Yellowstone: Western Series, Starring Oscar Winner Kevin Costner–Interview

Oscar winner Kevin Costner talks about Yellowstone, Paramount TV, and recalls casting and working with Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard,” her most popular movie.

Interview with Oscar Winning Star Kevin (“Dancing with Wolves”) Costner

Costner also talked about his crucial role in casting Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard

Bodyguard, The (1992): Trashy Melodrama Starring Costner and Whitney Houston


Long Movie or TV Project

Kevin Costner: It was always intended to be long. It was like, he said, do you want to make a long movie? I said, sure. He said, let’s make ten episodes and we’ll make it a movie that goes down all the different plot lines.  And he began to evolve his thoughts and Paramount began to evolve their thoughts. They wanted to see if they could make something that really traveled with his family.  It was not ever intended to be a movie, but we wanted to try to shoot it like a movie. Not so episodic as much as let’s just shoot cross board. Where you’re shooting the last scene early in the whole process and then put it together as opposed to different episodes each time.

Westerns and Adventures

KC: I don’t run away from films that take me outdoors, and I don’t run away from movies that have horses. One of the things they all have in common; I’ve done some sports movies, but I’ve been passed 200 of them. I’ve done some westerns, and been given 200 westerns.  Both of those areas I enjoy, but unless it somehow gets over the bar, passes through the eye of the needle, what I consider something that can play around the world, where the feelings where people recognize each other and are, at times, brought into environments that are fun for them that they don’t really know exists or know much about. That’s where “Yellowstone” really began to shine for me, because while the characters are fictional, this lifestyle is not.

American Cowboy

The cowboy is alive and well in America. This way of life is still being carried on, the modern-day ranching, and it still primarily done on horseback, although the trappings of big ranches have helicopters and ATVs. This kind of thing that are the modern day. So, I am drawn to it. And it’s nice for people to know that places like this still exist in America, where it’s pretty, and it feels like the garden of Eden, if you will. Tremendous American history passed through that exact same valley. Lewis and Clark who are responsible. I’m drawn to that, but I don’t know anybody who isn’t drawn to the mountains and running horses in water and land. We’re all connected and those, those ideas can connect us. But those alone can’t stand alone because otherwise you’re dealing with a postcard. You have to find a way to create drama. And we have a dysfunctional family. I do. And that’s explained without being explained. When I lose the center of my life, which is my wife and women hold the family together. And in this instance, our family began to unravel when I didn’t really have the tools to handle children who no longer felt the need to stay on the ranch after five generations. So, I’m drawn to that and all the pressures that come with modern day ranching or imply.


Whitney Houston Documentary

KC: I haven’t seen it.  I was asked to speak about Whitney in the documentary. I’m periodically asked to talk about her. I think we’re still talking about Judy Garland. I think we still talk about people that we understood were exceptional talents. I thought of her as a woman and created a platform for her. I didn’t create the platform, but I insisted that she be a part of it in that movie representing a woman, not a black woman, not a white, but, a singer of great talent and really hard to manage and she fit beautifully into “The Bodyguard.” Sometimes you catch a person at the right moment. I didn’t realize at the moment when I really wanted Whitney, that she wasn’t selling out stadiums. I had no idea that, that she wasn’t on an uptick, if you will, but it didn’t matter to me because, you know, when I like someone or like something, they don’t fall out of fashion for me whether they’re selling tickets or not. I know that I, I like them. So, when it came time to pick that person, I didn’t really want an actress trying to project a singer, I wanted her.  There was several different things brought to my attention about race several times that maybe she’s not on the upswing. She’s inexperienced.  I didn’t see any of those things. None of those things scared me. Maybe they would if I was an executive, but they didn’t scare me as a filmmaker, as someone who is looking for the emotional truth. You’re looking for the right girl that can stand the test of time and not the right girl that was of the moment.  Whitney wasn’t of the moment actually at that moment in her life.  But I know that that was a high point for her. If you look at the arc of her life, that became a real high mark for the next three or four years.  And then we began to lose her.

Whitney’s Death

KC:  Life’s a mystery for all of us. And we’ve all made left and right turns in our lives. I don’t know why we’re all still survivors. What hand is over us. I mean obviously that’s just not a world you want to dive into is drugs. When you do you’re playing with your life. And we want to pass onto our sons? What do we want to pass onto her daughters? I mean you don’t want to go down that road. There’s too much to experience and think of what she hasn’t experienced, you know? Whitney didn’t think she was beautiful enough. She felt the trends because she was a flat-footed singer. She sang like Streisand sang. She sang like people who could just sit there and command a room like Celine Dion. A lot of people that were merging where dancing artists and so there’s this temptation. We experienced it in film, you know, that’s why we see a lot of the same films being made because as soon as that’s a success, we see other studios trending those movies. We see that kind of thing. So, it takes a strong person to understand who they are. With confidence she would’ve lived, she would have always been Whitney to us, whether she was making number one hit. But there was something in her that drove her and that was her outcome. I’m not in a position to psycho analyze any of that.





Cannes Film Fest 2018: Macdonald’s Docu Whitney is Midnight Screening

Land and Scenery

KC: I’m obviously in love with the scenery, but it’s not enough to do. And I love the idea of being on horseback. Who wouldn’t want to be on a horse? You know what I’m saying? Who doesn’t want to cross the river? Who doesn’t want to see things that’s just so beautiful. But this thing exists with the pressures that are there and their pressures that the five generations before him have never felt. There’s politics, there’s urbanization; there are people that want to build yet another golf course. There’s the issues of the native Americans that never leaves. And that’s a problem that we’ve never been able to make right. And all those things come to bear in one man trying to hold onto a ranch that’s been in his family for 132 years. We step into this series at it’s most heightened moment, probably its most vulnerable moment. His family, you can see where it is and there’s people coming for him. So that created a great opportunity to create dilemma and drama. And I think Taylor has surrounded that really beautifully.

American Maleness and Masculinity

KC: I’ve seen it changed over my life, but you know, some of the responsibilities never changed, which was the love and protection, the nurturing, the thinking ahead of time. Thinking out in front for the future of your family. This particular story has the DNA of the West still in it. Even though I’m John Dutton is having to deal with current laws, if you will, and that’s gonna be his undoing because you can’t push anybody anymore and you can’t hit someone anymore without there being repercussions without finding yourself in jail or lawyers at your door. And the people that have come before him, his grandfather, great grandfather, they could do that in Montana. Now there’s repercussions. But the interesting thing about “Yellowstone” is that those people that come in and try to take that land in those ways, through white collar, you know, we’ll get you through the law, will get you through this, we’ll get you through a technicality. What they still deal with is that old western mentality, which is they might run up against the wrong person that goes, “I don’t give a fuck what your piece of paper says. If you step one foot on this land, there is this thing.” Excuse me for the vulgarity of that moment, but that’s where the drama really exists because that is actually a part of this American West that hasn’t been bled out of the people that exist there. They can, they can take exception and they can choose to not follow the law and, and sometimes won’t. And people like the Danny Huston character can overstep their bounds thinking that they’re protected by either Barb-Wire or a court order issue. It may not count to somebody who thinks they’re gonna lose their land and that’s a little different than the east coast, west coast thing. It’s probably different than in Europe. Out there people still, once in a while, will take the law into their own hands. And I think that’s what makes “Yellowstone” a little bit unique. It’s honest about that kind of mentality that exists out there. And you think everything civilized. It isn’t completely.

Cowboy Mentality

KC: Most men think that their word is supposed to mean something. They’re supposed to stand for something. The idea that those ideas should never have fallen out of fashion or come into vogue. it should always be there.  The western thing is, I’m a man of my word. But I don’t know that it’s just the west. I think people feel that everywhere. We’re supposed to be men of our word. Do we make mistakes? We do. Do we try to learn from that mistake? That’s important. Do we have the chance to do that? That’s equally important. Do we have self-analyzation when we walk away from a situation that maybe we wished we would have handled better? That’s introspection and that goes with being a man.

Connection to Land

KC: I’ve probably told this group a long, long time ago that I built three canoes and went down the same river that Lewis and Clark had gone down. And here I am making a film in the Bitterroot Valley exactly where they went down.  I love American history, the good and bad of it.  I recognize all of it. And so, to be able to place a drama inside all that, that makes sense to me where I feel like I fit, that the needle for me that would allow me to go away from home and do it. It’s important to try to expose your children to as many things as possible. That’s the joy of it. Seeing the things that you love and watching through their eyes and letting them decide that the opportunities you give them, your experiences or something they may want to return to.



What’s Missing from Life?

KC: I think what happens is there’s a thing that I think happens for all of us. I mean, you write about movies, you get bored with them, like maybe even hate your job sometimes, but there’s something that keeps bringing you back to the movies because, dog on it, even though you hate movies, sometimes you still love them, and I can write about them. You can’t say anything bad about the movies. I love the movies, but I fucking hate him sometimes. I hate coming to these crummy things. But there’s something that I think makes you come back or you wouldn’t do it. You must have a genuine love of being in the dark and watching movies deep down and I see a lot of same faces in here that have a love of it and something I have in common with you is that I have a love of them too. And I think of them maybe differently than you do because you have to see so many. I feel like I’m out there trying to mine gold. Trying to find a single thing for myself that I can present. I used to do that from my mom and she would take whatever I did, and she put it on the refrigerator, whether it was good or whether it was bad and to have a career you have to try to mine this gold of something that perhaps can stay in your mind forever. And so, why still do it is because when I actually read something that really surprises me or feels good or takes me to a place, I feel like I come to work the next day with a secret. You know, if I could wish to you the same way that if I read a good book last night, I would want to share it. I probably heard a great piece of music. I would immediately want to share it. I think human beings, if they’re not so bitter and twisted than their mind, when you see something good, your first instinct is; I just read the best book, I just heard the funniest joke. There’s something like we carry a secret until we do. And so, for me, storytelling is when I find these secrets, I actually want to bring them. I don’t know why, and I will know clearly the day I don’t feel like that anymore. I won’t do it. I just won’t do it. I won’t care if you know my secret or not, but if I care that you know this little secret and I worked really hard so that it looks exactly the way I remembered seeing it the first time. I was in France, I think about 24 hours ago and I was in the Hotel du Cap and it wasn’t crowded and my first thought was; one, It was beautiful and my second thought is why aren’t my children here? Why isn’t my wife here? So, movies to me or the, you know, I’m going to show this to my friend. If I started off showing thanks to my mom, it’s gotten bigger than that. Now I want to show it. So, you know, all I know is the day I don’t feel like that I won’t do it because there’s a lot of work involved, but I know there’s people out there really trying to make really fun things and deep down they sit in the back of the room and they hope you love it. I’m not sure people sit back in the room and hope they get an award for something. That would be a different way for me to think, but I think they want to see you smile at a thing that you crafted and when you get it, it fills you.


Landlords, Politicians and Developers

KC: I don’t try to differentiate Americans from other people, but I will admit something to you. Sometimes I feel wronged in this world or in this life. I want to handle it. I don’t want to put my lawyer on it. I don’t want to put my agent on it. I don’t want to put a publicity person on it, I’d like to stand up and say, come here for a second, just come here. And there’s something, I think a level of satisfaction on some level that you arbitrate your own problems and when men quit arbitrating their own problems and allow others to do it, they start to commit crimes because whenever they do, somebody else gets to handle it, they’ll handle it, they’ll handle it. You know, you do something bad and somebody confronts you over that, it’s unlikely you’re going to do that again, that don’t do that again type of thing, you know what I mean? So I have people that have helped me in my life and I really had needed to have civility prevail, law prevail, I shouldn’t be out there.  But I don’t think there’s any one of us that once in a while wouldn’t like to handle something ourselves when we feel really wronged.  And I think we’ve lost something as men, women too I would say, you watch somebody mess with your child or your sweetheart or your friend, I think when we’re at our best, we’re more reactive for other people than we are for ourselves. So when we see somebody attack our friend or whatever, we’re quicker on the trigger, at least I hope so. When somebody attacks me, it takes me a while, but I think there’s something in all our DNA and when we haven’t been able to arbitrate our own problems with people that are coming at us, sometimes we feel helpless and we’re just waiting to see what happens. So I didn’t mean to, I have to walk sometimes to make a point.  I know it’s in me. I believe it’s in a lot of people that feel wrong and there is a little bit of cowboy in that I would guess. I don’t feel we’re very far distant than anybody else in the world. But in “Yellowstone” you can feel that someone will make a mistake. And I think that adds to the opportunities for great things to.

Band: Kevin Costner and the Modern West

KC: I called it “Modern West” and the band insisted I call it “Kevin Costner and the Modern West.”  And I said, really? And they said, yeah, it will make a difference. It really bothered me and actually choosing the name of the band was one of the most painful moments I had because we didn’t form the band knowing we would ever be paid. I formed the band and wanted to play wherever I was making a movie, period, live, and then it evolved into that and it involved into making records and it evolved into touring and that was never the plan. And actually that’s probably the best thing for me in life when I don’t have a plan. I just move to the things that make me feel good.


Owning Land                                                                                 

KC: The first land I bought was interesting because when I finally got kind of some money, not a lot. I wanted to buy a house like all of us. I wanted to have my own home. But I found in LA I couldn’t find a home that made me feel proud of it because didn’t have enough money. It didn’t take me into a neighborhood that I’ve felt my wife would be safe and I’m thinking; I don’t want to take everything I made and put it in something I’m not proud of. And so, what I did was I went up to Mammoth, California and bought a little cabin or a little condo that was in the mountains and even though it wasn’t my home, it made me feel good. It made me feel proud to and I would drive up there to be in the mountains and to fish and to do those things. So, my first home that I bought was actually in the mountains, a little condo. Her difference between us; we kinda run pretty hard together. We like the same things. She’s an outdoor person too, and she’s a horse person and I like her indoors and outdoors.

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