and seven cameras. They needed eight days to film this scene.

You can watch the trailer for Kevin Costner’s film, “Dances With Wolves,” below.