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OPEN RANGE

About The Production
"I thought of this piece as entertainment that I would like to see,” explains Kevin Costner, Oscar®- winning director, producer and co-star of Open Range. "When I talked about this movie with people, it reminded them of movies they wanted to see. So it all lined up for me, the fact that I could create and move this landscape. It's been a privilege and a thrill.” 

With Open Range, Costner takes over directing chores for the third time in his career. His first foray into helming, 1990's Dances With Wolves, earned him an Oscar® for Best Director. Holding down three roles on his latest film "just worked out that way,” says Costner. "I find the scripts and develop them, and I have such an affinity for them that the moments become really important to me—how they stick in my mind. I've never thought of myself as just an actor.” 

Set in the vast, epic landscape of the prairies, Open Range has all the elements of a classic Western. It reveals a unique slice of American history—the end of an era when land was not owned. A culture of cowboys known as "freegrazers” emerged—like Charley, Boss, Mose and Button—who roamed the countryside with their cattle and lived off the land. In Open Range, a ruthless, evil rancher (MICHAEL GAMBON) controls the town of Harmonville, making the laws and rules and enforcing them using scare tactics and brute force. The four men must team up to fight this injustice. 

But here, the romantic image of the strong, silent cowboy with nothing but the shirt on his back and the shoes on his horse is given more depth with the help of Costner's camera. 

"In all Westerns you have enigmatic characters; you don't know how they arrived or how they got to where they are. The only possessions they have are on their horse,” says Costner. "It's a terribly romantic image, but if you think a bit longer, you wonder, what do they do when it rains? When they run out of food? They've got to go forage for themselves. They had to be very resourceful. We have this romantic view of the West when, in fact, it was terribly difficult.” 

Writer/executive producer Craig Storper, who calls the Western one of America's indigenous art forms, points out that Open Range adheres to the genre's classic issues of freedom, justice, honor, love and friendship. But both director and writer wanted to go further than most Westerns usually allow and create authentic voices from the past. To do so meant infusing the story with an emotional depth and creating characters who rise above the clichés and wooden stereotypes often associated with the genre.

"The emotional lives of the characters, the lives they resist sharing with each other, are unexpectedly complex once you get past the walls they've each erected for self-protection,” says Storper. "It's only the bad circumstances in which they find themselves that push them to reveal things that might've stayed buried, but ultimately lead them to be transformed.” 

Kevin Costner emphasizes the use of language in the film to convey the complexity of the relationships between the men: "We really rely on the language that we created that shows how men deal with each other, and how they deal with their problems,” he explains. "And it deals with women—how we talk to them, how we treat them, and how we're confused by them.” 

Agrees Annette Bening: "When I read the script, I liked it because there was a classic feel to it, and yet a different sensibility. There's a more sensitive sensibility about the way the men relate to each other. There's an intimacy between the men that is beautifully written, and it's very touching how their vulnerabilities are dramatized.” 

Storper had written Open Range on spec four and a half years ago after optioning the book The Open Range Men from writer Lauran Paine. Storper never told the author about his efforts to get the project made because o

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