‘Yellowstone’ Star Kevin Costner Credits a Western Movie Icon as His Work’s Greatest Influence

Kevin Costner, early in his career, often got comparisons to Gary Cooper. That made sense.

And for Kevin Costner, it was all sorts of flattery. Cooper was old Hollywood royalty. He won two Academy Awards for best actor, with three more nominations. The American Film Institute ranked Cooper at No. 11 on its list of the 25 greatest male stars of classic Hollywood. Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper topped the list.

Cooper was a significant star at the end of the Hollywood silent film era. His career continued to blossom. He mostly always played a man with a strong moral compass who did the right thing. That sounds a lot like Kevin Costner, who now stars as the patriarch of the Dutton family on Yellowstone.

But Cooper died when Kevin Costner was 6.

You may be surprised, but Kevin Costner named another member of Hollywood royalty as having the most influence on his work. That’s James Stewart, the every-man hero from so many films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Kevin Costner Liked Jimmy Stewart In Anthony Mann Movies

Kevin Costner mentioned Stewart’s work with director Anthony Mann on five westerns released between 1950-55. They were The Far Country (1950); Winchester 73 (1950); Bend of the River (1952); The Naked Spur (1953) and The Man From Laramie (1955). Stewart played trouble cowboys, ones who were conflicted. Critics believed the movies were grittier and perhaps a more realistic portrayal of Westerns. You can see why Costner would prefer them.

Stewart and Kevin Costner could’ve worked together in one of Costner’s best-known movies. That’s Field of Dreams, one of the best movies of 1989. Costner played Ray Kinsella, a 36-year-old farmer in Iowa.

The movie is mystical, putting a love for baseball at center stage. Kinsella sees the ghosts of baseball players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in his cornfield. He ends up finding his dad, John Kinsella, and having a catch.

One of the ghosts was “Moonlight” Graham. Burt Lancaster played him as an old country doctor. Movie director Phil Alden Robinson wanted Jimmy Stewart for the part. But Stewart declined.

In an interesting turn, at least one critic compared Kevin Costner to Jimmy Stewart in his review of Field of Dreams. Roger Ebert wrote:

“As Field of Dreams developed this fantasy, I found myself being willingly drawn into it. Movies are often so timid these days, so afraid to take flights of the imagination, that there is something grand and brave about a movie where a voice tells a farmer to build a baseball diamond so that Shoeless Joe Jackson can materialize out of the cornfield and hit a few fly balls. This is the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed, and James Stewart might have starred in — a movie about dreams.”