Kevin Costner to Take On Billy the Kid Mystery for National Geographic (Exclusive)

Kevin Costner - H 2015
AP Images

Kevin Costner - H 2015

Kevin Costner is teaming with National Geographic to explore the legend of Billy the Kid — specifically a mysterious photo believed to only be the second one of the famed outlaw.

The special, Billy the Kid: New Evidence, will premiere Sunday, Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. and trace the origins of a newly discovered tintype containing what appears to be a second image of the famed fugitive. Only one photo of William H. Bonney — better known as Billy the Kid — exists. The outlaw died in 1881, at a time when cameras were a rarified technology.

From Leftfield Pictures, Billy the Kid: New Evidence tells the story of the tintype’s fateful discovery in 2010 and investigates its origin and authenticity using modern methods and time period re-creations to piece together a mystery more than 130 years in the making. If authenticated, the photograph could set a new record for the sale of a rare and highly prized collectible.

"Billy the Kid was once the most-hunted man in America and, if you think about it, was one of the media’s first notorious bad boys,” said Costner, who will narrate and executive produces the two-hour special. "The world was fascinated with him then, and the fact that this recently discovered image has created such excitement proves that the world continues to be fascinated with him today. Billy the Kid is the epitome of an American legend.”

In 2010, collector Randy Guijarro bought a 4-by-5-inch tintype for $2 and, after enlarging the image, saw what looked like Billy the Kid playing croquet with his gang the "Regulators." Experts — the same ones who authenticated the only pic of the outlaw — questioned the authenticity of the alleged second photo. The first authenticated photo sold in 2011 for $2.3 million. Should the new photo be authenticated, it could sell for several times the value of the first.

The special will focus on the authenticators and investigators attempting to retrace Billy the Kid's whereabouts when the image was taken.

"Photographic history is the foundation of the National Geographic Society, and now we are fortunate enough once again to be a part of a historical moment driven by the lens of a camera," said Tim Pastore, president of original programming and production at National Geographic Channels. "As part of an esteemed organization dedicated to preserving our history, we have now found ourselves in the enviable position to preserve a piece of American history while rewriting it, through a single photograph. And that is damn exciting!"

Billy the Kid: New Evidenceis produced by Leftfield Pictures and 18THIRTY Entertainment for National Geographic Channels. Leftfield's Brent Montgomery, David George, Shawn Witt and Philippe Denham exec produce alongside 18's Jeff Aiello. NGC's Michael Kovnat, Matt Renner and Pastore will also oversee.