Austin Archer, an actor, musician, comedian, podcaster and political commentator with over 1.3 million TikTok followers, has been cast in “Horizon,” Kevin Costner’s epic Western which is comprised of four films, Variety can confirm.
Archer has already shot his scenes for the first and second film.
“Horizon” is Costner’s first directorial effort since 2003’s “Open Range.” The film series is slated to span 15 years on the Western frontier, focusing on Indigenous groups and settlers. Costner’s intention is for the films to come out every three months.
“They’re all different films that all connect, so you’re watching a saga of these storylines that are happening,” Costner told Variety.
In addition to his social media presence, Archer has appeared in films like 2020’s “The Night Clerk” and TV series like David Fincher’s “Mindhunter.”
Archer spoke with Variety about his time on set with Costner and how social media has impacted his acting career.
What was the audition process like for “Horizon”?
Honestly, no different than anything else for me at the level that I’m at. I sent a tape in and I thought I didn’t get it because I didn’t hear from them for weeks. Then I got called one day and they asked, “How are you on a horse?” and I said, “Not great, but I think I could learn.”
Social media presence now regularly comes into discussions about the casting — stars like Elle Fanning have even admitted that low follower counts have cost them roles. How has your following impacted your career?
It’s opened up rooms to me that I wouldn’t have been in before. I’ve had directors and producers in town in Los Angeles ask if I want to go to lunch, or just meet. I’ve met with a lot of different people that I don’t think I would have met with before the social media thing, but it hasn’t resulted in any jobs so far. I have all these new contacts that I’ve met, but none of them have put me in a show or hired me.
Weirdly enough, I don’t think I would have gotten “Horizon” if Kevin Costner had been aware of my social media presence. The role is so different from what I do online, and he didn’t know that I did it until our editor, who follows me on social media, pointed it out to him. I was over at his house one night for dinner, and our editor came out and said, “I’ve been following you online for the last couple of years. When I saw that you were in the first movie while I was putting it together, I was excited it was you.” And Kevin was like, “What is this?” I really don’t think I would be in them if Kevin Costner was aware that I was popular on TikTok.
What did you learn from Kevin Costner while working on “Horizon”?
I genuinely think Kevin Costner is one of our greatest living cinematic storytellers. He proved that day-in and day-out to everyone working on the movie. I’ve never worked with a director who is this openly passionate, where the stakes are this high. He does this to himself as a storyteller and a director. He invests himself heavily into the film, not just emotionally but personally and financially. Everything to him feels like the whole movie rides on this moment.
He also treats every actor like they’re the main character, including the background. He doesn’t take a single frame of the film off — he is involved in every single moment, every beat, every aspect. We have this incredible background unit on these movies where there was a different unit of 100 to 150 people for all of these different sections. So there are different towns and forts where the movie takes place in, and each one of these has its own unit. There’s no recycling of background people. He wanted unique faces in each place.
I really learned a lot about generosity of spirit. I observed a man who understood who he was to everyone on the set, and went out of his way to give everyone personal time. He finds moments with all of the actors every single day to let them know that he thinks they’re doing a good job. He’ll pull you aside and have you come over to the video village and watch the monitor and tell you how good this moment was.
You’re politically outspoken against Trump and Republicans in many of your videos. Were you ever worried about that impacting your ability to land roles?
I’ve never really worried about it hurting my chances of getting work as an actor. But I will say that I don’t think a lot of people realize that Hollywood is more politically diverse than sometimes commentators on the right make it seem. Most film sets that I’ve ever been on are pretty politically diverse, and there’s a lot of people in the film industry that are pretty conservative, especially on a film set where you’re working with a lot of cowboys and wranglers and stuff like that.
There were several days on both of these movies where one of our wranglers or somebody in our background or stunt team would approach me and say, “Hey, I found you on the internet last night,” and that’s all they would say. I think there was sort of an understanding with just the way that they said it, but we were able to still be friends at work and professional with each other, and cordial with each other. But I’ve definitely had other actors approach me in the industry and say, “I really like the stuff that you say online, but are you ever concerned that this stuff could hurt you?” But at this point I’m pretty comfortable with the opinions that I share publicly.
You have a lot of irons in the fire creatively. What projects are you focused on next?
Right now I’m just going back to my regular day-to-day, which is making videos on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, and making my podcast — being a content creator and storyteller. We’ve got the writers strike on right now, and the actors might be joining soon, so I don’t know. I might be looking to try to get into a play or something like that while a lot of film production is shutting down. But anyone can always find me on the internet.