Thursday, October 04, 2007

Personality - Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner, American actor, director and producer, was born in Los Angeles, California. He became a sex symbol as well as an all-American hero with his baseball movies like Field of Dreams and Bull Durham.

Costner landed a number of film parts in the early 1980s. After a near miss at fame with a role that was edited out in the popular motion picture The Big Chill, his lead role of a gunfighter in Silverado established him as a leading actor.

Dances with Wolves, an early representation of White-Indian relationships, won seven Academy Awards. He has also received critical acclaim for JFK and the more recent Thirteen Days.

A fierce environmentalist, his company Costner Industries develops products to protect the environment, and he himself is in favor of total nuclear disarmament.

He continues to produce, direct, and act in movies, taking a unique approach that is admired and criticized equally.

Kevin Michael Costner was born in Lynnwood, California. He was the third of the three boys born to William and Sharon Costner. Tragically, their second son, Mark, who was born on January 17, 1953, died the very next day. Two years later, the day of Mark’s death, on January 18 1955, Kevin was born. William Costner who called "Bill" by his friends, worked as a lineman for Southern California Edison, a utility company. His wife Sharon worked for the State Welfare Department. Kevin spent his early years in Compton, California, a working class neighborhood. Though the family was not well off, Kevin had a happy childhood. His family was a close and loving one. As his brother Dan remembers it : "Our father always found time to throw the ball. I can picture our dad coming home from work in his blue jeans and his blue denim shirt after 10 hours of climbing poles, yet he would find time in the back yard to go into a catcher’s squat and take the pitches from first me, and a few years later, Kevin."

As a boy, Kevin played with the Little League team his father coached. Bill Costner himself had been a top athlete in school, playing football, baseball, and basketball (The early scenes in For Love of the Game featuring Billy Chapel playing baseball as a child are actually old home movies of Kevin).

Sharon Costner raised her boys to be "outdoor boys" and Kevin has fond recollections of early morning fishing trips with his father, of getting a BB gun at age five and learning how to shoot, of fashioning his own bows and arrows. His father instilled in him to do his best along with loyalty and friendship, sharing, and being fair. Sharon encouraged him to write poetry and join the school choir hoping to break the wall he had built around himself from the constant shifting to different schools because of his father’s job.

Bill Costner’s job required him to move regularly, which caused Kevin to feel like an army kid, always being "that new boy" in school. The family rarely lasted long enough in one place for Kevin to make a friend; this made him a daydreamer.

Kevin also dreamed of becoming a baseball player. Although the school coach kept telling him that at 5’ 2" he was too short to ‘make it’ in the baseball team. However, Kevin went on to become a star athlete, and even had a late growth spurt by which his height eventually increased to 6’ 1". At the age of 18, he built his own canoe and paddled his way down the rivers that Lewis and Clark followed to the Pacific. "I was a rough and tumble type–of kid" he says. But he did develop an early passion for movies. "I can remember watching How the West was Won, and certain moments made me tingle … I believe in the magic of movies."

Kevin studied at California State University at Fullerton. During his senior year as a marketing and finance major, he auditioned – unsuccessfully – for a school production of Rumpelstiltskin. Displaying a resilience that would become a necessary characteristic later on in his career. Kevin joined a community theater group and almost immediately he was hooked on to acting.

Kevin graduated from the University in 1978 with an honors degree in business studies and married Cindy Silva, his childhood sweetheart. Kevin was not happy with the career choice he had made; he wanted to be an actor. But he did not want to let his father down when he finished college. Bill Costner expected his sons to do a stable ‘9 to 5’ job. Kevin knew, something "just did not feel right" in his new life. He could not imagine being tied down with people telling him what to do. He knew there was more to life. Drama had always interested him though there never were any plays in the school that he had willingly attended. But he could look inward and see that there was something, a drive, and a need to be someone completely different than what was expected of him. Kevin could always read people, see the humor in things and life. This 22-year-old lad was not content.

Meeting Richard Burton

Two weeks into a marketing job, which he already hated, Costner was on the brink of making the decision to change his course of life. All he needed was a little push, and he got it. He and his wife Cindy had decided to take a little "late" honeymoon, which they spent in Mexico.

On their return flight, they learned that Richard Burton was flying with them on the same plane. Costner and his wife had talked a lot about the possible pitfalls of becoming an actor, and he realized that Richard Burton, as a veteran actor, was exactly the type of person whose advice he should take. "Richard was up in first class, I got up the courage to walk up there and speak to him" Costner recalls. He told Burton that considering a tumultuous life such as his had been, was it possible to be a good man and still remain in the acting profession?

Burton warned him that it would not be easy and that celebrity only gets worse for actors, but that it was possible to be a good man despite everything. "It was Burton’s encouragement that tipped the scales for me" says Costner.

Costner quit his job and decided to move to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. Often, an actor has to struggle a lot in the initial phase of his career. To pay the odd bills and the rent, he drove a delivery truck, worked on a deep sea fishing boat, and also worked as a tour guide on a bus showing tourists, the homes of Hollywood stars in Beverly Hills and other similar places. All the while, he used to take night classes for acting.

He was down to his last 20-dollar bill when his acting coach, wanting to lend a helping hand, secured him a role for the soft-porn, low-budget film Sizzle Beach, USA. Costner later regretted having worked in this movie. (He regretted it even more, when the video movie was adopted for the cinema screen and released in theaters in 1986). After seeing the finished product, he vowed never to work in such movies.

He decided to go full force into finding a suitable role for himself. He went about it the usual route struggling actors take, the usual theater-workshop and multiple auditioning. Casting directors saw potential in the young and determined actor, but were not quite sure how to use Costner. Besides, the novice actor had a habit of speaking up if something bothered him on the set, which angered the studio officials. His boldness and frankness may be the reasons why his Big-Studio debut in Night Shift consisted of little more than background decoration and even Frances featured Costner as an offstage voice.

But he was noticeable enough to director Lawrence Kasdan who liked Costner enough to cast him in a role in The Big Chill, a film about a group of friends who get together when one member of their group commits a suicide. Costner’s role was of the one who commits suicide. When the movie was released, the only part where Costner appeared was the opening credits, where he can be seen only as a corpse in a dress suit and necktie. A 15-minute long "flashback", where Costner could be seen as an animated individual, had been edited. Kevin was quite distraught with the result. Kevin became a kind of inside joke in Hollywood. But fortunately, Lawrence Kasdan, admitting to himself that he had not done justice to the talented young actor, chose Costner for a major role in the Western Silverado, in 1985, in which Costner played a batty gunfighter with a roving eye for the ladies. Although the film featured stars like Kevin Kline and Danny Glover, Costner won many fans although he was the least known among the three actors.

Costner and Fame

Over the next two years, Costner rejected a number of roles, presumably searching for a character he could identify with.

He found that character in 1987 in the movie The Untouchables directed by Brian de Palma. Costner plays the role of Eliot Ness, an earnest young US Treasury agent who seeks to destroy the Chicago gangster, Al Capone. Robert De Niro played the part of Al Capone. Costner had the chance to work with the likes of Sean Connery in this film. He pulled off a brilliant performance and the movie was a great success. In 1988, Costner worked in another great hit, No Way Out. Critics and audiences alike loved the thriller in which he played Lt. Commander Tom Farrell, a naval officer and a spy. With this movie Costner became an infinitely marketable box-office commodity – a serious actor loaded with sex appeal. The same year, Costner, now aware of his image in the audience’s mind, turned inarguably his best performance to date as Crash Davis, the aging catcher of a minor league baseball team in Bull Durham. His steamy love scenes with Susan Sarandon exponentially increased Costner’s already formidable reputation as a sex symbol. More importantly, for the first time, a connection was forged in the public’s mind between this all-American actor and the all-American game : baseball. The link grew considerably stronger a year later, with the release of Field of Dreams, which is considered one of his most successful films. The film features him as Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who hears a mysterious voice giving him commands. Ray, who is a baseball fan, responds to the voice’s original command by plowing up one of his cornfields to build a baseball diamond. The spirits of the members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox then appear and play baseball. When the commands continue, Ray ignores his farming work to figure out what they mean. The movie, along with great box-office results, managed to forever gain a sentimental place in the hearts of the American audience.

By the late 1980s, Costner was one of Hollywood’s most successful actors, but he also had the desire to produce and direct. Like many thespians, Costner was keen to direct and hit pay dirt with his premiere effort. He formed his own production company, Tig Productions. He pondered for many days wondering who would be an appropriate director for the film. Then suddenly, he decided that he would himself direct the movie. With a miniscule budget of 18 million dollars, he set off with his team to the Black Hills of South Dakota to film the first Western epic that Hollywood had seen in years. The film was a revisionist look at Indian-White relationships. It was the story of an injured Union Army officer who is adopted by a native American tribe, the Sioux. Dances With Wolves, the name of the movie is also the name of the protagonist played by Costner.

The film had various odds stacked against it: it was over three hours long, and over half of its dialogues were in Lakota-Sioux dialect, with subtitles. Detractors had a

field day with this supposedly doomed project, labeling the film ‘Costner’s Folly’, and ‘Kevin’s Gate’. Industry insiders were convinced that he had made a major blunder, and the months leading up to the film’s release were filled with predictions about its lack of viability.
But Costner had the last laugh. The film was not only a box-office smash of 1990, but even critics praised it very much. The film had grossed close to 900 million dollars. On Oscar night, Costner walked out with the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, not to mention a nomination for Best Actor as well.

Costner, at this time, was indisputably at the peak of his career.

In 1991, he starred in JFK directed by Oliver Stone. He played the role of Jim Garrison, a district attorney who does an in-depth analysis of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and is sure about a conspiracy behind it. He goes to extreme lengths to determine the forces behind the assassination. Critics loved the movie, but the audience loved it in a somewhat moderate manner.

His next film, the same year, was Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves. The movie was set in old England, in the era of Richard, the lion-hearted. Costner played the lead role of Robin, son of the Earl of Locksley. The film begins with Robin captured by the Moors (Muslims) in Jerusalem during one of the Crusades (a holy war waged by the Christians of Europe to regain the holy city). With the help of a fellow prisoner, he manages to escape and return to England, only to find that his father has been murdered by King John, his evil brother. Robin takes rescue in the woods and befriends a band of thieves who accept him as their leader and christen him Robin Hood. He then goes about becoming a nuisance to King John and seeks vengeance for his father’s death. But the movie had some flaws, the most significant being that Costner did not adopt even the slightest British accent, and audiences were treated to the first Oklahoma-accented Robin Hood, a fact that was emphasized by Mel Brooks in the spoof comedy made of the film, Robin Hood : Men in Tights. Though Costner’s film was well made and featured a top-of-the-chart number by Bryan Adams, the movie received only moderate box-office success and critics had a field day jeering at the movie’s flaws.

The next year in 1992, he decided to again return to producing. This year, he produced and starred with singer Whitney Houston in the movie The Bodyguard. The movie had a very simple plot. Costner played the role of Frank Farmer, an ex-US army commando who is assigned the job of protecting a famous pop star, played by Whitney Houston. The bodyguard, in the movie initially has a stony demeanor and is totally unfazed by the celebrity of the star. But somewhere between protecting and being protected, the soldier and the singer fall in love. The movie was a tremendous success at the box-office. One of the significant assets of the movie was the song by Houston herself "And I will always love you", which was written by singer and songwriter Dolly Parton. The movie once again fortified his image of a sex symbol. Kevin Costner was back again.

His next feature in 1993, had him playing Butch Haynes, a fugitive on the run from the law, who is pursued by an unrelenting Texas police ranger played by veteran Clint Eastwood. The movie was dramatic and won critical acclaim for Costner’s brilliant performance yet a disaster at the box-office. By 1994, there was a considerable amount of strain in Kevin Costner’s life. His frequent womanizing had put a lot of pressure on his marriage to Cindy, his childhood sweetheart and wife of 16 years who was also the mother of his three children : Annie, Lily, and Joe.

To make matters worse, the media made every fling of Costner’s a big news, flashed every now and then across the country. Eventually the couple separated.

Comeback as a Producer

The same year, he decided to return to producing and made the Western Wyatt Earp, based on the adventures and exploits of the famous US frontiersman, lawman, and gunfighter Wyatt Earp. The movie had a very mediocre plot and despite a heavy budget and being a multi-starrer the movie failed miserably at the box-office. His following feature, the same year, did not succeed in getting him out of the slump he was obviously in. The War had him playing a supporting-kind of role as a Vietnam-era veteran. The movie passed by virtually unnoticed. In 1995, Costner decided to go full steam ahead as director and producer. Choosing to expand into the burgeoning science fiction market, he followed with the post apocalyptic "Waterworld".

The movie portrayed a world devastated by global warming. The ‘Greenhouse’ effect had eventually succeeded in melting the ice at the poles causing the sea level to rise hundreds of meters, submerging entire cities and most of the landmass. Civilization is a thing of the past. Drinking water and food the most precious commodities. Costner played the role of ‘Mariner’ – half man / half amphibian, who could stay underwater for a longer duration of time than normal humans, enabling

him to salvage soil and other materials from the sunken cities.
The film was plagued with delays and mishaps – some of which were natural disasters. The budget reportedly soared to as high as 180 million dollars, making it the then – costliest film ever made (a record that was broken only by James Cameron’s Titanic). Post-production was further complicated by conflicts with Kevin Reynolds, who was co-directing the movie with him. Reportedly, Costner took over the editing of the final cut, after which, a hasty release was made.

The finished film was hardly the disaster predicted by industry insiders as, debatably, it was reported to have earned enough to break even.

Nevertheless, Costner’s reputation was damaged and he decided to return to the image of a sexy rogue with Tin Cup. Having soared to giddy heights and then down to the bottom of the heap, Costner had the almost casual disposition of a man dusting his clothes off after taking a bad fall and thinking nothing of it. In Tin Cup, he plays the role of Roy ‘Tin Cup’ Mc Avoy, a struggling golfer trying to make it in the golfing world. He brought the same touch to the movie that he had brought to Bull Durham. Tin Cup again brought a glimmer of hope to Costner’s career as it did receive good reviews, good audience feedback, and mixed critical reviews. Two out of three was not at all bad for Costner.

This burst of brightness in the apparent gloom of his career worked like a tonic for him and he, with the unrelenting stubbornness that he was becoming famous for, decided once again to pursue his producing and directing.

In 1997, he was back to his role of producer, director, and actor with another post apocalyptic movie The Postman. Set in the year 2013, it shows America after a holocaust. Government does not exist. All technological appliances do not work anymore.

Costner plays a ragged wanderer roaming on the decaying corpse of what was once the most powerful country in the world. Once again, like Waterworld, there is an immense shortage of food. Costner’s character is of a vagabond who travels from settlement-to-settlement performing Shakespeare and one-man shows for the dwellers in return for food. The villains in this movie are a gang of barbaric white supremacists who indulge in terrorizing the dwellers of such settlements. The group is led by a psychopath who calls himself General Bethlehem played by Will Paton. Costner’s character discovers a dead postal worker and an undelivered bag of mail. He dons the uniform and goes about the job of delivering his mail, passing on to every settlement he visits, a story about a restored American government. Soon, this false news of law and order and restored glory to America sweeps the ravaged land and the Postman becomes a crusading legend.

The Postman also has Costner’s three children doing small roles in the movie. When asked about this he laughs and says, "We wanted to start the college fund a little early". Annie, his eldest, plays a girl who joins the postman’s brigade. Joe is a child who passes a letter to the postman as the man rides by on horseback. Lily plays a girl who sings the national anthem. This three-hour epic was a very expensive one. Kevin had worked very hard to make this film. But unfortunately due to negative reviews and muddled trailers, it turned out that Kevin’s ‘best’ was ‘not good enough’. The film was a disastrous flop, but Kevin Costner was not a person to give up.

A Controversy

In late 1997, Costner found himself in a mild conflict with one of the most powerful royal families of the world.

Costner had admitted to the press that he had been in negotiations with Princess Diana to make her acting debut opposite him in a sequel to The Bodyguard. Costner claimed that before her untimely death in Paris on August 30, 1997, Diana was eager to play herself and Costner would play a private bodyguard as he did for Whitney Houston.

A spokesman for the British Royal Family immediately denied that Princess Diana had been contemplating a film career. Costner declared that he did not want to get into a shouting match with the British Palace, but he did understand that it was already too hard for them.

Back To Baseball Theme

‘The Postman’ defeat had not fazed Costner but it had slowed him down a bit. A year passed before his next project came out. He produced the movie The Children of Heaven in 1999.

In 1999, Costner’s third baseball movie was released. Field of Dreams and Bull Durham were his previous baseball movies. The third was For Love of the Game. Costner played the role of Billy Chapel, an aging star pitcher whose professional and personal life is crumbling at the same time he is poised to pitch a perfect shut-out game. Kelly Preston plays a journalist who wins Billy Chapel’s heart only to break it in an attempt to salvage her own life and career. Baseball movies had been good to Costner, but he said that that was not the main reason he wanted to do For Love of The Game. He saw it as a relationship movie, as much the story of a man and a woman as it was about baseball. There were many stories going around, during the making of the movie, about the perks Costner demanded; that he wanted trainers, nutritionists, and sports masseurs around at all times. But these stories were true with good reason. He was almost 45, and did most of his own pitching in the movie and that took an enormous toll on his arm and body. He had just come out of a knee surgery the week before the filming started and he had put on extra weight. He said he owed it to the movie to get back in shape. His so-called "perks" were necessities, and he had sacrificed a lot for the movie. Just before a few weeks

before the filming of For Love of the Game was scheduled to begin executives at Universal Studios who were backing the picture displayed concern over the 70-million dollar budget. They cited that baseball movies did not perform well in foreign markets and that the proposed budget was too risky an undertaking. Costner agreed to forfeit his 20-million dollar salary, to which they agreed to go ahead with the project. Costner humorously has noted that his sacrificing his salary was never a part of his "star-treatment" stories. The movie did exceptionally well at the box-office. Kevin Costner managed to gain some of his previous foothold with the film.
Hits and Misses

The same year, in 1999, he produced and acted in the movie Message in a Bottle with which he again stepped up in his sentimental hero image. The movie also had Paul Newman playing the role of a father. The movie was a hit. Kevin had managed to stay in the game, even though he had been striked out many times. He had never given up.

With stubborn determination, he planned out his next major project. Thirteen Days was a movie that was the next significant landmark of his career. This was the second movie linking him to the Kennedys. A 145-minute account of 1962’s Cuban missile crisis – when John F Kennedy’s White House battled Nikita Khruschev’s Kremlin in a game of nuclear chess – from the moment the US spotted Soviet warheads in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, close enough to obliterate Washington, until the backroom deal that allowed the world to breathe again.

The film, Thirteen Days, was meticulously compiled from memoirs, histories, and transcripts garnered from the White House secret taping system, reconstructs at length and in detail the deliberations of the diplomats, advisers, and military chiefs who navigated America through the cold war’s gravest stand-off. Costner played the role of Kenny O’Donnell, a presidential aide to John F Kennedy during the crisis. The movie faced many obstacles on the political front. Costner lobbied hard to get this film made, and served as co-producer and chief promoter.

Costner was instrumental in keeping the project on track despite a series of setbacks including failed deals with several studios and frustration with a series of directors who did want to stay true to the vision of David Self’s screenplay, which Costner vigorously defended. The key moment came when the actor-producer turned to Ted Turner (owner of CNN and Turner Network Television) to get New Line Cinema, his company, to get involved in the 80-million dollar production. Costner says that he and Turner share a lot of similarities, the most significant of them being their being in favor of total nuclear disarmament. The movie was eventually made and had moderate box-office success but was praised to no end by critics and historians for the accurate details.

In early 2001, Kevin Costner starred in the movie 3000 Miles to Gracleland. The film also starred another veteran star Kurt Russell. Costner and Russell play the kingpins in a gang of criminals who are impersonating Elvis Presley in order to blend in at a Las Vegas casino they plan to rob during an Elvis convention. Kurt Russell had previously played the role of Elvis Presley in the biographical movie made of the superstar singer. The movie had quite a struggle between director Demian Lichtenstein and Kurt Russell, both of whom wanted the film edited to their own individual liking. But eventually Lichtenstein’s cut of the movie was released in theaters. The audience did not like the movie and the critics got another chance to ruthlessly criticize the thriller.

Costner’s forthcoming films are Dragonfly and Two Guys on the Job. He is also to star in Oliver Stone’s new film Beyond Borders. His co-star is Catherine Zeta-Jones. The film has Costner playing the role of an American doctor while Zeta-Jones plays a British relief worker. A United Nation relief project is the backdrop of this film.

His Affairs

Kevin Costner acknowledges to have fathered a son, Liam, during a brief involvement with Bridget Rooney, a television reporter, in 1996. After his divorce in 1994, he says he has never considered marriage again. He has, however, had numerous affairs with many women. He was linked briefly to supermodel Elle Macpherson and also with model Christine Baumgarten for quite a while.

Costner, an obviously stubborn and focused actor-producer, says that he has never considered retiring. He has proved many wrong when they said that he would definitely quit movies, when his projects went wrong. Kevin Costner is here to stay. Like the proverbial spider, he has tried again and again…and succeeded.

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