Kevin Costner reveals how faith shaped narrative of 'Horizon,' says 'church has always been part of my life'

Kevin Costner as Hayes Ellison in 'Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1.'
Kevin Costner as Hayes Ellison in "Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1." | Warner Bros

While creating "Horizon: An American Saga," a sweeping Western epic exploring America's frontier history, director Kevin Costner was keenly aware that he couldn't depict the settlers' stories without highlighting the crucial role faith played in their often-tumultuous journeys.

​​”Faith is what guided people out there to the unknown,” the 69-year-old Oscar-winning actor and director 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.”

“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,” the actor said. “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 often times in situations where they didn't even know what they were doing. They were out of control, they needed faith.”

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Costner, a veteran of the genre, stars in “Horizon” alongside Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington and Luke Wilson, and also directed, produced and co-wrote the three-hour film, the first of a four-part series. The first installment debuts in theaters on June 28 and "Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 2" will be released six weeks later, on August 12, while the third is expected to be released in 2025.

Filmed in Moab, Utah, and set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, “Horizon” captures the intense emotional landscape of a nation divided, viewed through the interconnected lives of families, friends and adversaries striving to define what it means to be the United States of America.

It’s a passion project for Costner, who has been working on the franchise since the ‘80s and even invested $38 million of his own money into it. The actor told CP that the prolonged creation process required 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.”

Rated R for violence, nudity and sexuality — and not a faith-based project — “Horizon” doesn’t shy away from portraying the violence and struggles of the Old West and the settler’s often-bloody relationship with Native Americans. There is no shortage of blood and gore in the film.

Despite this, Costner stressed the profound influence faith and family had on the narrative.

Scripture verses are subtly infused throughout the film, often quoted by characters in times of trial. In one scene, a settler quotes Psalm 23:5 - “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

“I wanted [Scripture to] obviously relate to the situation,” Costner said.

The film also highlights the nobility and strength found within families and the vital role they play in creating a thriving society. Costner, a father of seven, told CP the theme is close to his heart; his youngest son, Hayes, 15, appears in his father's film as Nathaniel Kittredge.

“Anybody can make a movie about a gunfight, and I'm going to get you to those gunfights, and those gunfights are going to be terrifying, and they're going to be loud,” he said. “But I think just a woman trying to bathe because she feels so dirty, or a mother and daughter who realize that some hell is going on above them and the only way they're going to survive is if they share breath, I feel the closeness. I feel like that really has an important part in Westerns.”

Rooted in the belief that “violence and humanity can go together,” Costner said he hopes that audiences, despite the film’s R rating, will feel compelled to share the story with younger generations.

“I think a lot of people are going to say, ‘I'm going to bring my son and daughter because they need to understand what their great-great-grandmothers and grandfathers went through,’” he said.

“This does have violence, but it also has a nobility, a sense of why family is important. When she says goodbye to her son, she has the faith that she will be with him again. Violence and humanity can go together. That's my hope that while it's an R, a lot of people will say, ‘I feel like my daughter should see this.’”

Costner, who won two Oscars for his 1990 frontier saga "Dances With Wolves” and a Golden Globe for his role as John Dutton in the long-running TV series "Yellowstone,” said that through “Horizon,” he hopes to contribute to the legacy of American Westerns and offer a nuanced understanding of America’s historical narrative.

“I hope that it stands on its own. I'm not looking to reinvent the West or set the record straight,” he said, adding that the film tries to acknowledge the harsh realities and cultural clashes of the era while celebrating the resourcefulness and courage of those who ventured west.

“This was hard fought for,” he said. “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 behavior and authenticity.” 

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles