Dances with Wolves (1990) Poster


Pope John Paul II once mentioned that John Barry's score was one of his favorite pieces of music.
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During the scene where the buffalo is charging at the young Indian, the buffalo is actually charging at a pile of its favorite treat: Oreo cookies.
Kevin Costner did all his own riding, including bare back and shooting his gun without holding the reins, during the buffalo hunt
In order to best portray a middle-aged man with bad posture, Graham Greene (Kicking Bird) put a slice of bologna in each of his shoes, feeling that the slimy sensation would bring about the awkward comportment he was trying to project.
The Logistics for the buffalo hunt comprised of a helicopter, 10 pick up trucks, 24 bare back Native American riders, 150 extras, 20 wranglers, 25 recreated buffalo and 7 cameras. It took 8 days to film
To prevent any possible animal cruelty Kevin Costner's Tig Productions spent $250,000 on animatronic buffalo to be used in the climactic buffalo hunt.
The man seen initially telling the wolf to go home when Dunbar is riding out to visit his friends is actually the trainer. He was bitten in the leg when the wolf chased him, so Kevin Costner had to run himself during the next shot. He kept throwing pieces of raw meat to keep the wolf from biting him.
Kevin Costner's spreading out of his arms while doing his suicide run at the start of the film was a completely spontaneous gesture that took his stunt coordinator by surprise.
Kevin Costner's daughter Annie Costner, playing Stands With A Fist as a child, is seen running away from the Pawnee party that killed her family in the dream sequence. She looks back over each shoulder as she runs because Costner told her to look over her right shoulder and she didn't know her right from her left - she was only 6 years old at the time.
The helmet that Ten Bears is holding when he talks about the "men who came during the time of his grandfather's grandfather" is a typical helmet worn by the Conquistadors - Spanish soldiers and explorers who conquered large parts of both Americas between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Only one take a day could be made of the buffalo stampede as the animals would often run a distance of 10 miles. It would take the wranglers all day to round them up again.
The buffalo liver that Wind In His Hair offers to Dunbar after the buffalo hunt is actually made of cranberry Jell-o.
The very last scene shot in the film was the one where Kevin Costner rides in to tell them the buffalo had arrived, one of the few out-of-sequence shots in the film. While the cameras were on him, riding only in pants and a shirt, the cast and crew were in heavy coats because of the freezing weather.
To add realism to the movie, a language coach was brought in to teach Lakota to cast members who did not know how to speak it. Because of the difficulty in learning the language, the "gendered speech" aspects of the language were omitted from the lessons. When native speakers of Lakota saw the finished film, they found it amusing to hear Lakota warriors talking like women.
Filmed during a drought, water had to be trucked into the Fort Sedgwick location to fill up the pond.
Two of the domesticated buffalo used in the production were borrowed from singer Neil Young.
Mary McDonnell was supposedly very nervous about shooting the love scenes with Kevin Costner, and, per her request, the scene was toned down considerably.
The buffalo herd comprised 3,500 animals, the largest herd in America
Because of the film's enormous success and sympathetic treatment of the Native Americans, the Sioux Nation adopted Kevin Costner as an honorary member.
Those are actual dead deer that Kevin Costner pulls out of the river. To look authentic the carcasses had to be heavy, so animals killed on the highways were collected for the scene.
Graham Greene, who plays Kicking Bird, also plays Edgar Montrose in The Red Green Show (1991). In one episode of that series, Edgar mentions "Dances With Wolves", and says the "native guy" (Kicking Bird) should have gotten the Oscar.
250 Civil War reenactors were used in the Tennessee battle scenes
The scene where we see Cisco jumping around in the corral just before the Sioux party steals him was a 'stolen' shot. The horse was just letting off steam, and they caught part of it and slipped it in because it looked so good and fit the scene.
Because of budgetary overruns and general industry reluctance to invest in a Western, Kevin Costner was forced to dig deep into his own pockets to make up the film's $18 million budget. As it then went on to gross over $100 million, he himself earned an estimated $40 million from his original investment.
In the skinned buffalo scene, fake animals made of paper were used and looked very realistic. A passerby called the police during filming and they showed up with guns drawn ready to arrest the crew for poaching. After some explanations, the cops left laughing.
In the opening scene where two doctors are examining John Dunbar, the man on the table is Kevin Costner's stand-in. The two people playing the doctors are actually the film's producer, Jim Wilson on the left and director/star Costner on the right. The voices were dubbed by other actors.
Michael Blake wrote a spec screenplay in the early 1980s. When Kevin Costner came across the project in 1986, he suggested to Blake that he should turn it into a novel, thereby increasing his chances of getting it made into a film. Blake did so and, after many rejections, found a publisher in 1988. Costner immediately snapped up the movie rights with an eye to directing it himself.
Two Socks was played by two wolves. One was called Buck and the other was called Teddy, and both were kept on set at all times.
The highest grossing Western of all time, with a domestic take of $184 million. It achieved this figure without ever reaching #1 on the box-office charts.
The studio wanted the final cut to be 2 hours 20 minutes. They had to settle for Kevin Costner's cut of 3 hours.
That is Rodney A. Grant's real long, flowing hair. He does not wear a wig in the film.
Filmed in South Dakota, which is mainly wide-open rolling hills. The cornfield at the beginning of the film had to be specially grown, and the few trees that were on the chosen location had to have their leaves painted different shades of red and brown to signify fall.
Cinematographer Dean Semler's daughter was a horse wrangler on the film. She broke both of her wrists when the horse she was riding was suddenly spooked and threw her.
The feasting scene after the buffalo hunt, where Dunbar and Wind in His Hair become friends and exchange their gifts, was actually shot indoors inside a Quonset hut because it was so cold outside.
Graham Greene's first reaction when he learned that most of the film was going to be in Lakota was, "I don't speak that".
The first cut of the film ended up being five and a half hours long, requiring massive cuts.
The film ran over budget, forcing Kevin Costner to make up the overages personally. That caused rumors that the film would be another out-of-control, disappointing western like Heaven's Gate (1980). In fact, some studio people were referring to it as "Kevin's Gate". It went on to win the first Best Picture Oscar for a western since Cimarron (1931), almost 60 years before it.
Many of the native Indians were visibly moved by the scene where the Sioux encounter a field full of dead, skinned buffalo.
For the scene where Two Socks is being shot at by the soldiers, the wolf was actually hemmed into a small pen with puffs of smoke popping off around him. The animal was chained within the pen to prevent him escaping.
All in all, Kevin Costner spent five years and thousands of dollars of his own money working on the film, having to turn down multiple major film roles (including The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Dick Tracy (1990), The Hunt for Red October (1990) and, Presumed Innocent (1990)) while facing ridicule for what was seen as a vanity project.
With the exception of the opening Civil War scenes (which were shot last), the film was shot in sequence because of the weather. They needed it to correspond with the time sequence in the film because of so much outdoor shooting. Most films are not shot in sequence.
Approximately 25% of the dialog is not in English.
As a joke, most of the cast and crew assigned each other Indian names. Editor Neil Travis was "Over the Hill" and the script supervisor was "Sand In Her Teeth" because she used to smile a lot.
Graham Greene's character, Kicking Bird, is supposed to be the adoptive father of Stands With A Fist, played by Mary McDonnell; however, in real life, McDonnell is actually 2 months older than Greene. In addition, Tantoo Cardinal, who plays the adoptive mother, is only 2 years older than McDonnell.
In the novel the indians were Comanches but were changed in the film due to the need for a large herd of buffalo, which were found in South Dakota, which had one of the largest North American communities in the country, the Sioux.
In the scene where the Confederate soldier is about to kill a suicidal Lt. Dunbar and is instead shot by advancing Union troops, the fatal shot was fired by Kevin Costner's father, Bill Costner, according to an interview with Kevin Costner on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2005) (2/19/2014)
The actors had trouble learning their lines in Sioux. Kevin Costner threatened to fire them if they couldn't.
John Barry agreed to score the film immediately after reading the script.
In 2007 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Kevin Costner claims to have had no involvement with the 4 hour extended version, "Dances with Wolves: The Special Edition".
The major studios wouldn't provide the proper funding. They took issue with the script's length and the amount of subtitles - the latter something that Kevin Costner and crew would not budge on - on top of the film being a western.
The Tennessee battle scenes were supposed to take place in the fall but it wasn't possible to film then so with the aid of 10,000 gallons of paint the cornfield was sprayed yellow and the foilage on the trees painted in autumnal colours
When native children steal Dunbar's horse, one refers to his father's "bow on his back" if he were to find out. Corporal punishment, or punishment of any kind for misbehavior was extremely rare in most Native cultures, especially from parents.
There were two wolves used. One had to have the milky white socks painted on him.
Close to a million feet of film was shot in total.
At 236 minutes, the director's cut of "Dances with Wolves is the longest of Kevin Costner's three self-directed movies, which average 3 hours.
There are 2 long durations which can be found sometimes on different versions: 236mn or 233mn. In fact the 236mn version is the same movie, same length 233mn, but with an "intermission" panel in the middle of the movie (around 133mn), with only John Barry music.
John Dunbar's horse is an AQHA gelding named Justin Plain Bars.
Shot over a period of four months.
A sequence filmed, but cut, had Captain Cargill and the remnants of his company, having left Fort Sedgewick for Fort Hays, moving across the prairie, some miles from Dunbar and Timmons,
Director Kevin Reynolds received "special thanks" in the credits due to his helping Kevin Costner direct the famous buffalo hunt scene.
Just as Timmons bids farewell to Lieutenant Dunbar at Fort Sedgwick, he commands the two lead mules (of six mules, in total) to a start with a "Jake n' Jim!" Jake Eberts and Jim Wilson are the names of the film's Executive Producer and Producer, respectively.
Stands with a Fist's story of abuse by the other women in the tribe and one in particular is resolved when she hits that woman. Afterward she is accepted by the other women of the tribe. This is the story of Cynthia Ann Parker who was captured by the Comanche in 1836 when she was 9. Unlike Stands with a Fist, Ms. Parker married a Comanche brave and was recaptured by white soldiers some years later.
Fort Sedgwick actually had a floor that could be lowered several feet for doing low-angle shots.
The buffalo hunt and several other sequences were filmed on the 55,000-acre Triple U Ranch owned by Roy Houck, who had served as South Dakota's lieutenant governor in the 1950s; he gave the filmmakers considerable assistance in managing the logistics of the sequence.
Dean Semler first had an inkling about how important his Oscar win was to his native Australia when he was on a night flight to Sydney and the flight attendant asked him if he had it with him and if he would mind showing it to the passengers.
Production delays were numerous, because of South Dakota's unpredictable weather, the difficulty of directing barely trainable wolves, and the complexity of the Indian battle scenes. Particularly arduous was the film's centerpiece bison hunt sequence: this elaborate chase was filmed over three weeks using 100 Indian stunt riders and an actual stampeding herd of several thousand bison. During one shot, Kevin Costner (who did almost all of his own horseback riding) was "T-boned" by another rider and knocked off his horse, nearly breaking his back.
Since the film, The Red Man's View (American Muroscope & Biograph Co.) is the only other attempt in 20 years to make an historically accurate film about the plight of the Native American in the mid 1800's.
Kevin Costner couldn't find a suitable director, so he decided to do it himself. His inexperience as a director caused early shooting delays.
A matte painting was used to create the effect of a swathe of land flattened by buffalo.
Viggo Mortensen was originally cast to play John Dunbar. Mortensen will, however, be playing John Dunbar in the sequel to this movie, The Holy Road.
New Mexico proved to be not an ideal filming location, as few buffalo existed there and it was difficult to find people who could speak Comanche. South Dakota proved more suitable, so the Comanche were swapped out for Lakota Sioux, which was more widely spoken.
Lt. John Dunbar carries two guns in the film - a Henry 1860 rifle made specially by Uberti and a Colt 1851 Navy cap-and-ball revolver.
When John Dunbar returns the unconsciousness white woman "Stands with a fist" to the tribe on his horse, "Wind in his hair" takes her body dragging her on her back and by the arm to the tribe. It has been erroneously reported that "Stands with a Fist" had no hair growing in her arm pit, when in fact she does. It is such a light colour and length that it cannot easily be seen.
Michael Blake initially intended the story to be a screenplay, but after working with Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson on an earlier film, he was convinced by them to write it as a novel first - both to ensure the story would be told completely without having to work within the bounds of a standard-length script, and also because they believed the story would be more easily sold as a novel than as a screenplay.
The wagon Dunbar and Timmons ride to fort Sedgewick is pulled by two mules named Jim and Jake, named after the films producers Jim Wilson and Jake Eberts.
Orion originally planned to release both this film and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in late 1990, and to promote both films as Oscar contenders. Their financial problems, however, forced them to choose one film over the other, and this one was released first, with Lambs being released in early 1991 instead. Executives could then wait until later in the year to begin their Oscar campaign. This resulted in Orion being able to release only one other major picture in 1991, instead of two. Since Jodie Foster appeared in Lambs, and she was being promoted as a Best Actress nominee, Orion decided to help her chances by releasing her other film Little Man Tate (1991), shelving Blue Sky (1994). Foster won Best Actress, and Blue Sky was not released for three more years, which resulted in Jessica Lange also winning Best Actress.
When Dunbar is in the rain, digging in the mud with his hand, a thin, sharp piece of wood went right under Kevin Costner's fingernail.
Production lasted for four months, from July 18 to November 23, 1989.
During the musical recording in post production, composer John Barry was reportedly so moved by the film's final scene that he broke down in tears while conducting that section of the score.
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Stands With A Fist's original name is Christine. Her name is heard during Stands With A Fist's flashback dream when both her mother and her brother are shouting at her to escape from the Pawnee who attacked her family's farm.
This is the last movie that editor Neil Travis cut using physical film. He has since moved on to digital editing, using Montage and Avid.
Composer John Barry did not use any cymbals in the entire score. Although tom-toms are used extensively, and military drums are playing during some of the army scenes, there are no cymbals.
Robert Pastorelli wore a slightly raised breastplate for the scene in which his character Timmons is hit by arrows.
7 cameras were utilized in the buffalo hunt.
Kevin Costner originally considered casting Marlon Brando in the role later played by Maury Chaykin.
Tom Berenger was considered as possibility for the role of Dunbar by the producers before Costner came on board.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Despite portraying the adopted daughter of Kicking Bird, Mary McDonnell, then 37, was actually two months older than Graham Greene, and less than two years younger than Tantoo Cardinal, the actress playing her adoptive mother.
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The outfit worn in several scenes by "stands with fist" is adorned with at least 48 Elk ivories, meaning it would take at least 24 animals to make. Elk and Walruses are the only North American animals with Ivory, in Elk they are back upper teeth that basically serve no purpose. In prehistoric times they were however 6-9 inches long.
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Kevin Costner's directorial film debut.
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Features Kevin Costner's only Oscar nominated on screen performance. Graham Greene also gave his only Oscar nominated performance in this film.
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John Barry's basic theme music is very similar to Max Steiner's theme in Virginia City (1940).
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Maury Chaykin and Steve Reevis both previously appeared in Twins (1988).
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Kevin Costner co-stars in this western with Robert Pastorelli. Four years later Costner co-starred in another western with Tom Sizemore, Wyatt Earp (1994). In addition to each of them co-starring in a western with Costner, Pastorelli and Sizemore co-starred in Striking Distance (1993).
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Kevin Costner met co-producer Jim Wilson and screenwriter Michael Blake while they were working on Stacy's Knights (1983). Incidentally this was Wilson's directorial debut, just like Dances with Wolves (1990) is Costner's.
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The only Best Picture nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Sound, and Best Costume Design.
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Composer John Barry went on to compose the score for Indecent Proposal (1993). Robert Redford starred in this film. Redford and Costner have acted in and directed films.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Timmons makes a joke out of the bare skeleton Dunbar finds with an arrow in it but then dies in a like manner, even facing up like the first victim.
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