Kevin Costner helms new Western epic telling story of faith on the frontier

Kevin Costner directs and stars in "Horizon".(Photo: Warner Bros)

For Hollywood icon Kevin Costner, telling the story of America's frontier past has always been a matter of faith. While the 69-year-old Oscar-winning actor and director knew that an authentic depiction of the settler's stories would not be possible without portraying the crucial role that faith played in sustaining them on their gruelling path to a new home, it would also be vital in the long journey of bringing 'Horizon: An American Saga', to the big screen.

"Faith is what guided people out there to the unknown," Costner told The Christian Post. "They just leaned on it. There was this promise, but the promise was not enough. You had to go on faith. And people brought the religion with them west."

Set against the backdrop of one of America's most tragic and bloody upheavals, the Civil War, 'Horizon' follows the intertwining lives of families, friends, and adversaries from 1861 to 1865, as a divided nation fights to decide what kind of country the United States of America should be.

Costner stars alongside Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, and Luke Wilson, but also directed, produced, and co-wrote the three-hour film, the first of a four-part series. The project is Costner's magnum opus, and he has poured his passion into the franchise since the '80s, even investing $38 million of his own money into it. It was over the course of this long road that faith sustained Costner, who told CP that he had to cling to a steadfast belief that the film would come to fruition in its own time.

"I've had hands over me, for sure, in my life, and I'm like anybody, I try to force it," the 'Yellowstone' actor said. "I try to force things through force of will, and I've been able to do that a lot in my life. But I've also found that things come in their own time. I think that's how my career's gone, to be honest. Everything in its own time, I didn't burst onto the scene as a teenager. It took me a while. So, I trust my journey."

However, 'Horizon' is not any kind of traditional faith-based project. A gritty portrayal of the often violent and lawless Old West and the settler's fraught relationship with Native Americans saw it receive an "R" rating for violence, nudity, and sexuality. However, it is also infused with spiritual themes, depicting the profound faith many families possessed, and weaving in verses of Scripture with character dialogue.

"I wanted [Scripture to] obviously relate to the situation," Costner said. "I grew up a Baptist and church has always been a part of my life, my grandmother, the whole thing, so I don't mind it bleeding into a movie.

"I don't force it in. But when I think about why people went west, when they said goodbye to people back east, they never saw them again, there was some kind of trust that people needed to lean on, because they were oftentimes in situations where they didn't even know what they were doing. They were out of control, they needed faith."

The movie reflects Costner's belief that "violence and humanity can go together", and the director hopes that the film's message will resonate with audiences, and become something they will want to share with younger generations. Costner, who has a long and storied career in the Western genre, wants the film's legacy to be a nuanced understanding of America's historical narrative, one that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities and cultural clashes of the era but still celebrates the resourcefulness and courage of those who ventured West.

"I hope that it stands on its own. I'm not looking to reinvent the West or set the record straight," he said.

"This was hard fought for. The resourcefulness it took for the people that came out, not even being necessarily equipped to be in the West, is something that I admire. But I also understand the great clash that happened between cultures and what we lost.

"There were people that were displaced. So, I don't ignore any of it. I just go after it. I hope I land on the side of behaviour and authenticity."