AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Dances with Wolves
Director: Kevin Costner (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Nov 1990
Premiere Information:   Washington, D.C. premiere: 19 Oct 1990; Los Angeles premiere: 4 Nov 1990; Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 Nov 1990
Production Date:   17 or 18 Jul--21 or 23 Nov 1989
Duration (in mins):   181
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Cast:   Kevin Costner (Lieutenant [John J.] Dunbar [also known as Dances With Wolves])  
    Mary McDonnell (Stands With A Fist)  
    Graham Greene (Kicking Bird)  
    Rodney A. Grant (Wind In His Hair)  
    Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Ten Bears)  
    Tantoo Cardinal (Black Shawl)  
    Jimmy Herman (Stone Calf)  
    Charles Rocket (Lieutenant Elgin)  
    Robert Pastorelli (Timmons)  
    Larry Joshua (Sergeant Bauer)  
    Tony Pierce (Spivey)  
    Tom Everett (Sergeant Pepper)  
  and Maury Chaykin (Major Fambrough)  
    Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse (Smiles A Lot)  
    Michael Spears (Otter)  
    Jason R. Lone Hill (Worm)  
    Doris Leader Charge (Pretty Shield)  
    Kirk Baltz (Edwards)  
    Wayne Grace (Major)  
    Donald Hotton (General Tide)  
    Annie Costner (Christine)  
    Conor Duffy (Willie)  
    Elisa Daniel (Christine's mother)  
    Percy White Plume (Big Warrior)  
    John Tail (Escort warrior)  
    Steve Reevis (Sioux #1/Warrior #1)  
    Sheldon Wolfchild (Sioux #2/Warrior #2)  
    Wes Studi (Toughest Pawnee)  
    Buffalo Child (Pawnee #1)  
    Clayton Big Eagle (Pawnee #2)  
    Richard Leader Charge (Pawnee #3)  
    Redwing Ted Nez (Sioux warrior)  
    Marvin Holy (Sioux warrior)  
    Raymond Newholy (Sioux courier)  
    David J. Fuller (Kicking Bird's son)  
    Ryan White Bull (Kicking Bird's eldest son)  
    Otakuye Conroy (Kicking Bird's daughter)  
    Maretta Big Crow (Village mother)  
    Steve Chambers (Guard)  
    William H. Burton (General's aide)  
    Bill W. Curry (Confederate cavalryman)  
    Nick Thompson (Confederate soldier)  
    Carter Hanner (Confederate soldier)  
    Kent Hays (Wagon driver)  
    Robert Goldman (Union soldier)  
    Frank P. Costanza (Tucker)  
    James A. Mitchell (Ray)  
    R. L. Curtin (Ambush wagon driver)  
    Justin (Cisco)  
    Teddy (Two Socks)  
    Buck (Two Socks)  

Summary: In 1863 Tennessee, wounded Union Army Lieutenant John J. Dunbar overhears that his foot is about to be amputated and escapes the hospital tent. He returns to the battlefield, where Union soldiers have reached a stalemate with the Confederates. Mounting a horse named Cisco, Dunbar embarks on a suicide mission by riding along the Confederate front lines. The enemy soldiers shoot at him, but he survives. While the Confederates are distracted, the Union soldiers attack and put the Confederates to rout. For his heroism, Dunbar is decorated and awarded the horse. He also receives the medical treatment necessary to save his foot. Given the choice of any post, Dunbar opts for the western frontier. A crass wagon driver named Timmons leads him to the remote post of Ft. Sedgwick, where he is to report to Captain Cargill. However, they find the post abandoned and in disrepair. Although Timmons does not want to abandon him, Dunbar insists on staying there alone. He spends his days cleaning up the fort, writing in his journal, and admiring the beautiful terrain. Soon after, Pawnee Indians see Timmons traveling on his own and kill him. Nearly a month passes with no sign of Cargill. A wolf with white paws begins to make regular visits to the fort and Dunbar names it “Two Socks.” One day, Dunbar returns from bathing in the river to find “Kicking Bird,” a Sioux Indian, inspecting the fort. Dunbar approaches, and Kicking Bird retreats in fear. Dunbar writes about the encounter in his journal, and decides to bury his armaments so they do not fall into enemy hands. Back at the Sioux village, Kicking Bird discusses Dunbar with the tribe in Lakota, their native language. Although a younger Indian named “Wind In His Hair” denounces all white men and doubts Dunbar’s ability to survive on his own, Kicking Bird is impressed by Dunbar’s independence and believes he might be peaceable. Wind In His Hair leads a group of Sioux to steal Cisco, but the horse breaks free and returns to Ft. Sedgwick. Dunbar dons his army uniform and sets out to visit the Sioux village. On the way, he comes upon a white woman in Sioux garb, who is bleeding from a self-inflicted wound. The woman screams when she sees Dunbar, but passes out. He takes her back to the village and tells the Sioux, “She’s hurt,” but they do not understand. Wind In His Hair takes the woman, and Kicking Bird discourages other Sioux from attacking, promising that Dunbar did not come to fight. Later, at the behest of their chief, “Ten Bears,” Kicking Bird and Wind In His Hair make the first of many friendly visits to Ft. Sedgwick. Dunbar gives them coffee and sugar, and attempts to communicate using gestures. He learns they are in search of buffalo, but assures them he has not seen any. Kicking Bird asks Stands With A Fist, the white woman Dunbar rescued, to act as translator, but she claims the white man’s language has died inside her. She recalls her childhood on the frontier, when she narrowly escaped an Indian attack on her family. After Kicking Bird and Wind In His Hair deliver a buffalo hide to Dunbar, the soldier writes in his journal that Indians are nothing like the negative stereotypes perpetuated by white people. He is invited to the Sioux village, where Kicking Bird offers him a pipe inside his teepee. Stands With A Fist appears and uses broken English to translate their conversation. Dunbar is not surprised to learn that Kicking Bird is a holy man. Back at Ft. Sedgwick, he awakens to the thunderous sound of a buffalo stampede. He rides to the Sioux village to inform them, then joins in their buffalo hunt. They come upon a field of slain buffalo, killed only for their hides. The Indians lament the wasted animals, and Dunbar feels guilty knowing white hunters must be the culprits. When they catch up to the herd, the Sioux use arrows to kill buffalo, while Dunbar uses his rifle. “Smiles A Lot,” a younger Sioux boy, is knocked off his horse and nearly killed by a buffalo, but Dunbar shoots the animal just in time. The Sioux celebrate the hunt with an all-night party. Wind In His Hair trades his breastplate for Dunbar’s army jacket, and Dunbar proudly wears the traditional garb. He is dropped back off at Ft. Sedgwick, where Two Socks awaits him, but he soon becomes lonely without the Sioux. Three days later, he sets out for an unannounced visit to the village. Two Socks follows, prompting Dunbar to chase the animal away. On their way to visit Dunbar at the same time, a group of Sioux observe as Dunbar and Two Socks run in circles in a field. They offer him his own teepee at the village, and Dunbar settles in there. Kicking Bird asks how many white people are coming, but Dunbar cannot bring himself to admit that the Sioux will soon be outnumbered. A war party is assembled to fight the Pawnee Indians, enemies of the Sioux. Dunbar asks to fight, but Kicking Bird wants him to stay behind and watch over his family. Dunbar agrees, and Kicking Bird calls him by his new name, “Dances With Wolves.” Dunbar learns how to say the name in Lakota, and uses it to identify himself henceforward. While the war party is away, Dances With Wolves and Stands With a Fist get to know each other over language lessons. Stands With A Fist reveals how she came to live with the Sioux at a young age. Dunbar asks why she is not married, but she refuses to answer. He learns from an elder that her husband was killed recently, and Stands With A Fist will be in mourning until Kicking Bird, who rescued her as a young girl, decides she is ready to move on. Later, Stands With A Fist is dismayed to find Dunbar has returned to Ft. Sedgwick. There, he sketches her in his journal and writes that he loves her. Dunbar finally coaxes Two Socks to eat out of his hand, just before Stands With A Fist appears. She kisses him and says they must be careful not to get caught before she is out of mourning. They return to the village and make love in his teepee that night. They are interrupted by a commotion outside. Dunbar learns that the Pawnee are headed to the village, so he retreats to Ft. Sedgwick to retrieve his store of guns. Armed with U.S. army rifles, the Sioux easily defeat the Pawnee. At the urging of his wife, “Black Shawl,” Kicking Bird tells Stands With A Fist that her mourning period is over and officiates her wedding to Dances With Wolves. Dunbar finally reveals to Kicking Bird that droves of white people are bound to overtake the land. The Sioux chief, Ten Bears, says they will continue to fight for their territory, just as they have throughout history. The next day, they migrate to their winter camp. Dances With Wolves returns to Ft. Sedgwick to retrieve his journal, concerned that it may tip off the soldiers to his whereabouts, but he is discovered by Union Lieutenant Elgin’s command and taken prisoner. Accused of treason, Dances With Wolves is severely beaten and sentenced to hanging at Ft. Hayes. Wind In His Hair leads a group to rescue Dances With Wolves. Two Socks follows the soldiers’ trail, as well, but the animal is brutally shot by Dances With Wolves’s captors. At a river crossing, the Sioux attack Lt. Elgin and his men, killing the soldiers and rescuing Dances With Wolves. They arrive at the Sioux winter camp, where Stands With A Fist embraces her husband, and they fall into the snow together. Dances With Wolves informs Ten Bears that the soldiers will continue to search for him now that he is a confirmed traitor. He needs to leave the Sioux and suggests that they move their camp as well. Before he and Stands With A Fist leave, Dances With Wolves receives a gift from Kicking Bird, who observes that they have come a long way. Smiles A Lot surprises Dances With Wolves with his journal, which he retrieved during the skirmish with Lt. Elgin’s men. As U.S. soldiers search the mountains, Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist ride away. Watching the couple go, Wind In His Hair calls out that he will always be a friend to Dances With Wolves. 

Production Company: TIG Productions  
  Majestic Films International  
Production Text: An Orion® Pictures Release
Tig Productions Presents
Brand Name:

Distribution Company: Orion Pictures  
Director: Kevin Costner (Dir)
  Derek Kavanagh (Unit prod mgr)
  Douglas C. Metzger (1st asst dir)
  Stephen P. Dunn (2d asst dir)
  Linda J. Brachman (2d 2d asst dir)
  David A. Fudge (DGA trainee)
  John Huneck (2d unit dir by)
  Philip C. Pfeiffer (2d unit dir by)
Producer: Jim Wilson (Prod)
  Kevin Costner (Prod)
  Derek Kavanagh (Line prod)
  Bonnie Arnold (Assoc prod)
  Jake Eberts (Exec prod)
Writer: Michael Blake based on his novel (Scr)
Photography: Dean Semler (Dir of photog)
  Ben Glass (Still photog)
  James Muro (Cam op)
  Lee Blasingame (1st asst cam)
  Mark Davison (1st asst cam)
  Dudley J. Voll (2d asst cam)
  Leigh Feitelberg (Loader)
  Chris Summerell (Shotmaker op)
  James Muro (Steadicam cine)
  Blair Forward (Video playback op)
  David B. McGill (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  Jerry G. Callaway (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  Michael E. Gips (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  R. Holy Bear Schoenhut (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  Cory Shiozaki (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  David Sanderson (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  Kenneth W. Thornton (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  Carol Ogihara (Buffalo hunt cam crew)
  John Huneck (2d unit dir of photog)
  Philip C. Pfeiffer (2d unit dir of photog)
  S. Phillip Sparks (Addl cam op)
  Fred L. McLane (Asst cam)
  Henry Tirl (Asst cam)
  Joseph Sanchez (Asst cam)
  Jimmy Jensen (Asst cam)
  Victor Perez (Gaffer)
  Marc Wostak (Best boy elec)
  Michael Blundell (Elec)
  Raymond Gonzales (Elec)
  William "Bear" Paul (Key grip)
  Kim Heath (Best boy grip)
  John Murphy (Dolly grip)
  William Edward Paul (Grip)
  Mike Dunson (Grip)
  Doug Cowden (Grip)
  Bryon Bower (Grip)
  Tony DeVito (Grip)
  Lyle Ehlers (Grip)
Art Direction: Jeffrey Beecroft (Prod des)
  Wm Ladd Skinner (Art dir)
  Steve Burg (Illustrator)
  Leonard Morganti (Illustrator)
Film Editor: Neil Travis (Ed)
  William Hoy (Ed)
  Stephen Potter (Ed)
  Chip Masamitsu (Ed)
  Robert C. Lusted (Asst ed)
  Eric O. Schusterman (Apprentice ed)
  Gary Burritt (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Lisa Dean (Set dec)
  Dayna Lee (Set dresser)
  Paul Aurther Hartman (Set dresser)
  Dwain F. Wilson (On set dresser)
  Steven K. Barnett (On set dresser)
  Patrick T. Cassidy (Leadman)
  Jeff Hartmann (Swing gang foreman)
  James A. Bradley (Swing gang)
  Darryl Hayes (Swing gang)
  Jay B. Curry (Swing gang)
  Stephanie Waldron (Greens supv)
  Charles Fogg (Greens laborer)
  Paul Clark (Greens laborer)
  Brad Booth (Standby greens)
  Scott A. Stephens (Prop master)
  John Cameron (Asst prop master)
  Ivica Bilich (2d asst propmaster)
  Charles Bludsworth (2d asst propmaster)
  J. R. Kussman (Props asst)
  Andrew Precht (Model maker)
  Ben Zeller (Const coord)
  Jim Hill (Const foreman)
  Al Eylar (Const foreman)
  Bob Sturtevant (Shop foreman)
  Carl Zeller (Crew boss)
  Dave Best (Foreman - Fort Hayes)
  Thomas Michael Ryan (Foreman - Fort Hayes)
  Monte Curry (Local foreman)
  Bill DeYonge (Local foreman)
  Dave Roden (Mill man)
  Dawna Gravatt (Labor foreman)
  Patrick Mollman (Carpenter)
  Reed A. Finch (Carpenter)
  Kerry J. Frosh (Carpenter)
  Marvin Holy (Standby carpenter)
  Robert Des Jarlais (Standby carpenter)
  Ward Welton (Head scenic painter)
  Ron Ashmore (Lead painter)
  Richard Puga (Scenic painter)
  Jim Steere (Scenic painter)
  Patrick S. Thoms (Standby scenic painter)
Costumes: Elsa Zamparelli (Cost des)
  Barbara Gordon (Set costumer)
  Cathy Smith (Cost const)
  Birgitta Bjerke (Cost supv)
  Julia Gombert (Asst cost supv)
  Ron Beebe (Cost asst)
Music: John Barry (Mus comp and cond)
  John Coinman (Mus supv)
  Clif Kohlweck (Mus ed)
  Shawn Murphy (Mus scoring mixer)
  Susan McLean (Scoring rec)
  Greig McRichie (Orch)
  Peter Buffett (Addl mus "Fire Dance")
  Porcupine Singers (Traditional mus by)
Sound: Russell Williams (Prod sd mixer)
  Mary Jo Devenney (Prod sd mixer)
  Alberto Aquino (Boom op)
  Lee Loesch (Cableman)
  Robert Fitzgerald (Sd des)
  Soundbusters (Sd ed)
  Hari Ryatt (Supv sd ed)
  Robert Fitzgerald (Supv sd ed)
  Bruce Stubblefield (Sd ed)
  Linda Moss (Sd ed)
  Albert Gasser (Sd ed)
  Jeff Rosen (Sd ed)
  Howard Gindoff (Sd ed)
  Ed Fassl (Sd ed)
  Barbara Barnaby (Supv ADR ed)
  Chris Jargo (ADR ed)
  Gina Spiro (Asst ADR ed)
  Burton Sharp (Group ADR coord)
  Doc Kane (ADR mixer)
  Dan O'Connell (Foley artist)
  Alicia Stevenson (Foley artist)
  Tim Hoggat (Foley mixer)
  John Duvall (Foley ed)
  Joel Berkovitz (Foley ed)
  Justine Turner (Asst sd ed)
  Ruben Domingo (Asst sd ed)
  International Recording Corporation (Re-rec by)
  Jeffrey Perkins (Supv re-rec mixer)
  Bill Benton (Re-rec mixer)
  Greg Watkins (Re-rec mixer)
  Andy Napell (Re-rec mixer)
  Larry Hoki (Rec)
Special Effects: Robbie Knott (Chief spec eff)
  John K. Stirber (1st asst spec eff)
  Joseph E. Knott (Spec eff asst)
  Michael Bolan (Spec eff asst)
  KNB Effects Group (Mechanical animal eff created by)
  Robert Kurtzman (Buffalo eff supv)
  Greg Nicotero (Buffalo eff supv)
  Howard Berger (Buffalo eff supv)
  Shannon Shea (Buffalo eff supv)
  Matthew Yuricich (Matte painting crew)
  Rocco Gioffre (Matte painting crew)
  Robert Bailey (Matte cam crew)
  Paul Curley (Matte cam crew)
  Matsuno Design Group (Main title artwork)
  Cinema Research Corporation (Titles and opt eff by)
  David L. Aaron (Title des)
  Jay Johnson (Title des)
Make Up: Frank Carrisosa (Chief makeup)
  David Atherton (Key makeup)
  Patricia Carrisosa (1st asst makeup)
  Tammy Ashmore (Asst makeup)
  Tea Jay Glass (Asst makeup)
  Karin Hayes (Asst makeup)
  Terri Goett (Asst makeup)
  Elle Elliott (Chief hairstylist)
  Tamara Guthrie (Key hairstylist)
  Joani Yarbrough (Hairstylist)
  Heather Matisoff (Asst hairstylist)
  Deborah Mills-Gusmano (Asst hairstylist)
  Beth Miller (Asst hairstylist)
  Linda Bowman (Asst hairstylist)
  Linda Peterson (Asst hairstylist)
Production Misc: Elisabeth Leustig (Casting)
  Allison Conant (Asst to Kevin Costner)
  Gregory Avellone (Asst to Kevin Costner)
  David Silva (Staff asst)
  Sean Kavanagh (Staff asst)
  Jan Evans (Scr supv)
  Doris Hartley (Prod coord)
  Stacey Hartley (Prod secy)
  Lynne Ferry (Asst prod coord)
  Angela Robinson (2d unit scr supv)
  Tim Wilson (Loc mgr)
  H. Jane Nauman (Asst loc mgr)
  Chris A. Hipple (Asst loc mgr)
  Cindy Costner (Wagon master)
  Rusty Hendrickson (Head wrangler/Trainer)
  Rick Wyant (Wrangler)
  Scotty Augare (Wrangler)
  Dutch Lunak (Wrangler)
  R. L. Curtin (Wrangler)
  Bob Erickson (Wrangler)
  Ingrid "Tilly" Semler (Wrangler)
  Roy Vavra (Wrangler)
  S. Fox Sloan (Small animal wrangler)
  Dan Wesson (Small animal wrangler)
  Paul Sled Reynolds (Wolf trainer)
  Gayle Phelps (Wolf trainer)
  Living Legends (Addl wolf trainer)
  Fred DuBray (Addl wolf trainer, "Living Legends")
  Alune DuBray (Addl wolf trainer, "Living Legends")
  Roy Houck (Bison consultant)
  Duane Lammers (Bison consultant)
  Susan Brown (Casting asst)
  Rene Haynes (Extras casting)
  Darlene "Ka-Mook" Nichols (Extras casting asst)
  Catherine "Kitty" Duffy (Extras casting asst)
  Andy Cannon (Historic re-enactment coord)
  David Siegel (Transportation coord)
  Jonathan Rosenfeld (Transportation capt)
  Wayne Jones (Transportation co-capt)
  Peter W. Haas (Unit pub)
  Tristan Whalley (International pub)
  John T. Haun (Prod accountant)
  Thomas A. Davila (Asst accountant)
  Dawn Renae Schmitz (Asst accountant)
  Prep Shoot Post (Post prod accounting)
  Chris Romberg (Post prod accounting)
  Edward Gorsuch (Prod asst)
  Fran L. Wells (Prod asst)
  Mark Eilers (Prod asst)
  Donna Bond Sanders (Prod asst)
  Rhonda S. Richards (Prod asst)
  Tom Byrnes (Prod asst)
  Jacqueline C. Johnson (Prod asst)
  Beth Ann Irion (Prod asst)
  Lynda Donahue (Prod asst)
  Kymberly Jenkins (Prod asst)
  Moira McLaughlin (Prod asst)
  Terry Albright (Prod asst)
  Tutt A. Esquerre (Craft service)
  Tim Hill (Craft service)
  Steven Zukowski (Craft service)
  Jay Ivers (First aid)
  Dr. Richard Wagner (First aid)
  For Stars Catering (Caterer)
  Doris Leader Charge (Lakota translator/Dial coach)
  Albert White Hat (Lakota translator/Dial coach)
  Tim Merrill (Video documentarian)
  Cathy Smith (Tech adv)
  Larry Belitz (Tech adv)
  James Petti (Driver)
  James Wesley Adams (Driver)
  Craig Hofstrand (Driver)
  Brian Steagall (Driver)
  Brian Maguire (Driver)
  Carter Hanner (Driver)
  William Robert "BS" Stevens (Driver)
  Bernie Duffy, Jr. (Driver)
  J. R. Allen (Driver)
  Gary Shuckhosee (Driver)
  Chris Summerell (Driver)
  Ron M. Field (Driver)
  Courtney Field (Driver)
  Dana Duffy (Driver)
  Jolene Kusser (Driver)
  Dan Dooley (Driver)
  Phil H. Fravel (Driver)
  Scott Kelly (Driver)
  Ron R. Merritt (Driver)
  Robert Molitor (Driver)
  Michael Nielsen (Driver)
  Todd "Dumbo" MacDonald (Driver)
  Matt O'Toole (Driver)
  Gary E. Pfaff (Helicopter pilot)
  The Completion Bond Company, Inc. (Completion guarantee provided by)
Stand In: Norman L. Howell (Stunt coord)
  Ricky DeHorse (Stuntman)
  Wade Livermont (Stuntman)
  Robby Dunn (Stuntman)
  Jim Pratt (Stuntman)
  Duffy Ducheneaux (Stuntman)
  C. L. Johnson (Stuntman)
  Alvin "Dutch" Lunak (Stuntman)
  James Augare (Stuntman)
  Erik Rondell (Stuntman)
  Dan Koko (Stuntman)
  Terrance Eugene Fredericks (Stuntman)
  Rusty Hendrickson (Stuntman)
  Steve Chambers (Stuntman)
  William H. Burton (Stuntman)
  H. P. Evetts (Stuntman)
  Danny Costa (Stuntman)
  Steven Earl Martin (Stuntman)
  Cliff McLaughlin (Stuntman)
  Shawn Howell (Stuntman)
  Kanin Howell (Stuntman)
  Leonard Charger (Stuntman)
  Jason Charger (Stuntman)
  Billy Joe Fredericks (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Jeff Fredericks (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Pete Fredericks (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Gumbo Lamb (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Bruz Luger (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Jody Luger (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Tim Jacobs (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Fred Skaggs (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Tater Ward (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Loren Cuny (Buffalo hunting stunts)
  Norman L. Howell (Stunt double for Mr. Costner)
  Mark Thomason (Stand-in)
  Don Robinson (Stand-in)
  Brenda J. Carroll (Stand-in)
Color Personnel: De Luxe® (Col by)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake (New York, 1988).
Authors: Michael Blake

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
TIG Productions, Inc. 6/12/1990 dd/mm/yyyy PA488872

PCA NO: 30300
Physical Properties: Sd: Spectral Recording Dolby Stereo SR™ in selected theatres
  Lenses: Filmed in Panavision®

Genre: Western
Subjects (Major): Cultural conflict
  Frontier and pioneer life
  Indians of North America
  Lakota Indians
  United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Subjects (Minor): Assimilation (Sociology)
  Bison, American
  Confederate States of America. Army
  Pawnee Indians
  Survival skills
  Wounds and injuries

Note: The following written epilogue precedes end credits: “Thirteen years later, their homes destroyed, their buffalo gone, the last band of free Sioux submitted to white authority at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The great horse culture of the plains was gone and the American frontier was soon to pass into history.” End credits include “Special Thanks” to: “The Spirited People of South Dakota who helped make this film possible; Roy Houck and Kay Ingles – Triple U Standing Butte Ranch; 777 Bison Ranch; Sioux Indian Nation; The Honorable Governor and Mrs. George S. Mickelson; Gary Keller and the South Dakota Film Commission; Black Hills National Forest; Homestake Mining Company; South Dakota Law Enforcement; South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks; Badlands National Park; Indian Learning Center; Storm Mountain Center; South Dakota Job Services; Pierre and Rapid City Chambers of Commerce; Verendrye Museum; Institute of Range and the American Mustang; Mule Utility Vehicles by Kawasaki U.S.A.; West River Video Productions; and Kevin Reynolds.” End credits also include the statement, “Every effort was made to ensure the safety of all the animals depicted in the film. All the featured animals were trained and handled by professional animal specialists.”
       Foley mixer Tim Hoggatt’s name is misspelled “Tim Hoggat” in end credits.
       According to a 25 Mar 1991 NYT article, writer Michael Blake met producer Jim Wilson in 1977 at the University of California at Berkeley, where they both studied film. In 1983, the two collaborated on a direct-to-video release, Stacy’s Knights, which starred their friend, Kevin Costner, in one of his early roles. Over the next few years, Michael Blake struggled, writing something like fifteen unproduced screenplays until he came up with the idea for Dances with Wolves, inspired by his longtime interest in American Indian history, Dee Brown’s book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (New York, 1971), and a true story about a real-life teamster who was sent to resupply a U.S. Army fort on the frontier only to find it abandoned. In 1986, Blake pitched the idea to Kevin Costner, who expressed interest in the story but suggested writing it as a novel instead of a screenplay to increase its chances of selling. Blake, who was living out of his car at the time, wrote the novel in nine months. However, he had a difficult time selling it and left Los Angeles for Bisbee, AZ, where he took a job as a dishwasher. Meanwhile, Wilson urged his contacts at the William Morris Agency to read Blake’s manuscript. A William Morris agent eventually agreed to represent Blake and the novel was sold to Fawcett Books for $6,500. Costner optioned film rights before the book’s release, and commissioned Blake, still living in Bisbee, to return to Los Angeles and adapt the novel into a screenplay. In 1988, Fawcett released Dances with Wolves in paperback, as stated in a 2 Feb 1991 LAT article, with an initial print run of 30,000 copies.
       Using $70,000 of their own money, Kevin Costner and Jim Wilson developed the project under their newly formed company, Tig Productions. Costner did not initially plan to direct, as stated in a 16 Aug 1989 Screen International article, but eventually took on the role as a first-time director. A 28 Oct 1990 LAT article stated that two major film studios turned down the project based on Costner’s insistence that a third of the dialogue be in the Lakota Sioux language, with subtitles in English, while the 2 Nov 1990 Austin American Statesman stated that three “near-deals” fell apart before Canadian film financier Jake Eberts joined the project as executive producer. Eberts reimbursed Costner’s “initial upfront investment” and helped acquire European funding through Majestic Pictures, which raised $9 million in foreign pre-sales. Meanwhile, the 19 Mar 1991 LAT reported that overseas distribution rights would be owned by Kevin Costner’s children in perpetuity. Although Island Pictures was originally set as domestic distributor, the company backed out, allowing Orion Pictures Corp. to come on board with a $10.5 million investment. Costner’s salary was said to be $3 million, $2.5 of which he contributed to the film’s budget. Costner later reported conflicting numbers in a 23 Jan 2011 LAT interview, stating that, in addition to the $9 million in foreign pre-sales, Orion provided $4 million, and Costner contributed $3 million toward a $16 million budget. Varying contemporary sources listed budgets ranging from $15-19 million.
       Although an 8 Jan 1989 LAT brief reported that principal photography would begin in Mexico in Mar 1989, filming did not take place in Mexico and the start date was pushed back to 17 or 18 Jul 1989, as noted in various sources including production notes in AMPAS library files, the 7 Jun 1989 HR and DV, and the 7 Jul 1989 HR. After scouting nine states from Canada to Mexico, filmmakers chose South Dakota, where production headquarters were set up in Rapid City. According to the 7 Jul 1989 HR, local stockbroker Guy Edwards claimed to have persuaded filmmakers to shoot in South Dakota instead of Valentine, NB. A 26 Oct 1990 HR item stated that Dances with Wolves contributed $10 million to the state’s economy, making it the largest feature film to be made there, to that time.
       Thousands of American Indian actors were auditioned for roles and roughly 150 Sioux from the Rosebud Reservation in Rosebud, SD, were hired as extras, as noted in the 28 Oct 1990 LAT. Filmmakers strove for authenticity, therefore no American Indian parts were played by white actors. Sioux costumes were made from real deerskin, while buffalo skin, feathers and beads were used to create accessories. Cathy Smith, a nineteenth-century plains Indian expert from Black Hills, SD, was brought in to consult on costumes and production design. One of the few inaccuracies portrayed in the film, as noted by actors Tantoo Cardinal and Rodney Grant, was a line of dialogue spoken by one of the Sioux children, who fears his father will “break a bow over his back” as a punishment. Cardinal and Grant emphasized that the Sioux Indians would never beat a child.
       In a 2 Dec 1990 NYT interview, actress Mary McDonnell stated that she sepnt a month on set before her scenes began filming. During that time, she spent several hours a day learning Lakota from instructor Doris Leader Charge, who also appeared in the film as “Pretty Shield.” Charge gave all Lakota-speaking cast members a three-week crash course in the language prior to the start of principal photography. She also translated the screenplay into Lakota, with Albert White Hat, a fellow instructor at the Rosebud Reservation’s Sinte Gleska College. Production notes stated that Charge and White Hat simplified the Lakota dialogue so that actors could more easily learn their lines. Charge stated in the Nov 1990 issue of Interview magazine that the American Indian actors were the hardest to teach, because the language had been forbidden by the U.S. government when they were school-aged and they had developed a “mental block” when it came to speaking their native tongue. According to a 26 Nov 1990 Newsweek item, Costner’s character, “Lieutenant John J. Dunbar,” used feminine Lakota words because he received language lessons from his female love interest, "Stands With A Fist." His way of speaking was apparently noted in a line of dialogue in which an elder tribesman tells Dunbar, “You speak funny.” Doris Leader Charge also served as an advisor during filming, showing filmmakers how to rig teepees and clarifying the rules of Indian etiquette.
       The 2 Nov 1990 Austin American Statesman stated that filming took place in twenty-seven South Dakota locations. The production required 300 horses, 250 American Indian actors, forty-eight speaking roles, 150 cavalry, and 3,500 buffalo, provided by the Triple U Ranch, which boasted the largest privately owned buffalo herd in the world. The ranch, located just west of Pierre, SD, served as the location for nearly half the film. In addition to Triple U’s buffalo, “Cody” and “Mammoth,” two tame buffalo owned by singer-songwriter Neil Young, were used to portray two buffalo hit by arrows during the hunt scene. Meanwhile, “articulated buffalo” made from wire and fur were used to depict buffalo that were trampled.
       Kevin Reynolds, who received “Special Thanks” in onscreen credits, directed second-unit footage according to a 26 Mar 1991 DV brief. After rumors spread that Reynolds came in to help Costner because he was “in over his head,” editor Neil Travis defended Costner, insisting that Reynolds never once directed an actor or a line of dialogue, and Costner storyboarded all of the second unit scenes he shot. According to different reports, the production went twenty-three to thirty days over schedule, and early snowfall necessitated the erection of a teepee inside a Quonset hut. A 26 Nov 1989 LAT item noted that the film had earned the nickname “Kevin’s Gate,” which referred to the notoriously problematic production of Heaven’s Gate (1981, see entry). Although filmmakers went over budget by roughly $1.8 million, costs were kept down by using non-union crewmembers, although some members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union, including cinematographer Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis, were involved in the production. IATSE subsequently wrote a letter of complaint regarding Dances with Wolves, as stated in a 1 May 1991 DV item, but no further information about the complaint was found in AMPAS library files.
       In the 23 Jan 2011 LAT, Costner stated the picture entailed only one special-effects shot, in which animatronic buffalo were used to augment a scene depicting grazing buffalo.
       A five-hour rough-cut of the film was edited down to 181 minutes, as noted in a 30 Dec 1990 LAT article. Editor Neil Travis claimed the most difficult scene to cut was the “Broken Forest scene,” in which Dunbar and “Kicking Bird” ride through a beautiful forest filmed in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, only to find an area littered with dead trees and animal carcasses left by white trappers.
       Sneak previews took place mid-May 1990 in Seattle, WA, and Phoenix, AZ, according to a 16 May 1990 DV item. The current edit, roughly ten minutes shorter than the final theatrical version, received a majority of “excellent” cards, as noted in the 29 May 1990 DV. Advance screenings were also held in Nov 1990, benefitting the Nature Conservancy, as noted in a 29 Oct 1990 Var brief. In addition, the 31 Oct 1990 HR stated that Costner would film public service announcements for the Nature Conservancy.
       Orion’s promotional campaign included “a considerable media commitment,” according to a 5 Nov 1990 Var brief, although the company would not disclose its advertising budget. In addition to a direct-mail campaign, radio advertisements in Lakota were aired on Native American radio stations, and Orion arranged a cross-promotion with the Discovery Channel series, Quest for America’s Frontier, which addressed topics raised by the film. Discovery and Orion co-sponsored a sweepstakes, which ran 12 Nov—6 Dec 1990 and awarded five Discovery Channel viewers a seven-day vacation touring Native American pueblos in the American Southwest. A 6 Dec 1990 HR item noted that The Making of Dances with Wolves, a documentary syndicated by Golden Gate Productions, aired on various television stations through the end of Dec 1990, and proved a “valuable marketing tool” for Orion, according to David Forbes, the company’s president of distribution.
       According to the 16 Aug 1989 Screen International, an Aug 1990 release was initially slated. However, the world premiere did not take place until 19 Oct 1990 in Washington, D.C., as noted in a 15 Oct 1990 Var brief. The event raised funds for the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the Native American. Later, a 4 Nov 1990 Los Angeles premiere hosted by Costner’s then-wife, Cindy Costner, raised $500,000 for the charities Tripod and Futures for Children, as noted in a 6 Nov 1990 DV news item. Another benefit premiere took place in Rapid City, SD, on 18 Nov 1990, with proceeds going toward dropout prevention programs for at-risk youth in South Dakota, specifically American Indians.
       The film opened in limited release on 9 Nov 1990 in nine cities, including Los Angeles; Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; Toronto, Canada; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, WA; Dallas, TX; and New York City. A nationwide release followed on 21 Nov 1990, expanding to 750-800 screens, according to various contemporary sources including the 5 Nov 1990 HR.
       Both a critical and box-office success, Dances with Wolves marked the first time that a film starring Kevin Costner reached the $100 million mark in domestic box-office grosses, as stated in the 19 Mar 1991 LAT. On 8 Apr 1991, Var reported that the cumulative box-office earnings had reached $147 million, surpassing Platoon (1986, see entry) to become Orion’s highest-grossing film to that time. The 11 Feb 1991 DV stated that the earnings were even more impressive because the picture’s three-hour length limited its number of daily showings to three or four per day instead of five or six.
       Michael Blake went on to establish Seven Wolves Publishing, with the company’s first release set to be an unabridged, audiobook version of Dances with Wolves. The paperback was re-issued by Fawcett, with 800,000 copies printed, and an eighty-page book on the making of the film was released by Newmarket Press. A four-hour cut of the film was screened at a West End theater in London, England, according to a 20 Dec 1991 LAT item, which listed the following scenes as added material: the “Broken Forest” scene as detailed in the 30 Dec 1990 LAT ; the slaughter of buffalo by white hunters, which informs Dunbar’s decision to return to white society; additional scenes between Dunbar and Stands With A Fist, emphasizing their cultural gap; and scenes in which the Sioux appear more brutal. In 1993, the extended version of the film aired as a miniseries on ABC (American Broadcasting Company). An even longer, letterboxed director’s cut, with ten minutes of additional unseen footage, was set to be released on home video in late Aug 1994, as stated in a 10 Jun 1994 LAT article. The “Limited Collector’s Edition” video package would include The Making of Dances with Wolves, a “22-minute, behind-the-scenes, never-before-released video” (which may have been Golden Gate Productions’ syndicated version aired on television in 1990), and the Newmarket Press book, Dances with Wolves: The Illustrated Story of the Epic Film (New York, 1990).
       An 11 Feb 1991 LAT “Morning Report” column noted that an original script with Costner’s notes and a peace pipe used in the film sold at a Lake Tahoe, NV, celebrity auction for $6,000. Proceeds went toward the Starlight Foundation.
       On 8 Apr 1991, LAT announced that commercials for Ivar’s Restaurants and Seafood Bars were taken off the air at the insistence of Orion when the company discovered that Ivar’s had spoofed Dances with Wolves in its commercials and newspaper advertisements. The advertisements showed a Kevin Costner lookalike dancing with a man in a clam costume, and the commercial contained the following dialogue: “He is a newcomer. He has not yet learned our ways, but soon he will eat at Ivar’s.”
       Dances with Wolves received numerous accolades, including twelve Academy Award nominations. It received the following seven Academy Awards: Best Picture; Directing; Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; Original Score; Cinematography; Film Editing; and Sound. The film received Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, and the National Board of Review’s (NBR) Best Director award, as well as its D. W. Griffith Award for Best Picture. Michael Blake won the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Screenplay Adaptation; Kevin Costner won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for Best Director; Neil Travis won the American Cinema Editors (ACE) Award for Best Edited Feature Film; Dean Semler won the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Best Cinematography Award; and the Producers Guild of America (PGA) gave Jim Wilson and Kevin Costner the Daryl F. Zanuck Producers of the Year Award. Costner also received a Special Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, and was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Nation adopted Costner, Jim Wilson, Mary McDonnell and Michael Blake for “outstanding representation of the Lakota Sioux Nation,” and presented the honor in a Hunka Ceremony performed outside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on 19 Oct 1990, as noted in a 15 Oct 1990 Var item. The film was named Best Movie at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s 30th Western Heritage Awards, as reported in a 1 Feb 1991 LAT brief, and listed as #75 on AFI’s 1998 “100 Years…100 Movies” list, and #59 on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Cheers” list released in 2006.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Austin American Statesman   2 Nov 1990   Weekend, p. 14.
Daily Variety   27 Feb 1989.   
Daily Variety   7 Jun 1989.   
Daily Variety   16 May 1990.   
Daily Variety   29 May 1990.   
Daily Variety   5 Nov 1990   p. 2, 12.
Daily Variety   6 Nov 1990.   
Daily Variety   11 Feb 1991.   
Daily Variety   26 Mar 1991.   
Daily Variety   1 May 1991   p. 1, 14.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   5 Oct 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   31 Oct 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   31 Oct 1990   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Nov 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   5 Nov 1990   p. 5, 34.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Dec 1990.   
Interview   Nov 1990.   
Los Angeles Times   8 Jan 1989   Calendar, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times   26 Nov 1989   Section O, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times   28 Oct 1990   Calendar, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times   9 Nov 1990   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   30 Dec 1990   Calendar, p. 30.
Los Angeles Times   1 Feb 1991.   
Los Angeles Times   2 Feb 1991   Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   11 Feb 1991.   
Los Angeles Times   19 Mar 1991   Calendar, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times   8 Apr 1991   Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times   20 Dec 1991   Calendar, p. 30.
Los Angeles Times   10 Jun 1994   Calendar, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times   23 Jan 2011   Calendar, p. 3.
New York Times   9 Nov 1990   p. 1.
New York Times   2 Dec 1990   Section A, p. 26.
New York Times   25 Mar 1991   Section C, p. 13.
Newsweek   26 Nov 1990.   
People   6 Aug 1990.   
Screen International   16 Aug 1989.   
Screen International   25 Nov 1989.   
Variety   15 Oct 1990.   
Variety   29 Oct 1990.   
Variety   5 Nov 1990.   
Variety   12 Nov 1990   p. 61.
Variety   4 Feb 1991.   
Variety   8 Apr 1991.   

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