“Dances with Wolves” first began as a novel, released in 1988 and written by Michael Blake. But, even though the film, which came out a few years later bearing the same name, won several awards, the written version wasn’t as well-received.
It was rejected by dozens of publishers before it was finally picked up by Fawcett, a small name in the industry.
The film was Kevin Costner’s first as a director – though it was almost never produced. He’d agreed to sign on early on in the development stages but tried to get a number of other directors involved in the production.
After being rejected by three undisclosed (big) directors in Hollywood, he decided to take on the project himself. Apparently, all of the others wanted to make big changes that would’ve disrupted the storyline, and he wasn’t having any of it. He tried negotiating with them for a while before agreeing to sign on as director, as well.
The Love Interest
One of the things some of the directors wanted to change about the film was the appearance (and age) of Dunbar’s love interest, Stands with a Fist. The part was ultimately played by Mary McDonnell, who was 37 at the time.
Some of the directors thought that using a McDonnell as a love interest wasn’t the way to go at all, and some involved with production thought it should be a younger woman. McDonnell did an excellent job playing the role, which was evidenced by her Oscar nomination.
For a long time since its release, the film held the title of the highest-grossing Western film of all time – bringing in over $424 million.
Today, it’s been knocked down to the second-highest in history, thanks to "Django Unchained," which has earned nearly $450 million since first hitting theatres.
Novel Number Two
Unlike its predecessor, "The Holy Road," which is the follow-up novel to "Dances With Wolves," has yet to be turned into a screenplay. The story came more than a decade after the first, with Blake releasing the book in 2001.
In it, Dunbar is a fully-fledged member of the Sioux tribe and warrior who helps them protect against settlers who are threatening their way of life. Perhaps one day someone will decide they love the first film enough to transform "The Holy Road" into a second, but until then, you’ll have to find it in novel form.