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Taking the stage at Cannes Lions, Kevin Costner joked that audiences think he’ll take any role with a horse. He saddled up again in Yellowstone, but the Oscar winner said it was more to tell the story of a dying way of Midwestern life.
“No one confuses me for anything other than American, that’s for sure, and that’s OK,” he said, noting that it was only his second time in Cannes despite his long and storied film career. “When I read it, I saw my country.”
With the country as divided as ever, Costner was asked what people on the coasts may not understand about those in the middle. He said that there’s no “big secret,” but that people think old-fashioned Westerns are a thing of the past, yet it’s a common way of life, still carried out on horseback on land that goes back five generations.
“We may be in 2018, but the DNA that runs in the American West and the middle of America is that people arbitrate their own problems. They don’t like lawyers to get involved. They don’t like agents or publicity people,” he said. “They still have a level of unpredictability and danger.”
The show — from Taylor Sheridan and co-starring Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham, Danny Huston and Kelly Reilly — tells the story of a family fighting subdivisions and development on their land. He said for European immigrants, “you figured out that in America if you were tough enough, if you were smart enough, if you were vicious enough, you could take land and make it yours,” and that mentality is still pervasive.
He also mentioned displaced Native Americans, who have lost their culture and language. “Our fingerprints are all over that, and unfortunately those people still haven’t recovered, and they struggle,” he said. That conflict is also part of the story in Yellowstone.
The Waterworld and Postman director joked that taking on a 10-part series fit in perfectly with his very long career.
“I’ve always made long movies. That’s been the rap on me, that my movies go on and on and on,” he joked. He’s also stayed away from sequels and franchises: “I don’t want to make a bad one and then make a third one to apologize for the second one.”
Costner said one of his favorite films is Giant, the 1956 Texas oil drama starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. He asked the room full of millennials if they’d seen it, and when no hands went up, he proceeded to explain the film’s antiracist message to the crowd.
“You have to stand for something in your life. We all have to stand for ourselves,” he said. “None of us are perfect, but we need to try to be.”
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