Interviews


Kevin Costner


Occupation: Actor, Director, Producer
Date of Birth: January 18, 1955
Place of Birth: Lynnwood, Calif., USA
Sign: Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Sagittarius
Relations: Ex-wife: Cindy Silva; kids: Annie, Lily, and Joe (with Cindy); Liam (with socialite Bridget Rooney); father: Bill Costner (power company worker); mother: Sharon Costner (welfare worker); brother: Dan Costner
Education: California State University at Fullerton

 

KEVIN COSTNER succeeded in winning the heart of the moviegoing public by making all-American wholesomeness sexy. He won it again by succeeding against all conventional wisdom in creating a runaway blockbuster out of a three-hour Western with a full-third of its dialogue spoken in Lakota Sioux. During his heyday in the late '80s, Costner reigned as a larger-than-life Hollywood insider who scored points with everyone for being a regular Joe and model family man. In recent years, ol' Kev has been put through the proverbial wringer with a much-publicized divorce from his wife of 16 years (allegedly the result of his compulsive womanizing), and a string of big-budget bombs  but it's likely that the same persistence that made him a celebrity in the first place will keep his career alive for years to come.

Born and raised in California, Costner developed a boyhood infatuation with sports and movies. The future sex symbol might have been a bashful shrimp (five feet, two inches tall) in high school, but thanks to a late growth spurt, he had topped out at six feet by the time he enrolled at Cal-State Fullerton, where he earned a degree in marketing. A casting call for a local production of Rumpelstiltskin launched him on his career path  an unlikely milestone, to be sure, but evidently the experience was rewarding enough to convince Costner to become a professional actor.

Costner's road to stardom was hindered by the familiar detours and roadblocks that most aspiring young actors encounter: the odd jobs to pay the bills; the missed golden opportunities (he turned down roles that were later given to Jeff Bridges and Mel Gibson, and auditioned three times for the role that eventually went to Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona); and the better-left-unmentioned roles in video-bound duds like 1974's Sizzle Beach, U.S.A. (the film eventually appeared in theatres in 1986). Small roles in mostly meager films kept him employed during the early '80s. His most notable appearance of this period wound up on the cutting-room floor: Lawrence Kasdan cast him in 1983's The Big Chill as Alex, the mutual friend whose death reunites a group of college friends. Unfortunately, Costner's originally healthy share of screen time was edited down to several fleeting glimpses of him in the undemanding role of Alex's corpse. To make it up to the struggling young actor, Kasdan tapped Costner for Silverado two years later, in the role of a slightly batty gunfighter who just can't be deterred from kissing the girls. The movie was a hit, and, finally, so was Costner.

His next two movies (The Untouchables and No Way Out) garnered solid reviews and widespread recognition, but it was a pair of baseball flicks that catapulted him from rising star to celebrity. The national pastime was never sexier than in 1988's Bull Durham, and Costner's role as minor league catcher Crash Davis made him a major league heartthrob overnight. Not content to settle for the ephemeral pleasures of hunkdom, he assumed the lead role in Field of Dreams, a film based on W.P. Kinsella's quirky novel Shoeless Joe, which tells the story of a farmer who hears spectral voices that convince him to plow under his cornfield and build a baseball diamond on it. Costner's performance landed him on the cover of Time magazine within weeks of the movie's release, and suddenly he was being hailed as the next Jimmy Stewart.

The golden boy then decided to put his newly acquired Hollywood clout to the test by producing, directing, and starring in an epic Western, Dances With Wolves. Industry insiders were convinced that he had made a major blunder, and the months leading up to the film's release were filled with doomsayers' predictions about its lack of viability: it's a Western and the genre is dead; it's too long; it's got an hour of subtitles, for crying out loud! But Costner had the last laugh: the film was not only the box-office smash of 1990, but a winner with the critics as well, and on Oscar night he walked away with Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

Seemingly at the peak of his career, Costner stumbled onto a run of alarmingly mediocre efforts. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (in which Costner, as Robin Hood, forgot to adopt an English accent, a failure that Mel Brooks pointedly addressed in his 1993 parody of the film, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) and The Bodyguard (with Costner helming a Kasdan script originally written for Steve McQueen) may have scored financial windfalls, but the critics crucified both films and Costner along with them. Though he earned critical praise for his work in JFK and A Perfect World, neither film lived up to the financial expectations Hollywood had begun to associate with his name. Increasingly, rumors of marital infidelity and an unbridled ego began to be associated with his name instead. His next four films proved costly flops, a trend that culminated in the disastrous Waterworld, which grossed $88 million at the U.S. box office and still underearned its bloated budget by tens of millions of dollars.

Having soared to giddy heights and then plunged to the bottom of the heap, Costner gamely dusted himself off and went back to square one in 1996, reteaming with Bull Durham writer-director Ron Shelton for a similarly steamy take on the sport of golf, Tin Cup. He next produced, directed, and starred in a self-indulgent big-screen adaptation of David Brin's post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, The Postman, which turned out to be yet another big-budget bust and fodder for endless and inventive ridicule by the critics. 1999 witnessed a romantic outing in Message in a Bottle, a leaden offering that nonetheless did good box-office, and he stepped up to the plate for the surefire baseball pic For Love of the Game. Costner's production company, Tig Productions, currently juggles numerous projects in various stages of development, including a sequel to The Bodyguard.

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