On this day in 1990, Dances with Wolves, a film about an American Civil War-era soldier and a group of Sioux Indians that stars Kevin Costner and also marks his directorial debut, premieres in Los Angeles. The film, which opened across the United States on November 21, 1990, was a surprise box-office success and earned 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor for Costner. Dances with Wolves took home seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and solidified Costner’s place on Hollywood’s A-list.
Costner was born on January 18, 1955, in Lynwood, California, and by the early 1980s had racked up a small list of film credits. He was cast in the 1983 hit The Big Chill, but all his scenes were cut before the film was released. Costner went on to co-star in Silverado (1985), with Kevin Kline and Danny Glover; The Untouchables (1987), with Sean Connery, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro; and No Way Out (1987), with Gene Hackman and Sean Young. Costner then struck box-office gold with the baseball films Bull Durham (1988), in which he starred in the title role opposite Susan Sarandon, and Field of Dreams (1989), in which he played a farmer who builds a baseball diamond in his corn field. Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
In 1990’s Dances with Wolves, Costner played the Union Army’s Lieutenant John Dunbar, who travels to a desolate Western post, befriends his Sioux neighbors and eventually becomes an honorary member of their tribe. Based on a novel by Michael Blake, the film was shot on location, primarily in South Dakota, and contained Lakota dialogue with English-language subtitles.
Following the success of Dances with Wolves, Costner went on to star in such films as
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), in which he played the title role; Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991); The Bodyguard (1992) with Whitney Houston; and the big-budget adventure film Waterworld (1995), which was considered a major box-office flop. The actor’s film credits also include Tin Cup (1996), Message in a Bottle (1999), For the Love of the Game (1999), The Upside of Anger (2005), Rumor Has It (2005), Mr. Brooks (2007), in which Costner portrayed a serial killer, and Swing Vote (2008).