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Anniversary Of Filming 'Dances With Wolves'

July 13, 2014, 10:14 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Anniversary Of Filming 'Dances With Wolves'

25 years ago this week, movie crews were rolling into South Dakota to begin work on an iconic film.

"Dances With Wolves" won several academy awards, but this piece of movie history wouldn't have been possible without the help of locals.

In the early 90's, "Dances With Wolves" was a huge success. The movie won 7 Academy Awards, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and more.

And it all started in Pierre, South Dakota.

"It brought a greater awareness to the American Indian culture to our state. And just the interest in the movie has spawned a lot of tourism in the state, I think," movie extra, Jeff Mammenga said.

Jeff Mammenga was cast as an extra in the movie, playing a starving soldier. There were only a handful of parts, so he felt pretty honored to be handpicked by Kevin Costner.

"They were just looking for thin people, like I said starving soldiers. And I guess I fit the bill," Mammenga said. 

While Mammenga's scenes didn't make the final cut, he is seen in the extended 4 hour version of the film.

Some other locals played parts in the making of the movie, as well. Bill Stevens was originally signed on to be an accountant, but quickly realized he wanted to be near the action. That's when he was given the task of local van driver.

"Basically, it ended up being $400 more a week than the $250 base. And I would be taking people out to the location. Some of the main cast and crew. And then helping and assist as needed," Stevens said. 

Stevens worked with the film crew for 6 months. During that time he says he drove about 17,000 miles, and got around 27 hours worth of behind the scenes footage for his own archives.

Both men say it was a great experience, they're happy to still talk about 25 years later.

"You know, everyone wants to know what Kevin Costner was like. It was exciting just being around him. We were all nervous about it of course, but it was a very relaxed atmosphere," Mammenga said. 

"Kevin Costener, and TIG Productions and that movie coming to Pierre and Fort Pierre was huge. Very noticeable. So sharing that through the years, initially with my family and then with people in the community and throughout the state at times, has been a lot of fun," Stevens said. 

Fun that they hope to keep reminiscing about, for many years to come.

Next weekend, there will be an event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of filming in Pierre.

It will be held the 18th through the 20th at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel. You can find more information of the State's website.

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