"Dances with Wolves" struck a nerve with audiences everywhere, bringing an epic Western tale to the big screen in dramatic fashion. How much do you know about this timeless Kevin Costner tale?
The novel of the same name, written by Michael Blake, was published in 1988. Blake wrote the book hoping that it might be picked up as a movie.
Blake's screenplay wasn't attracting any attention, but a friend (named Kevin Costner) told him that it might find a better reception if it was in a novel format. Blake listened, and eventually, a small publisher bought the book.
The story is set during the Civil War when a soldier leaves behind the bloody chaos for something simpler and quieter.
Costner actually didn't want to direct but couldn't find anyone to take the job in the manner he preferred. So, he decided to do it himself.
Both the book and movie took flack for being a little too similar to "A Man Called Horse," a 1970 film that features some of the same plot points.
The soldier, John Dunbar, is hurt during a courageous charge that turns the tide of a battle. His heroics earn him his choice of reassignment, so he chooses a lonely outpost in the West.
Dunbar lets go of his horse's reins and spreads his arms in an acceptance of his inevitable demise. The gesture was completely improvised by Costner and became one of the defining moments of the movie.
About a quarter of the script had to be painstakingly translated into Lakota, a task made difficult by the fact that so few people fluently speak the language. Some Indians say the translation is far from perfect.
Dunbar and another soldier arrive to find the fort empty. The second soldier leaves and means to return with more troops, but he's killed en route to Fort Hays. Dunbar is stranded alone on the plains, surrounded by Indians.
The movie's broad, open landscapes are authentic to the story. Most of the film was shot in Wyoming and South Dakota.
McDonnell is Stands With A Fist, the fiery woman who falls for the strange white man. The actress also appeared in "Passion Fish."
Stands With A Fist lives with a Lakota tribe, but she's actually white. She was adopted by the tribe after her white family was murdered, and she later married an Indian man who died.
In 1990, $15 million was a good chunk of change, and Costner was fortunate that Orion Pictures decided to foot much of the bill. Even then, the film went millions of dollars over budget.
The movie was in theaters for months but never managed to take the top spot. But that fact didn't take anything away from its widespread success.
His daughter, Annie Costner, plays the child version of Stands With A Fist -- if you like Freudian jokes, now's the time. She was only 6 years old during filming and later appeared in several other movies made by her father.
"Wolves" wasn't just financially successful -- it was a towering achievement. It hauled in around $425 million dollars, just behind "Pretty Woman," "Home Alone" and "Ghost," the No. 1 movie of the year.
The memorable scene showing a bison stampede featured about 3,500 of the huge animals. They were just one reason that the budget spiraled out of control.
No Western has ever had this kind of success. Decades later, Costner's masterpiece is still the top-grossing Western of all-time.
The fake bison alone cost roughly a quarter of a million dollars. It's no wonder the movie went over budget.
The tame bison had a serious weakness for cookies, specifically, Oreos. When his moment in the spotlight arrived, the cookies were used to bring him charging towards the camera, not in anger, but to satisfy his cookie cravings.
Neil Young (of course) had a bison that he liked to hang out with. He loaned the rather tame beast to Costner for the film's trickier scenes.
Dunbar partially tames a wolf pup. The Indians note this act and begin calling him "Dances with Wolves."
It's true, "Dances with Wolves" is among the most celebrated movies in American history. It earned a jaw-dropping 12 Oscar nominations.
The film capitalized on its nominations, winning a total of seven Academy Awards. It is still one of the biggest Oscar hauls in history.
Costner did almost all of his own stunts. But he wisely left the most dangerous stunts to his double.
Because of its little white paws, Dunbar calls the wolf "Two Socks." The pup grows up but still hangs around Dunbar's home.
The United Way used the theme song for years, leveraging the music's power (and the movie's fame) to aid its causes.
Costner didn't win Best Actor for his role. But the movie was only the second Western ever to win Best Picture.
The movie is epic in both story and length. It runs for a full three hours.
The sequel, which picks up about 10 years following the end of "Dances with Wolves," is titled "The Holy Road." It may (or may not) be still under development as a mini-series.