Buckley’s personal favorite buildings were the jailhouse and the saloon. “I really love the Marshall’s office and jail,” she enthuses. “One thing we learned in our research was that cells were built of solid three-by-sixes laid flat so the prisoners couldn’t kick the walls out.
We had to fake one wall, but the others were built as they were back then.
And Kevin loved the saloon.
We created a pretty authentic saloon of 1882, complete with a bar and break-front that would have been imported from a manufacturing company in St.
Louis that sent them all over the old West.” Production Begins The design of Harmonville centered around the pivotal shootout scene on Main Street.
The dazzling gunfight, whose images will surely remain etched in the minds of moviegoers, was the centerpiece of production when it commenced on June 17, 2002.
In addition to production designer Buckley, who collaborated with Costner on Tin Cup, the director was supported by rookie cinematographer James Muro and BAFTA and Emmy Award-nominated costume designer John Bloomfield, who worked with Costner on three of his previous efforts. The shootout provides the film with its climax, but it had to function on more than one level.
It had to operate as more than just a visual effects extravaganza. “The violence is not arbitrary, it’s an integral part of the story,” explains Craig Storper. “There’s not only the catharsis that comes from it, but lessons about fighting for democracy, friendship and love.
These characters don’t seek violence, but the notion that it’s sometimes necessary to fight and maybe even die for things you believe in is the Western’s most fundamental ideal.” The staging of the scene started off simply enough, with Buckley and Costner acting out gunfight scenes at his house.
And while two adults playing shoot ’em up might not seem like work, it served a legitimate purpose. “It was great because I got to see how he was planning on blocking the shots,” explains Buckley. “I knew what the action was going to be, so I wrapped the scenery around the action.
Once I had a general structure down, I had people in Los Angeles build a computer model of it, then it became like a giant Rubik’s cube. “For instance, from up in his loft, Percy needed to see Baxter’s men riding into town as well as the eight gunmen heading towards Boss and Charley from the Marshall’s office,” she continues. “Percy then had to run to the other end of the loft while spying on the approaching men, fire a warning at Charley, and be seen over Boss’s head when he appears to be hit.
From Charley’s POV we needed to be able to see the shadows of the three gunmen sneaking behind the tents.
Kevin had these very specific shots planned for much of it and we tried to accommodate them all.
We had to go back and forth and readjust constantly.
Then I wanted to maintain one side of the town as a straight wall both to funnel the action and to reflect the many towns I’d seen in research, while the other side was slightly curved so we’d always have something to be shooting into.” Filming of the shootout took place over ten days, using up several thousand rounds of fake ammunition.
Property master Dean Goodine accessed the latest technological advances to simulate gunfire, mainly using electronics.
The guns were wired with three charges in the barrel; when “fired” a small flame erupted.
But it was all completely safe, stresses Goodine. “There was no live ammo ever on our set,” he says. “Before every scene we gauged the size of load that was needed depending on the distance of accuracy and what the spread was going to be, we ensured that all the camera people were covered with shields and earmuffs, and we gave the actors lessons on when to shoot and when not to.
After every scene we emptied the guns; we made sure all the barrels were clear.
It was our way to get everybody home safe at night and yet give them a spectacular look.” There was no need to worry about the neighbors while shooting (literally). “We were pretty isolated,” says locations manager Peter G.
Horn. “That was actually one of the beauties of the location.
We were a good four kilometers from the nearest main road, and half an hour from the nearest town, Canmore.” The set’s distance from civilization was not so helpful, however, for the film’s second major scene, the torrential rain and flood.
The most obvious challenge out on the prairies was the practicality of getting water to the site.
Water needed to be pumped from the nearby Bow River and stored in an enormous tank, which unfortunately, the production crew didn’t have.
So they improvised, digging a pit behind the town thirty feet wide, sixty feet long and fifteen feet deep. This in turn presented another challenge because, as Buckley puts it, “You really have no idea how much dirt can come out of a pit that size until you actually see it.
We filled the bottom of the livery stable with three feet of solid dirt, we used it to grade the road, we used it to create a road leading out of town and we still had to haul some away.
Then the pit had to be lined so the water wouldn’t seep out, pumps had to be rented and installed and finally the greens crew had the challenge of making it look like an existing pond behind the town of Harmonville.
Once that was in place, Construction and SFX dug the trench for the actual flood, sprayed it with Gunnite and installed boulders and pumps.
It was rigged to run non-stop like a water park ride.” The flood scene had several challenging design requirements: the water had to be forceful enough to endanger the puppy but not too dangerous to make the audience feel Charley was in peril; it had to be a specific depth and take a specific path; it had to run long enough to shoot as many takes as were required with a force that was consistent throughout; and of course it had to be done on budget and within the narrow pre-production time frame.
It was an engineering feat that took the collaboration of most major departments, with Buckley and Special Effects Supervisor Neil Trifunovich leading the effort. The “pond” held 270,000 gallons of water, recycled through huge immersion pumps onto Main Street then across the other side of town.
The “rain” came down at 600 gallons a minute from a rain trestle on a 75-ton crane, ninety feet off the ground, as well as a zoom boom capable of 250 gallons a minute; both were fed from a 10,000-gallon tanker and four 4000 gallon tankers, filled by the pumps coming from the river and by shuttle trucks that hauled water from the pond.
The flood itself ran at 32,000 gallons a minute.
It was an enormous operation. “The whole town was wired for water,” says Trifunovich.
But the effort was well worth it, he adds, as it gave the film an atmosphere rarely seen in a Western. “Instead of your standard old dusty town, we had a lot of rain which gave it a heavy atmosphere.
You knew they were going into a town that was aggressive.” The crew’s amazing mastery over Mother Nature was short-lived, however.
The mercurial weather in Alberta began wreaking havoc again, with winds up to fifty miles an hour at times, rain at others, then record-setting 108º Fahrenheit heat over several days.
In many ways the endurance of the crew mirrored the endurance of the characters.
Producer David Valdes, having filmed in Alberta before, knew how chaotic the weather there can be but, as he points out, “if you embrace it you can get some pretty great stuff.” Easier said than done, though, especially when you add 250 head of cattle, curious bears wandering into town to take a look, and an equally inquisitive herd of wild horses.
Says Kevin Costner of the many difficulties encountered and overcome, “The challenges just seemed awesome; every day just seemed harder than the last on some level.
But I was not going to let it slip by me.
I was just going to wring every ounce of daylight out of it, and I wasn’t going to stop until the image matched up with what was in my mind. “The inspiration to do it,” he continues, “came from my friends saying, ‘You can do this.’ And I was thinking ‘How the hell do they know that?’ But if you want to be a cowboy you have to be a man.
If you want to be a director, you have to be a man and just deal with things, even if sometimes you feel like crying out loud.” Part of overcoming the obstacles, too, was knowing when to say ‘enough.’ “Even if you know that one more take or one more day might put that final piece of gold dust on it, it is important to know that ultimately it’s how well you tell your story that is the measure of a film’s worth,” says the director. “If you concentrate on the words, you can miss some of the details.
If you stick with your script, that’s what arms you.” The director’s perseverance and unwavering commitment to the film impressed both crew and cast alike. “I loved working with Kevin,” says Bening. “I liked the way he handled the set and the camera.
He loves the intensity of filmmaking—good directors thrive on it.
It makes it exciting and helps create the possibility of capturing a moment with the camera.” Diego Luna admired Costner’s ability to shoulder the weight of producing, directing, and starring in a single project without ever letting his co-stars down. “Jumping from one to the other has to be really tough,” says Luna, “and to have the whole movie on your shoulders.
Kevin is the first one I’ve met with the ability to do that.
He’s fast, really focused.
And he’s also very clear; he knows what he’s looking for.
I admire that he never says, ‘Whatever you want.’ That’s fantastic because then you feel protected, that your director is behind you.
You can jump knowing he’ll be there to catch you.” Abraham Benrubi, who plays Mose Harrison, concurs wholeheartedly: “Kevin Costner is very passionate about storytelling.
He’s not so concerned with how much money the movie’s going to make, or if he’s going to look good.
He wants to tell a story and when you get on the set with him he’s very focused.
He knows the entire story from front to back, how every piece fits together.” ABOUT THE CAST A native of Lynnwood, California, Kevin Costner’s (Charley Waite) love of Western movies first made itself apparent in 1985 when he starred in Lawrence Kasdan’s stylish gunslinger saga, Silverado.
But it was 1990’s Dances with Wolves, which Costner produced, directed and starred in, that linked him indelibly with the genre.
In addition to being a commercial success, Dances won seven Academy Awards® including Best Picture and Best Director.
He next starred as the title character in Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp.
Costner’s interest in America’s aboriginal peoples also resulted in a television documentary, 500 Nations, which chronicles the histories of Native Americans from the earliest signs of life on the continent to the 20th century and which Costner created and hosted.
Costner also took on multiple roles with The Postman, which he produced, directed, and starred in; and earlier in Waterworld, as producer and star. Costner has become associated with another great American tradition, baseball, having starred as Durham Bulls catcher Crash Davis in Bull Durham, as Billy Chapel in For Love of the Game, and as farmer Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams.
Dreams featured Kinsella building a baseball diamond in his corn field for the ghost team of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series—and put “If you build it, they will come” into the lexicon of modern American proverbs.
A natural athlete himself, Costner has also played a cyclist in American Flyers and a pro golfer in Tin Cup. Originally a marketing student at California State University in Fullerton, from which he graduated in 1978, Costner quickly traded in marketing for acting, having dabbled in community theatre while at the university.
In 1987, just five years after his first feature credit, Costner’s star potential was realized in two back to back films, The Untouchables with screen legend Sean Connery and the thriller No Way Out.
Numerous other notable roles followed, including as New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone’s JFK, the legendary title role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and as the widowed shipbuilder in Message in a Bottle.
Most recently Costner starred in the critically acclaimed Thirteen Days, in 3000 Miles to Graceland, and in Dragonfly.
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