As fans of Kevin Costner know, hes shown many different sides of himself onscreen in characters as diverse as nice guy Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams and treacherous robber Murphy in 3000 Miles to Graceland.
Those of us in the press have seen different sides of him in person. On those days when hes done too many interviews in a row, he can be grumbly. If a really dumb question is asked, he can get feisty. Last week, in a Beverly Hills hotel, where he was discussing his new film Draft Day, in which he plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the harried fictional General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, he was downright introspective. And thats a good thing. Costner liked the questions, is proud of the film, and gave thoughtful answers.
Youve starred in so many movies about sports. What attracts you to storytelling within the sports framework?
I think if you want to make a good sports movie, youve gotta cut down on the sports. You have to make it about people. You cant try to impress people with your knowledge and all the details and the technicalities. You need to know that some people are gonna sit down and say, Why did you bring me to this movie? Its about draft day [in the NFL]. Dont we watch football enough? Now we have to on the big screen? Then the lights go out and the movie begins and women and men start to see themselves. Yes, there is this backdrop of the NFL, but theres a lot going on in this movie, and thats when movies are always gonna be at their best.
Its about sports, but its not really a sports movie. A big chunk of the plot involves your relationship with Jennifer Garners character.
Right. This movie isnt about football. Its about that age-old thing of people who love each other but just cant seem to get it together for a while. And then finally do. We adore that. We want that. The difference between movies and our own lives is that sometimes in these heated moments, we dont know what to say, and we wish somebody wrote our own script for us. But it doesnt work that way, and we fumble.
A lot of the film is about Sonny acting on his instincts. Have you always trusted your instincts?
My whole life has been instinctual. I have instinctually thought I could do things in my life. And Ive followed that up by sometimes putting everything I have at risk my money, my house to make a movie. I just did it again with Black and White, a film I produced and star in about the notion of racism in this country, and how we have such a difficult time talking about it. We have to learn how to talk with each other, so my instincts were wildly at play. [The film is] a rock that I had to push uphill, just to make it. Nobody really wanted to make it, and its my hope that youll see it. So I do live off my intuition and my passion.
Sonny is under a lot of pressure in Draft Day. How do you deal with pressure in your own life?
(He asks for the question to be repeated, then says) Sorry. Its not your fault. Its me and rock n roll. In the old days theyd say, Youre not listening, Kevin. Go to the back of the class. Id think, Oh, that really helps. Wow, I cant hear, and now Im in the back. (laughs)
(The question is repeated.)
I have a tendency to probably be at my best under pressure. Ive had moments in my life where everything I had was all out on the table. And Im OK with that, because I had a strong belief that what I was doing, other people could believe in, too, if I could get it just right. So I have a tremendous belief in people. Not that people havent let me down, and that I havent let some people down, but I have a tremendous belief in people, and in the common experience.
When a director comes to you about a part because of who you are, maybe because youve done all of those sports movies, what are your thoughts?
Some people come to you because if youre in their movie, itll help them raise money. Some people come to you because they think youre the person to play the part. Ive always been distracted when someone comes to me and says, Youre the only person that can play this part. And then if you say you cant play the part, they cast Jeff Goldblum in the part. Hes a very, very good actor, though were really different. But lets be honest. Its nice to be wanted, in almost any capacity. Thats a good feeling, and Im not immune to it.
Ed Symkus can be reached at