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Why the filming of the film Open Range, by Kevin Costner, was very difficult because of a gang of… beavers

In 2003, Kevin Costner was at the bottom of the wave. The leading actor of the 90s is struggling to recover from the failure of Postman, his second film behind the camera, in 1997. Whitney Houston’s partner in Bodyguard is counting on this post-apocalyptic feature film to restore his image in Hollywood, tarnished by the intergalactic failure of Waterworld. Unfortunately, this ambitious film falls short: $18 million in revenue for a budget of $80 million. Vegetating in B series without much relief (Destination: Graceland, Apparitions), Kevin Costner decides to embark on a western project, hoping that reconnecting with the great outdoors and adventure cinema will bring him the same glory as Dancing with the wolves in 1990, crowned with the Oscar for best director and the Oscar for best film.

This cult role that Kevin Costner refused

To be able to concentrate on his double role as director and lead actor in Open Range, Kevin Costner refuses one of the most notable roles of the 2000-2010 decade, that of Bill in Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill! Adapted from a novel by Lauran Pain, the film tells the story of four honest cowboys who lead their herds across the western plains. Their migration takes them to Harmonville, a town under the rule of a corrupt sheriff and a rich landowner who prohibits neighboring farmers from allowing their animals to access his pastures. The confrontation is then inevitable… Filming begins on June 17, 2002 in Canada, on the Stoney Indian reserve. Kevin Costner absolutely wants to shoot his western in natural settings. After numerous searches in the United States, he finally opted for a remote region of Canada, that of Longview. He thought for a time of the mountains of Montana, but numerous real estate programs had disfigured this region.

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Beavers who sow discord

Demanding, the Robin Hood actor is not convinced by any existing village. The production has to spend over a million dollars to build a village from scratch. The birth of Harmonville took nine weeks, preceded by intense documentation work to be faithful to Kevin Costner’s requests. “We wanted to recreate what really existed, in the style of the buildings, in the decoration and in the selection of paints that they used at the time” explains production designer Gae S. Buckley. Problem: the chosen location is not served by any road. It was therefore necessary to build a dirt road. Only problem: the land is transformed into mud by the melting snow, then flooded because of a dam… of beavers! Once built, the decor is not done with bad weather. The film team had to battle, alternately, with winds of more than 80 km/h and scorching temperatures.

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Kevin Costner finds success again

Not without difficulty, filming ended on September 8, 2002. Open Range was released on August 15, 2003 in the United States and February 25, 2004 in France. Despite the difficulties linked to production and the uncertainties surrounding the potential commercial success of a western, the film was a great success. Boasting a budget of $22 million, Open Range grossed nearly $70 million at the worldwide box office. It is also praised by critics. Among the film’s biggest fans is Anthony Hopkins. The English actor is so excited that he writes a letter to Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall to congratulate them on their respective roles. However, since then, Costner has never gone behind the camera again…

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