Luke Wilson on Joining Kevin Costner for his Epic Western “Horizon: An American Saga”

Luke Wilson is no stranger to the Western genre, having been a part of 3:10 to Yuma and Outlaws and Angels. Now, Wilson is starring in his most sprawling and ambitious western to date, Kevin Costner’s four-part Horizon series. Wilson plays Matthew Van Weyden, the captain of a wagon train heading west in the ensemble epic, tasked with protecting the passengers on a journey fraught with potential danger. Although Wilson had played the Cowboys before, Horizon’s scope and Costner’s passion were new to him.

Costner’s epic vision bowed on June 28, with part two coming out in August and part three currently shooting. “In the first two films, I didn’t get the chance to be in any scenes with Kevin,” Wilson told The Credits, “but in the third film, all my stuff’s with Kevin. To be in a scene with him outside at this incredible ranch where Arizona’s on this mountain on one side, Utah is the mountain on the other side, the sun’s going down, and there’s 600 head of cattle and all these background actors, and Kevin’s in wardrobe giving direction and acting, it made me emotional to think that, oh God, I can’t believe I’m 52 and I’m at this particular place.”

We spoke with Wilson about what it was like joining Costner’s passion project.

This is a truly big film. You don’t see too many movies like this anymore, do you?

Yeah, you don’t. I was reading the business section, and a theater owner was talking about the need to get people back into the rhythm of going to the movies. I brought it up with my brother, Owen. I said, “Growing up, we were in a rhythm of going to the movies, like reading the paper and finding out what’s coming out. We would go every Friday or Saturday to see a movie.” I’d go on Saturdays with my dad, all kinds of different stuff.

Any of those films with your dad stick out?

I can remember seeing Thief with my dad, the Michael Mann movie, or Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, just a different variety of things. Horizon is one of those movies that you would’ve gone to see. Even when I first got started in the movie business, you’d go on location, and you’d go to the mall to go to a movie, and you’d have a choice of a few different kinds of movies to see. It might be a cop movie, a love story, and then a science fiction movie. Now, I do feel lucky to have this movie out there, and hopefully, people will appreciate the quality of storytelling.

Caption: KEVIN COSTNER as Hayes Ellison in New Line Cinema’s Western drama “Horizon: An American Saga” Chapter One, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Richard Foreman

Considering how long Kevin Costner has worked on making these films happen, did you ask him, “How can I help you achieve this vision?”

That was an interesting thing he said when he hired me. He said, “I’m going to need your help on this.” I just thought, gosh, that’s a really interesting thing to hear from a director. You might think you’d hear that from a first-time director, but not an Academy Award-winning director. But when I got to work on Horizon, I saw what he meant by he needed my help. Not just to do my part as best I can, but to be a part of a team and help people, whether helping the horse wranglers or the background extras, helping them stay engaged. You were part of a big team, so you just want to deliver as best you can. I just always thought to myself, I never want Kevin to be worried about me. I always want him to be like, okay, I can count on that guy. That was always my goal.

An image from Kevin Costner’s HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA: CHAPTER 1. Courtesy Warner Bros.

I imagine some of those movies you’d see in the theaters starred Kevin Costner. Somedays on set, was it hard not to nerd out a little bit?

Unbelievably. There’s this great book about Paul Newman, in which he talks about working with John Houston and how he could never get past the fact that it was John Houston and never quite acted normal around him. I kind of got beyond that with Kevin—he’s just such a good guy. Kevin was the movie star of my era. First, I saw him in Silverado, and I loved him. Then, because it was the blockbuster era, it was like, “Okay, this guy’s great. He’s in The Untouchables. What’s this movie? Fandango?” He’s incredible in that movie. So yeah, I had to focus in and listen sometimes when I’d be thinking, “I can’t wait to tell my friend Joey I was with Gardner Barnes today. I was with Elliot Ness all day long.”

Caption: KEVIN COSTNER as Hayes Ellison in New Line Cinema’s Western drama “Horizon: An American Saga” Chapter One, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Richard Foreman

I learned you read a lot of memoirs about musicians. Was there anyone you read while making Horizon who inspired you?

I was definitely listening to the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack by Bob Dylan. I’m trying to think back on what I might’ve been reading. I’m not even a particularly big Leon Russell fan, but his biography had come out, and I was reading that at the time. I’m always reading a music biography, and right now, I’m reading a new book about the outlaw country movement with Waylon and Willie, which is a really good book. I don’t know why, but it is just something I love to read about, and I love it.

Have you found music has always been a big influence on you throughout your acting career? Would you find yourself on sets, just listening to artists?

I’ve never done the thing where I’ve listened to headphones before doing a scene, but I certainly listen on the way to work. To me, the greatest invention of the last 25 years has been Sirius XM Radio. I’m constantly writing down songs that I’ve never heard and love The Willie Station, Tom Petty, Grateful Dead, Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, my friends got me listening to the 40s Junction. It’s 1940s music. It helps me relax and think about emotions. I always listen to stuff on the way to work to get pumped up.

Caption: (L to r) SIENNA MILLER as Frances, GEORGIA MACPHAIL as Elizabeth “Lizzie” and MICHAEL ROOKER as Sgt. Mjr. Thomas Riordan in New Line Cinema’s Western drama “Horizon: An American Saga” Chapter One, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Any crew members from Horizon you’d like to highlight?

That’s always been one of my favorite parts about the movie business is being a movie lover and then finding out what a cinematographer is, what a production designer is, and what a costume designer does. Horizon was just the best. Jimmy Murrow, the cinematographer, was incredible, and he was the Steadicam operator on Field of Dreams and Open RangeLisa Lovaas, the costume designer, is just the best person I’ve ever worked with. She had all these pictures on her wall from period pictures, and I remember saying, “Oh, okay, this guy, I like the jacket this guy has on.” You’d go see her four days later, and she’d had the jacket made that looked exactly like the jacket. Scott Perez, the chief horse wrangler in charge of all the livestock, was like watching a field general, on horseback at work, riding back and forth, getting the wagons, the mules, everything ready. So many. They are just incredible people, and my favorite part about the movie business is the people who make it all happen. They got into it for the same reason I did. They love movies.

Caption: (L to r) TOM PAYNE as Hughes and ELLA HUNT as Juliette in New Line Cinema’s Western drama “Horizon: An American Saga” Chapter One, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Richard Foreman


For more on Horizon: An American Saga, check out these stories:

“Horizon” Costume Designer Lisa Lovaas on Dressing Kevin Costner’s Epic Western

First “Horizon” Trailer Reveals Kevin Costner’s Hugely Ambitious Western Epic

Featured image: Luke Wilson in “Horizon: An American Saga” Chapter One, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Richard Foreman 


Jack Giroux

Jack Giroux has over 15 years of experience interviewing filmmakers and production team members. He's contributed to Film School Rejects, Thrillist, and Slash Film.