Getting Dances With Wolves Into Kevin Costner's Hands Took Some Serious Doing

"Dances with Wolves" earned Kevin Costner two Academy Awards, one for Best Director and one for Best Picture (the latter of which he shared with co-producer Jim Wilson). Costner beat out Martin Scorsese for "Goodfellas" and also scored his only acting nomination to date for "Dances with Wolves," but it took some convincing before he would even read the script for the 1990 Western that would become his most celebrated film.

Michael Blake also won an Oscar for adapting his own Civil War novel into the "Dances with Wolves" screenplay. In an appearance on "The Graham Norton Show" (via The Actors Pad), Costner related the long story of how he and Blake were friends but there was some friction between them, which almost kept Costner from ever reading the script.

"We all have friends that you start out with and it's like 'who gets there first' right?" Costner said, without mentioning Blake by name. "And there's a lot of friends behind us and you try to find a way to help them. I remember one of my friends was a writer and I tried to help him, sent him on a lot of courses, got him into jobs, and the reports coming back were that he just ended up pissing everybody off!"

Feeling that Blake was making him look bad, Costner added, "He said one more thing to me that really crossed the line — I mean it's easy to put Hollywood down — and he crossed the line with a friend of mine and that was it, I like had him up against the wall. A few weeks later after the tension had died down, the friend in question gets back in touch and says, 'Look man, I need a place to stay, can I crash at yours?' I say sure."

From dish washer to Oscar winner

From Costner's comment, "It's easy to put Hollywood down," it almost sounds like Blake lacked a filter and was being critical to people's faces of the industry and its (sometimes less than stellar) entertainment products. In a town built on relationships, a more career-minded social climber might be inclined to bite their tongue. Whatever the case, while Blake was crashing at Costner's place, he continued writing "Dances with Wolves" and asking Costner to read it. This went on for months until Costner finally got fed up with it and decided to kick him out. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending for both of them, Costner explained:

"In the end he rings me up and he's in Arizona working in some Chinese restaurant washing dishes. I don't know if you've ever worked in a Chinese restaurant washing dishes but there's a lot of them! He asked for my help again, I sent him sleeping bags, money, still trying to help him out. He says, 'Have you read my screenplay?' I said no. He said, 'READ IT!' So I did ... and it was 'Dances With Wolves.'"

Michael Blake passed away in 2015, so we're only hearing one side of the story through Costner. But for any writer or creative person who's ever faced rejection, the story of how a dishwasher with a famous friend finally managed to get that friend to read his script illustrates the necessity of persistence. While it's probably not advisable to ambush strangers or uphold the stereotype of a desperate writer sliding their screenplay under doors and making elevator pitches while working as a barista in L.A. (or some such day job), Blake managed to be persistent and not get easily discouraged or give up even with Kevin Costner himself rebuffing him.