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US director Kevin Costner poses after being awarded Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, on the sidelines of the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 19, 2024. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) Image Credit: AFP

Kevin Costner told AFP he’s an “outsider” in Hollywood, which is why he had to stake millions of his own money on the sprawling Western, “Horizon, an American Saga”, that he’s been trying to make since the 1980s.

Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival, where the first part of the saga got its world premiere on Sunday, the 69-year-old said he wrote the screenplay way back in 1988.

Rejected by Hollywood studios, he ultimately mortgaged his property and decided to shoot not one, but four, epic movies — the first part alone is three hours long — about the settlement of the western United States in the 19th century.

“It’s been a real journey like the movie itself. People told me: ‘Nobody does even two movies, Kevin, why are you doing four?’” he told AFP.

“At a certain moment I just said OK, I’m going to do this myself. And so I mortgaged property, I raised the money.”

Costner has taken full control — starring, writing, directing, often living on set and scouting locations himself.

“I’m a bit of an outsider in Hollywood and I don’t exactly know why. Probably because I don’t want people to manipulate the story I want to tell and I’m willing to stand up to people,” he said.

“There can be no excuses. These are all my decisions. So if you don’t like it, you can complain to me,” he said.

It is not the only self-funded mega-project to premiere in Cannes this week, following Francis Ford Coppola’s similarly decades-in-the-making “Megalopolis”, which sharply divided audiences.

Like Coppola, Costner says he has no concerns about bankrupting himself.

“What’s the fear? If they take it away from me, I still have my movie. I still have my integrity. I still listened to my heart,” Costner said.

‘We obliterated them’

The film, which also stars Sienna Miller and Sam Worthington, follows multiple storylines on the violent frontier as Europeans establish settlements on Native American land.

It returns him to the question of the Native American genocide that he explored to Oscar-winning success with 1994’s “Dances with Wolves”.

“We took it all from them — 500 Nations. We just obliterated them,” Costner said.

“When the great movement of people ... began across the ocean, America was like a Garden of Eden. But there were people who had been living there for 15,000 years and they couldn’t understand the appetite of these people who were told if you are strong enough, if you are mean enough ... you can take everything from these people.”

He sees the violence of that era sadly mirrored in the current state of the world.

“Women should be running more countries and I’m not just saying that,” he said.

“We men have had our chance and for some reason, we’re still at war. We’re like red ants. Why is the world on the brink? Who are these people that think that they can put other lives at risk over borders? It’s shameful.”

Costner said he was delighted with the warm welcome at Cannes, where he received an official medal of honour for the arts from the minister of culture before the premiere.

“I dreamed of coming here and bringing my own movie. I’m so glad Cannes has held on to its traditions and I’m getting a chance to be a part of it,” he said.