The 68-year-old actor, who scored one of his first major roles in the all-star 1985 Western Silverado, has had two major hits in the genre in recent years, first co-starring in the three-part 2012 History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys alongside the late Bill Paxton, then headlining the Paramount Network/Paramount+ neo-Western sensation Yellowstone, which will wrap up its fifth and final season later this year.
Costner had a similar streak in the early ’90s, when he won two Oscars for the 1990 drama Dances With Wolves and played the titular lawman in 1994’s Wyatt Earp.
And then there was one of Costner’s personal favorites, Open Range, released in theaters 20 years ago, on Aug. 15, 2003. The actor starred in and directed the film, written by Craig Storper and based on the novel The Open Range Men by Lauran Paine.
Costner played a former gunslinger and Civil War vet forced back into action when a corrupt lawman (Michael Gambon) threatens him and his cattlemen. Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Diego Luna and Michael Jeter costarred.
In a 2014 Role Recall interview, Costner revealed how he became interested in Westerns.
“My dad really loved John Wayne. And he said to me, ‘You can do that,’” he told us (watch full interview above, with Open Range starting at 8:52). “And of course I can’t be John Wayne. But I have personally taken an interest in the American Western.”
The film was a box-office success, grossing over $68 million on a budget of $22 million, and was well-liked by critics and audiences alike. “Greatly benefiting from the tremendous chemistry between Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, Open Range is a sturdy modern Western with classic roots,” reads Rotten Tomatoes’s critical consensus (the film has a 79 percent approval rating).
Costner said he especially felt love for the film’s climactic showdown pitting Charley (Costner) and his mentor Boss (Duvall) against the ruthless Baxter (Gambon) and his men.
Even in 2014, three years before Costner joined the cast of Yellowstone, he knew something like it was on the horizon.