Kevin Costner has done his share of audio commentaries, but he won't be blamed for excesses that might've attended video releases of some of his movies. ''I didn't work on the long version of Dances With Wolves,'' he points out. He's all for deleted scenes -- as extras, not as grist for protracted ''directors' cuts.'' ''I release the versions I want. They are long, so I don't need for 'em to be any longer.'' Finally, a filmmaker who doesn't see the (re-)editing room as open range.
Open Range represents the actor-director's first whole-hog leap into DVD. Extras include segments on actual settler life (verdict: harsh), preproduction (also harsh, with financiers pulling out), and location scouting (it's official: Alberta, Canada, is the most beautiful state in the union). The movie itself is a branding iron in the arm of the ailing Western, with early doses of frontier realism helping the eventual gunplay and romanticism feel earned as well as crowd-pleasing. If it finally settles into traditionalism rather than revisionism, Costner is unapologetic. ''I chased Unforgiven as a director for six years. So I'm not looking for everything to end rosy. I don't have, like, a naive life,'' he chuckles. ''I understand Westerns enough to know that I could have ended with everybody dead and satisfied a certain thing. But I just felt this story was gonna have love in the end.''
Don't let Costner's having starred in four horse operas fool you. ''For the most part, I don't like them, because they don't feel organic, or witty enough,'' Costner insists. He's not the only one; at pitch meetings for Range, he met ''tremendous resistance. I was conscious that this was the dark side of the moon for a lot of people.'' So, in true dogged pioneer spirit, guess which undervalued genre his next project will probably be in? Bring on the oats.