Kevin Costner's First Day Directing Dances With Wolves Didn't Exactly Inspire Confidence

If you are doubting yourself or having a bad day at the office, remember that it happens to everyone, even Kevin Costner. After a string of successive hits throughout the 1980s, Costner became one of Hollywood's biggest names. But actors are people too, so just like every "regular Joe" Costner found himself nervous on the first day of a new job.

In 1990, the actor moved behind the camera to try his hand at directing with "Dances With Wolves." The film is based on the Michael Blake novel of the same name and was an incredibly ambitious project for the novice director. The result was a three-hour epic featuring wild animals, authentic Lakota dialogue, stunning visuals, and rich character development.

With a quote custom-made for the film's ad campaign, the Washington Post declared the project, "One of the year's most satisfying and audaciously entertaining films." But you might not have known that if you were on the set for day one of production. The way Costner tells it, he messed things up on the first day.

Costner messed up the first shot

"Dances With Wolves" would have been a monumental undertaking for any experienced filmmaker, much less a first-time director. The three-hour western adventure epic is about an outcast Civil War lieutenant who finds himself on the Lakota Sioux side of the American-Indian Wars. It is a thought-provoking film about America's Manifest Destiny and the cost of war, though admittedly problematic as a white savior narrative.

According to The New York Times, the sprawling narrative was produced over the span of five months at a staggering 27 locations in South Dakota. To complicate matters, Costner was not only co-producing and directing the film but also starring in it. So, it's understandable that the actor-director had first-day jitters when production began. To make matters worse, he botched the first scene. On the film's 30th anniversary, Costner spoke to Yahoo! about those tense first moments, saying:

"I was nervous enough being a director on it. And I remember the very first day, the very first shot I set up was even wrong. That's the shot you're supposed to get right, the first shot, because the whole crew's watching you. Like, 'Does he know what he's doing?'"

It was Costner's reaction to the mistake that truly showed how inexperienced he was as a director.

He almost kept the shot

"Dances With Wolves" is a beautiful film, with mise-en-scène that features rustic settings, sweeping landscapes of the Western terrain, and hundreds of buffalo, horses, and of course, wolves. But that almost wasn't the case. When director Kevin Costner screwed up the first shot of the film, he almost kept it. He confessed to debating if he should use the poor shot so he wouldn't look bad to the cast and crew but ultimately decided to reshoot it.

For Costner, the second time was the charm. Once he saw the reshoots, he knew everything was going to be ok. "I went, 'This looks like a movie.' I was desperately hoping that it would. I don't know, I had never done one," a humbled Costner admitted.

Despite the rocky start, "Dances With Wolves" was both a financial and critical success. It garnered a whopping 12 Oscar nominations, winning seven including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Costner was also nominated for Best Actor.

After directing the post-apocalyptic "The Postman" and another Western with "Open Range," Costner will again be behind the camera covering a familiar subject matter. He will direct and star in a three-picture Western epic covering 15 years of the Civil War. I'm sure he'll get the first shot right this time.