Way back in 1991, Kevin Costner and his brother Dan proposed the creation of a 320-room, $100 million resort on 1,000 acres in Deadwood, S.D. It was to be called the Dunbar, after the character Costner played in the 1990 hit "Dances with Wolves" and would include an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, an equestrian center, a fishing lake, a snow bowl for sledding, a full gym and a casino.
Oh yeah — and then there was the (admittedly cool) 56-mile railroad link to Rapid City's airport via vintage coach and classic steam and diesel engines.
Not one to leave art out of the fun, Costner also commissioned the creation of a dramatic set of sculptures — 17 of them — of American Indians on horseback driving a herd of buffalo off a cliff. Artist Peggy Detmers agreed to take on the challenge for a low rate of $250,000 (a quarter of her regular fee) with the condition that the actor would aggressively market copies of the sculpture in a gallery at the resort.
Unfortunately, Costner and his brother have yet to follow through on plans for the resort. Detmers, however, dedicated nine years of her life to the project — with the final beautiful result now gracing a $6 million visitor's center that was built on the property in 2003.
And while she was paid $310,000 total for the estimated $4 million artwork, she's taking Costner to court because she feels the full value of the contract was not realized. Both the promised resort, gallery, and massive business from sales of copies never materialized. From Boston.com:
Detmers claims that because The Dunbar was not built and the sculptures were not "agreeably displayed elsewhere," as the contract stipulates, that the sculptures should be sold and she should be entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds.
A judge last year denied that claim, citing Detmer's participation in the design and launch of the visitor's center.
"All of this conduct — taking part in the dedication ceremony and giving a speech — indicated she was agreeable to put these sculptures at this location for the long term," one of Costner's lawyers said at the hearing Monday.
On the other side, Detmer's lawyers argued that while she agreed to the site, she was nevertheless consistently reassured that the resort and gallery would still be built.
Costner was not at the hearing. The South Dakota Supreme Court is expected to make a written decision on whether breach of contract was committed later this year.