‘Yellowstone’ Star Kevin Costner Explained How ‘How the West Was Won’ Inspired His Love of Westerns at Western Heritage Awards

by Madison Miller

Kevin Costner continues to feed his love for Western films.

In the show “Yellowstone,” Costner plays John Dutton, the patriarch of the largest cattle ranch in the U.S. His family must face more modern-day issues as he deals with land developers and the nearby Native American reservations.

The show is a modern-day rendition of a classic Western. For Kevin Costner to star in the series it helps further validate its position in dramas.

Kevin Costner and His First Western

Costner has said in the past that he is a firm believer that Western movies are not going extinct. Rather, poorly done Westerns are facing extinction. Westerns today often have a makeover. That meaning, more modern-day drama, issues, and violence.

Those themes of heroics and the great outdoors are not going anywhere though. Little Kevin Costner first got a taste of the Western genre at the movie theater when he was a kid. Costner watched “How the West Was Won” at a birthday party in 1962.

For Costner and Westerns, it was love at first sight.

“I don’t know how the other kids did but I never moved. I was too small for my seat, and my feet must have stuck straight out, because I know they never hit the floor. The music was playing before the curtain opened, and when it did, it was like God spoke to me and the scales came off my eyes. I never left my seat, refusing to leave even at intermission. Candy and Coke, they were just not important. I wasn’t gonna miss a thing – and if you think my own pictures run long, then you can blame it on that day,” Kevin Costner said at the Western Heritage Awards in 2019, according to a transcript from The Oklahoman.

‘How the West Was Won’ Impact

“How the West Was Won” is a classic Western film and a trademark in the genre. It is considered a Western adventure film. Henry Hathaway is the director. The movie features a huge ensemble cast including Henry Fonda, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, and Karl Malden as just a few. The movie won Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing.

It was on that day that several Americans found themselves face to face with dozens of Western stars. It was the details that would leave Costner in awe.

The movie continues to be one of Hollywood’s greatest epics ever.

Costner and a Growing Love

“Little did I know that I would meet some of our greatest Western stars on the screen that afternoon. But it was Spencer Tracy’s voice that I heard first, talking about the land with no roads or borders and the type of men who were unafraid to venture out into it. The first image of a birch bark canoe gliding across a mirrored lake towards a group of people standing on the shore dressed in feathers and furs, it took my breath away … I wanted to be free to make up my own life, living by my own wits, answering to no man about where I went, in a land that was beautiful but gave no quarter,” Kevin Costner said.

Costner is in the Western-making game for more than just the cowboys and the violence. Rather, it’s about the dialogue, details, love, and the randomness of violence.

Since then the small boy with dangling feet at a movie theater in the ’60s has grown to be one of the saving graces for the Western genre today. He is most known for his work on films like “Dances with Wolves,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Silverado,” and “The Postman.”

Costner has made it his goal to continue to create Western-themed performances and films that will draw people in.