Will ‘Horizon’ Fair Better Than Kevin Costner’s Epic ’90s Western Box Office Bomb?

kevin costner horizon an american saga
Photo credit: Lucky Team Studio/Shutterstock

Kevin Costner mortgaged prime waterfront property in Santa Barbara to fund Horizon: An American Saga, but will it be enough to avoid the same fate as his 1994 Western epic?

In a recent interview with Deadline, Kevin Costner revealed that he’s all in on his new Western movie series, Horizon: An American Saga, even paying for production of the film out of his own pocket.

“I’ve mortgaged 10 acres on the water in Santa Barbara where I was going to build my last house,” Costner, 68, told Deadline. “But I did it without a thought.”

Horizon is expected to be a four-part movie series, with the first installment potentially arriving in late 2023. Filming for the project began in 2022, and the second installment is currently filming in southern Utah.

The movie’s cast is impressive — Sienna Miller, Luke Wilson, Thomas Haden Church, Jena Malone and Tatanka Means have all signed on — and hype for the movie is positive, considering Costner’s recent success with Yellowstone.

Horizon follows the stories of settlers, indigenous groups and pioneers in a 15-year period before, during and after the Civil War, tracing the challenges and brutal truths of westward expansion in the mid-1800s.

The films are large in scope and ambition: Costner supposedly looked to fill some 170 acting roles for the project, which is something he’s been hoping to produce since 1988.

“I don’t know why, but I have not let go of this one,” Costner told Deadline. “I’ve pushed it into the middle of the table three times in my career and didn’t blink. This is my fourth.”

But as Costner himself can attest to, there’s no surefire formula for success when it comes to big, sweeping Western epics. Case in point: Wyatt Earp, the three-hour saga starring Costner released in 1994, just six months after Tombstone hit theaters.

Wyatt Earp was largely a box office failure: it grossed some $55.9 million on a $63 million budget, and garnered mostly lackluster reviews. “Cast is enormous, and the sheer size of many scenes is startling,” wrote Todd McCarthy for Variety. “Clearly, no expense has been spared in this attempt to make the ultimate Wyatt Earp film.”

Roger Ebert called it a “rambling, unfocused biography” and Caryn James at The New York Times labeled it “intelligent entertainment [that] too often forgets to entertain.”

Nearly 30 years later, Wyatt Earp remains a relative dud in the Western movie canon, while Tombstone — thanks to memorable performances by Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, and plenty of TV reruns — enjoys a loyal cult following.

When scriptwriter Kevin Jarre first drafted Tombstone, he had Costner in mind as the lead, but Costner turned down the role in favor of his own Wyatt Earp project, slated to be a six-hour pay-per-view cable TV series.

There were also talks of a six-hour, two-movie project, but the final version of Costner’s Wyatt Earp vision was a single, often slogging, three-hour movie. Despite his influence in Hollywood at the time — Dances with Wolves had won 7 Academy Awards just a few years prior — Costner and his cast put together a film that, while ambitious, didn’t quite reach its potential as a Western masterpiece.

Many audiences and reviewers found Wyatt Earp to be overly long, paced poorly and generally not as sharp as Tombstone, which had won over viewers with its cutting dialogue and acting.

Tombstone‘s scope was smaller, and so was its budget: the film, directed first by Jarre and eventually by George P. Cosmatos, was made with $25 million, less than half of Wyatt Earp‘s cost. And despite Wyatt Earp‘s award-winning cast, including Costner, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman and Tom Sizemore, Tombstone‘s ensemble proved more appealing to most moviegoers.

Fast forward to today and it’s hard not to see the similarities between Horizon: An American Saga and Wyatt Earp. Both are ambitious, far-reaching Westerns with the goal of telling a larger story of the West — not just its most recognizable chapters. But big casts, lots of money and all the mortgaged aspiration in the world can’t guarantee financial or creative success.

Still, Costner’s plans for Horizon are admirable, and if the four-part movie series follows the script, a Western saga 35 years in the making could be as epic as Costner believes it to be.

D.T. Christensen is the founder of, a history website committed to sharing and preserving stories of the American West. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, studied journalism at Northern Arizona University, and also writes for Territory Supply and True Crime Time.