Tearful Kevin Costner Unveils Western Gamble ‘Horizon’ at Cannes: “Sorry You Had to Clap So Long”

Kevin Costner rode into Cannes with cowboy swagger, making finger pistols on the red carpet to cheers from the crowd ahead of the premiere for Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1, a partially self-financed western that is one of the biggest swings of his long career.

Inside the Grand Lumiere Theatre, Costner was greeted with extended applause (including from some guests wearing cowboy hats) before the first public screening of the $90 million-plus budgeted film that is planned as part one of a four-part saga.

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Three hours later, as the credits rolled, the crowd delivered a standing ovation that began to taper off at around the four-and-a-half-minute mark, but then continued on for a total of around ten minutes, ending when a tearful Costner took the microphone to speak about his film, which he directed, produced, co-wrote and stars in.

“I’m sorry you had to clap so long for me to speak,” Costner told the crowd, adding of the movie, “It’s not mine anymore. It’s yours. I knew that the minute this was over. And that’s the way it should be.”

Continued Costner: “I think movies aren’t about their opening weekends, they are about their lives. And about how many times you are willing to share it. And I hope you do share this movie with your sweethearts, with your children.”

Horizon is a major gamble for Costner, who has been trying to make the project for more than 30 years. After decades of trying to find studio financier, Costner instead put in $20 million of his own funds into the project, deferring his fees and taking out a loan against his Santa Barbara home. “When no one wanted to make the first one, I got the bright idea to make four,” Costner said wryly in February during a press conference. He has already shot Chapter 2, has has two more scripts he would like to make. He has even shot a few days on Chapter 3, but is in need of funds to complete the picture.

Since directing and starring in best picture winner Dances with Wolves, Costner has become synonymous with the western genre, and emerged as one of its biggest champions. He was one of the first A-list movie stars to jump to TV with the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys in 2012, before such a film-to-TV move became commonplace. And more notably, he has led the ratings juggernaut Yellowstone for five seasons, with the fate of the second half of season five hanging in the balance. (Yellowstone producers have claimed Costner’s Horizon schedule had made him unavailable for the show, while Costner’s camp has blamed writing delays on the Yellowstone end.)

Costner is banking on his Yellowstone crowd showing up for Horizon. In a bold move, the first two parts will come out in close succession, with Chapter 1 arriving in North America on June 28 and Chapter 2 coming in August. Warner Bros. is handling domestic distribution, but does not have financial skin in the game.

Though the Cannes crowd seemed to like the film, The Hollywood Reporter chief film critic David Rooney was not high on it, writing, “Kevin Costner has been in the saddle long enough to know the difference between a big-screen feature Western like Dances With Wolves, a miniseries like Hatfields & McCoys or a longform like Yellowstone. All those projects have done well by him and he’s done well by them. His connection to the quintessential Americana genre and the rugged lands it calls home is indubitable. So why is his sprawling new frontier tale, Horizon: An American Saga, such a clumsy slog? It plays like a limited series overhauled as a movie, but more like a hasty rough cut than a release ready for any format.”

He was joined at Cannes by Horizon stars Sienna Miller, Jena Malone, Isabelle Fuhrman, Ella Hunt, Georgia MacPhail, Abbey Lee and Wasé Chief. Costner received support for the film from notable guests including his JFK director Oliver Stone, Julianne Moore, Michelle Yeoh and Isabelle Huppert.

As for the future of Horizon, Costner ended his remarks by promising the crowd there are three more films coming. Said the actor: “It’s just another miracle in my life. I hope this time was worth it for you.”

May 19, 1:22 p.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Universal was handling international rights on Horizon.

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