Kevin Costner’s Approach to Filmmaking: Blending Strong Female Characters


Kevin Costner’s Approach to Filmmaking: Blending Strong Female Characters with Traditional Male Audiences



Kevin Costner, a name synonymous with iconic films and captivating storytelling, has carved out a niche in Hollywood with his unique approach to filmmaking. Known for creating “movies for men,” Costner emphasizes the importance of strong female characters in his narratives. This blend of traditional male-focused films with robust female roles is a testament to his understanding of dynamic storytelling.

Kevin Costner’s Philosophy on Women in Film

Costner’s filmmaking philosophy revolves around the integral role of women in his stories. He often emphasizes that he can’t conceive of a scene without the presence of women or a young girl raised by a strong woman. This inclusion isn’t just an afterthought; it’s a driving force in his plot development. “When you start writing you go, ‘Where’s the woman?’ It just drove the story in every plot line,” Costner mentioned, highlighting his commitment to balanced storytelling.

The Impact of Female Characters in Costner’s Films

Strong female characters in Costner’s films are more than mere supporting roles; they are pivotal to the narrative. These characters often shape the direction of the plot and add depth to the story. For instance, in “Dances With Wolves,” the character of Stands With A Fist, played by Mary McDonnell, significantly influences the protagonist’s journey and transformation.

Costner’s Audience: Movies for Men

While Costner acknowledges that he primarily makes movies for men, he ensures that his films resonate with a broader audience by including strong female characters. This approach not only broadens his audience base but also enriches the storytelling. “I thank you women for dragging your men here. It was a Western, after all,” Costner humorously noted, appreciating the diverse viewership his films attract.

Discussion at the Happy Sad Confused Podcast

During a live taping of Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Costner, along with his Horizon: An American Saga co-stars Sam Worthington, Abbey Lee, and Luke Wilson, delved into his filmmaking approach. Costner shared insights into his method of creating fully fleshed-out characters, particularly women, who are often overlooked in Westerns.

Writing Fully Fleshed-Out Characters

Costner’s commitment to character development is evident in his detailed and layered characters. He believes in creating individuals who are realistic and relatable, which includes strong female roles that drive the plot forward. This dedication to character depth is especially significant in the Western genre, where male-dominated narratives are more common.

Sienna Miller’s Contribution

Although Sienna Miller couldn’t attend the podcast taping, Costner praised her “luminous” acting, which brought his characters to life. Miller’s portrayal in Horizon: An American Saga exemplifies the kind of strong female character that Costner champions, further highlighting his commitment to balanced storytelling.

The Horizon: An American Saga Series

Horizon: An American Saga is an ambitious four-part film series that marks Costner’s return to directing after more than two decades. The series spans 15 years of pre- and post-Civil War expansion, showcasing a tapestry of characters and stories. The first installment has already set a high bar, with the second part set to be released in August, and parts three and four currently in development.

Costner’s Return to Directing

After a long hiatus from directing, Costner felt compelled to return for Horizon: An American Saga. He compared this return to riding a bike, driven by his deep belief in the story. “I really was the one that needed to direct this,” he stated, underscoring his passion and vision for the series.

Directorial Debut and Subsequent Projects

Costner’s directorial debut with “Dances With Wolves” in 1991 earned him an Oscar and set the stage for his future projects. He followed this success with “The Postman” in 1997 and “Open Range” in 2003. These films showcased his talent not just in front of the camera but behind it as well.

Focus on Acting and Producing

In recent years, Costner shifted his focus to acting and producing, with notable projects such as “Yellowstone.” His portrayal of John Dutton in the series has been critically acclaimed, further cementing his status as a versatile and enduring figure in the entertainment industry.

Belief in the Story of Horizon

Costner’s passion for Horizon: An American Saga is palpable. He believes so deeply in the story that he felt compelled to direct it himself. “There are people that are more talented than myself,” he humbly admitted, but his belief in the story’s potential drove him to take the helm.

Challenges and Triumphs in Filmmaking

Costner acknowledges the challenges of filmmaking, from conceptualization to execution. However, he finds immense satisfaction in the creative process and the final product. His reflections on these challenges provide a glimpse into the dedication and perseverance required in the industry.

Future Projects and Aspirations

Looking ahead, Costner is focused on completing the Horizon series and exploring new storytelling opportunities. His vision for the future includes continuing to create impactful and engaging films that resonate with audiences worldwide.


Kevin Costner’s unique approach to filmmaking, blending strong female characters with traditional male-focused narratives, sets him apart in the industry. His dedication to balanced storytelling and character development ensures that his films are not only entertaining but also meaningful. As he continues to direct, act, and produce, Costner’s influence on cinema remains significant and enduring.


Why does Kevin Costner focus on strong female characters?
Costner believes that strong female characters add depth and realism to his stories, driving the plot and enriching the narrative.

What is the Horizon: An American Saga series about?
The series spans 15 years of pre- and post-Civil War expansion, focusing on a diverse range of characters and stories during this tumultuous period.

How has Costner’s filmmaking evolved over the years?
Costner’s filmmaking has evolved from focusing solely on directing to including significant roles in acting and producing, with an emphasis on character-driven stories.

What other notable projects has Costner worked on?
In addition to directing films like “Dances With Wolves” and “Open Range,” Costner has acted in and produced the successful TV series “Yellowstone.”

What are Costner’s future plans in the film industry?
Costner plans to complete the Horizon series and continue exploring new storytelling opportunities, maintaining his commitment to impactful and engaging cinema.