The prevailing logic in Hollywood 25 years ago was that Westerns, while long on history and sometimes successful, were not a genre moviegoers were clamoring to see.

 Any filmmaker who did get the green light would need to keep the project within budget, under two hours, and, of course, keep all the dialogue in English. Dances With Wolves defied all of that.

Inspired by books he’d read about the Plains Indians, screenwriter Michael Blake pitched Costner on the idea for Dances with Wolves. Once finished, Blake submitted Dances with Wolves, to numerous publishers, all of whom passed on his manuscript. Finally, after more than 30 rejections, a small publisher called Fawcett accepted it.

Turned down by American studios, Costner looked abroad for help, eventually securing startup funds from a handful of foreign investors. With only a fraction of the movie’s $15 million budget secured, he began filming. Orion Pictures eventually stepped in with $10 million, but Dances with Wolves ended up going more than $3 million over budget. Costner covered the overage out of his own pocket.

After deciding to go ahead with the project, Costner gave the script to three prominent directors, hoping that one of them would be a good fit. But each of them had parts they wanted to cut that Costner considered crucial. So the actor decided to step in and do the job himself.

 More than a quarter of Blake’s script had to be translated into the Sioux Lakota dialect. Costner heard about a teacher at South Dakota’s Sinte Gleska University named Doris Leader Charge, who taught the Lakota language and culture. He sent the script to her and got it back three weeks later, fully translated. “I’d never even seen a script before then,” the then-60-year-old teacher said in the behind-the-scenes feature. Since none of the actors spoke Lakota, Costner brought Leader Charge onto the set for further guidance and even offered her a speaking role as Pretty Shield, the wife of Ten Bears. Leader Charge initially declined, saying she needed to return to work. So Costner called up the president of the college and got her stay extended.

 There were no trick shots or CGI wizardry behind the film’s centerpiece: That really is a herd of 3500 buffalo storming across the prairie. The crew got only one shot at filming the stampede each day, since the animals had to first be rounded up and then, once they started running, would go for miles before stopping.

The crew employed two wolves—Buck and Teddy—to play Two Socks, the wolf that Costner’s Dunbar befriends. But even with trainers, so called “trained” wolves are notoriously temperamental.

Over the course of six months in wide release, Dances with Wolves took in $184 million domestically, rocketing it past Young Guns, Silverado, and other Westerns to become the highest grossing film in the genre. Twenty-five years later, it’s still at the top of the chart, just ahead of 2010’s True Grit. Interestingly, in all its weeks in theaters, Dances With Wolves never topped the box office charts.

8. THE SIOUX NATION ADOPTED COSTNER AS AN HONORARY MEMBER. Criticism aside, the Sioux were pleased with a portrayal that focused on the peaceful, day-to-day life of their tribe. So they honored Costner with official membership.

Responses to "8 Epic Facts About ‘Dances With Wolves’"

  1. Unknown says:

    One of my favorite shows. I get the old DVD out and watch it several times and put it away.

  2. casey says:

    It is epic... now i'm gonna watch it again!

  3. Do you know, when it came out, here in Belgium, I got hooked and went to see it every friday for as long as it was in the theater. That's 11 times ! It's just that I've been feeling so trapped, from a very young age, in this nonsense modern life, with no way to escape, and this movie was like a breath of fresh air, of freedom and wide spaces, of genuine connection with the whole, with onself and with Nature, and how civilisation came and destroyed it all. That story was just too similar to how I fels inside. That movie speaks and tells more about reality than one can imagine.

  4. Anonymous says:

    an miracle unseen ever in standard Hollywood, an legendary performance unprescedented of heart.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Smiles a lot. Nathan Chasing Horse. Great guy.

  6. Eddie D says:

    I noticed once that in the buffalo hunt Costner's rifle got reloaded somehow. The little slider on the bottom of the barrel, where the bullets are, was close to empty and then was close to full. An old Henry rifle I believe.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Outstanding accomplishment-never miss the movie when it is on one of the TV Channels. Recommend to all! Rare for the Movie Industry, it is a film of poignant truths about our distorted views, how and why we must overcome self limiting vanities and perspectives if we are to survive as a Nation.

  8. Costner's post was Ft. Hays, Kansas. The name was real. My g.grandfather was a sutler at Ft. Hays, Kansas. My tape broke. I must get a replacement.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was told by a group of American Indians from South Dakota (Lakota people) that Doris Leader Charge made all the warriors in the film speak like women. In Lakota language, there are gender forms of speaking, quite different one from the other. Male Lakota speakers were laughing during the premiere of this show in San Francisco, as for them, it was quite comical to have those Indian braves speaking like women!!!

  10. DWW changed me. Like Federique Badeux said above. It was freeing, liberating, then crashing down with the realities of life. I saw it 13 times in theaters, and dozens of times at home. We still watch it about once a year.

  11. Unknown says:

    DWW is in my top 5 movies to watch than and now if not the best. I have a special connection to this movie cause I lived in the Black Hills of SD in Rapid Valley just outside Rapid City for 12 years. My 11 year old granddaughter is half Lakota Sioux on her Dad's side. Sometimes I want to move back there cause the place and people are beautiful. So every time I watch this movie, I fall in love again with the people and their culture. If you ever get a chance go visit the Black Hills and make sure you visit the Crazy Horse monument.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I love this film. It changed the direction of so-called westerns by using native actors to portray actors! And I watch it at least once a year.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Correction: meant to say it used native actors to portray native people, not some non-Indian.

  14. Anonymous says:

    One of the most beautiful films ever made!

  15. Unknown says:

    where is the link to watch the movie ?

  16. Anonymous says:

    It was truly a labor of love.

  17. I worked on the movie for a month. Here is a bit of trivia...the actor originally slated to play the teamster "Timmons" was Mickey Rooney.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Come see South Dakota on a motorcycle. It's great. Ride through Pierre and see where the file was made along with the Badlands and the Black Hills. Awesome feeling.

  19. Barbara says:

    one of the best movies of all time, I have watched it often and learn something new everytime. It shows how naturally peaceful the Native people are and gives you a connection with them. It will always be my favorite!

  20. I loved the show. It was very realistic according to some native friends of mine in Saskatchewan, Canada. It was very intelligent of the filmmakers to use real native Americans in this picture. This film showed the native Americans as the only real human beings that inhabited the west at the time generally speaking.

  21. Anonymous says:

    It was a good movie. I had friends work in the film, and I made some of the props that were in it.

  22. Unknown says:

    My Aunt Dois Leadercharge and many of my Lakota Sioux relatives in this movie. Haha, I just loved Graham Green. He's in Thunder Heart, another good Native American movie.

  23. This movie made native people real to other groups who had never met or learned about them. It did a real service to those of us who love learning about real history and real culture. It's true what other commenters have said about the language: Lakota really has male and female ways of speaking, and everyone in the film spoke in the female way.

  24. last2cu says:

    I have referred to this movie ever since it came out in describing my HIV/AIDS work in the mid 1980's..I felt like I was setting up everything at the Fort and was waiting for the Doctors and nurses to respond...They never did..well not in the 1980's at least..I felt like Kevin Costner's Character...It was a MAGNIFICENT movie.

  25. Unknown says:

    So glad to learn details about this film. I wish more stories of the tribes would be made into movies!!!

    Thank you,sincerely.

  26. Fletch says:

    One of my all time favs. This film has everything. It makes you laugh, cry, despair, all your emotions are just waiting to pour out. The sadness comes from this showing just how badly the native americans where treated by the so called 'civilized'.

  27. Unknown says:

    Just one note---The Govt. of course has the Protection for Eagles and no one other than True Natives can have any of their Feathers in their possession! (IF Caught--$5,000. FINE)--SO--Costner couldn`t have used any to keep with the Realistic Theme & he contacted a great friend of mine Bob Wills of New Jersey that has a business with Everything Native (sun rise trading post) to MAKE all of the Feathers look like Eagles by Painting Chicken ones! ALSO--What was GREAT was that the Actors (now being Native!) Could Bring their own Feathers to use on set! All ended well! Robert Cook--Now White Wolf has 9 Epic Factss of the Movie!

  28. mairez says:

    So many great scenes in that movie!

  29. Indianer says:

    Dance whit wolf is my favorite.

  30. Awesome movie! I love all the comments!

  31. Anonymous says:

    yes its a great movie and so is the last of the mohicans!!!!!!!!!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Love this movie

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