Dances with Wolves is a 1990 American epic Western movie starring, directed and produced by Kevin Costner. It’s a film adaption of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake that tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post, and of his dealings with a group of Lakota Indians. Take a look below for 30 more fun and fascinating facts about Dances with Wolves.
1. Dances with Wolves had a high production value and won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
2. Much of the dialogue in Dances with Wolves is spoken in Lakota with English subtitles.
3. The movie was shot in South Dakota and Wyoming, and translated by Albert White Hat, the chair of the Lakota Studies Department at Sinte Gleska University.
4. Dances with Wolves is credited as a leading influence for the revitalization of the Western genre of filmmaking in Hollywood.
5. In 2007, Dances with Wolves was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
6. During the scene where the buffalo is charging at the young Indian, the buffalo is actually charging at a pile of its favorite treat, Oreo cookies.
7. Kevin Costner did all of his own riding, including bare back and shooting his gun without holding the reins, during the buffalo hunt.
8. In order to portray a middle-aged man with bad posture, Graham Greene put a slice of bologna in each of his shoes, feeling that the slimy sensation would bring about the awkward comportment he was trying to project.
9. The logistics for the buffalo hunt comprised of a helicopter, 10 pickup trucks, 24 bare back Native American riders, 150 extras, 20 wranglers, 25 recreated buffalo and 7 cameras. It took 8 days to film the scene.
10. To prevent any possible animal cruelty Kevin Costner’s Tig Productions spent $250,000 on animatronic buffalo to be used in the climactic buffalo hunt.
11. The man seen initially telling the wolf to go home when Dunbar is riding out to visit his friends is actually the trainer. He was bitten in the leg when the wolf chased him, so Kevin Costner had to run himself during the next shot. He kept throwing pieces of raw meat to keep the wolf from biting him.
12. Kevin Costner’s spreading out of his arms while doing his suicide run at the start of the movie was a completely spontaneous gesture that took his stunt coordinator by surprise.
13. Only one take a day could be made of the buffalo stampede as the animals would often run a distance of 10 miles. It would take the wranglers all day to round them up again.
14. The buffalo liver that Wind In His Hair offers to Dunbar after the buffalo hunt is actually made of cranberry Jell-o.
15. Filmed during a drought, water had to be trucked into the Fort Sedgwick location to fill up the pond.
16. Two of the domesticated buffalo used in the production were borrowed from singer Neil Young.
17. Mary McDonnell was supposedly very nervous about shooting the love scenes with Kevin Costner, and, per her request, the scene was toned down considerably.
18. Those are actual dead deer that Kevin Costner pulls out of the river. To look authentic, the carcasses had to be heavy, so animals killed on the highways were collected for the scene.
19. Because of the movie’s enormous success and sympathetic treatment of the Native Americans, the Sioux Nation adopted Kevin Costner as an honorary member.
20. The scene where we see Cisco jumping around in the corral just before the Sioux party steals him was a “stolen” shot. The horse was just letting off steam, and they caught part of it and slipped it in because it looked so good and fit the scene.
21. 250 Civil War reenactors were used in the Tennessee battle scenes.
22. Because of budgetary overruns and general industry reluctance to invest in a Western, Kevin Costner was forced to dig deep into his own pockets to make up the movie’s $18 million budget. As it then went on to gross over $100 million, he himself earned an estimated $40 million from his original investment.
23. In the skinned buffalo scene, fake animals made of paper were used and looked very realistic. A passerby called the police during filming and they showed up with guns drawn ready to arrest the crew for poaching. After some explanations, the cops left laughing.
24. Two Socks was played by two wolves. One was called Buck and the other was called Teddy, and both were kept on set at all times.
25. Dances with Wolves is the highest grossing Western of all time, with a domestic take of $184 million. It achieved the figure without ever reaching number 1 on the box-office charts.
26. Cinematographer Dean Semler’s daughter was a horse wrangler on the movie. She broke both of her wrists when the horse she was riding suddenly spooked and threw her.
27. Graham Greene’s first reaction when he learned that most of the movie was going to be in Lakota was, “I don’t speak that.”
28. For the scene where Two Socks is being shot at by the soldiers, the wolf was actually hemmed into a small pen with puffs of smoke popping off around him. The animal was chained within the pen to prevent him escaping.
29. Many of the Native Americans were visibly moved by the scene where the Sioux encounter a field full of dead, skinned buffalo.
30. Pope John Paul II once mentioned that John Berry’s score was one of his favorite pieces of music.