This interview and article appeared in the Sunday edition of the Telegraph (A UK broadsheet) on 19 April 2001. It is, however, rather strange in that this female journalist is effusively complimentary of Kevin in one sentence, and bitingly critical in the next. A number of people have requested that we include it. Kevin's answers are in bold type for those of you who want to skim read some of the journalistic nonsense, not to mention glaring innacuracies. The above picture is our own artwork.
"My Kids think I'm cool!"
Interview by Judy Rumbold
In his latest film, out this week, Kevin Costner returns to the role his fans love best - that of a reliable, moralistic loner. But he sees himself as an innovator, and varies his hairstyle to prove it
Kevin Costner sets great store by his inner Voice. "We all have one," he murmurs sagely, "but there's so much noise in the world, it's sometimes hard to hear it." In the hushed over-stuffed surroundings of a suite at the Dorchester, the usual extraneous hotel racket is at a minimum, and his inner voice is coming over loud and clear. It is, presumably, talking him through the set of well-rehearsed moves required to win a woman over. It is saying: Look her in the eye and maintain lingering contact. It is urging: Lean over and touch her knee a lot, laugh long and loud at her feeblest jokes, and do that melting, wonky half-smile. It works, of course. Costner is ludicrously handsome and I am putty in his hands. And this is taking into account the fact that, at 46, he is balding, paunchy and dressed head-to-toe in varying tones of brown leisurewear.
In his new film. Thirteen Days ("When you said you liked it, that had a real effect on me. My heart went pitter patter" - Oh Kev!), there is very little brown, just a lot of dark suits, white shirts and short haircuts of the kind that endeared him to all women when he scooped Whitney Houston into his arms in The Bodyguard. Costner claims he tried to make himself look frumpy for the role of Kenny O'Donnell, special adviser to President Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, in order to let his, co-stars shine. "I wanted them to be the handsome ones." Who is he kidding? In the film he looks a dish and many of his fans alienated by his recent forays into overlong, ponderous films about post-apocalyptic disaster, will welcome the return of Costner in the role he plays best - that of the complex quiet man, the brooding loner, the clean-cut upholder of American values.
But Costner has no regrets about some of the more eccentric career moves he has made in the past. "I could have made two or three Bodyguards. I could have made three or four Dances With Wolves." he says, bullishly. "But it's just not my way. I don't want to keep repeating myself. I've tried to make movies across the board. I need to have a success that I understand, rather then a string of movies that I don't understand. The work I'm doing is the work I've chosen to do."
But is it/any good? It's one thing to take a punt on a mad idea when it's just a matter of, say, redecorating your downstairs lavatory in vermilion candy stripes, another entirely when your questionable judgment (wearing fish-skin trousers and drinking his own urine in the-£80-million flop Waterworld) is exposed to the full public glare.
Costner is either as thick-skinned and resilient as these fish-skin pants, or outrageously confident, or terminally arrogant. I suspect a murky cocktail of all three. Certainly, he is not about to lighten the moment with a touch of humour. He doesn't do humour. Instead, on top of all the other earnest Costnerisms that are piling up - "My aim is true." "I march to the rhythm of my own drum." "My family didn't have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love" - he goes all po-faced again. "I thank the Lord that my parents instilled in me the courage to strive for things and to sometimes make mistakes."
Costner has been accused of many things: wooden acting, a string of preposterous haircuts and an inability to make films lasting less than three hours. But what hurts him most are the stories of him hi-jacking editing suites, of tussles and fall-outs with, in particular, the director Kevin Reynolds over Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Waterworld. In both cases, Costner was keen to emerge from the films a likeable, swaggering hero, whereas Reynolds envisaged something darker.
He and Reynolds no longer speak. "Our friendship is now severed," remarks Costner, chillingly. But he is keen to assert, "I have never screwed anybody over. I don't like making enemies, but I don't think you can spit on your own life. I tell people when they've behaved really badly. You have to be responsible and answer for things."
The green eyes are flashing now. He's getting quite cross. Does he scare his children? "I hope I scare 'em!" he says. He scares me. Just the way he orders a drink is scary. "I'll have mint tea with three sugars," he tells his assistant. Three sugars? I ask. "Yes, three sugars," he booms. "If I want three sugars, I'll have three sugars. I'll have as many goddam sugars as I like!"
But don't get the wrong idea; when it comes to teamwork, he says, he is the model of co-operation. "Look at us now," he says, cosying up on the sofa, "We have a relationship. I don't like doing publicity but I show up and I try. I just try and answer the goddam questions. I don't mumble, I don't avoid eye contact. F___ that! Let's just get on with our jobs and do them the best we can! Because - have you got kids? I've got kids - we have a life."
He is proud that his is not the life of a typical Hollywood superstar. He does not work the party circuit. "I'm not in the club," he says. "I know some of them, some of the favourites, and I know what they're really like. I wouldn't want to be part of it." Instead, a nut-brown tan attests to a keen golf habit which, since he met his current girlfriend, Christine Baumgarten, means he's rarely off the green. "I play more golf now because of her, because she likes golf." Since the break up, in 1985, of his marriage to Cindy Silva; his childhood sweetheart and wife of 16 years, he has dated a string of celebrity totty (one of these flings produced a son, Liam). Baumgarten, 26, is his first serious relationship for six years and the first woman he has felt inclined to introduce to his children, Annie, Lily and Joe. "Her beauty is obvious, but her heart is good, too. She's a good example to my girls. She carries herself well. She's kind, she's not pushy. She's classy."
Costner denies that he was experiencing a mid-life crisis of catastrophic proportions when Cindy dumped him by fax after hearing rumours of an affair with a hula girl while he was filming Waterworld in Hawaii. "I'm just not an erratic kind of person," he says, unsmilingly. "Even when I was at my most successful, I wasn't in a car with my head out of the window doing cocaine on the hood."
Perish the thought. Even now, he says. he answers to his parents. He courts their approval, even though he concedes he has lived a flawed life. He declares himself religious - "I do believe that there's something controlling our lives as much as we're controlling them" - but realises that his attempts to find a faith have been found wanting. "I think if I'd followed certain religious strictures I wouldn't have done some of the things I've done."
If his adulthood has been fraught with personal and professional disaster, his upbringing near Los Angeles was blissful. His was a poor, working-class family, he says, "but I thought we had everything. Me and my brother played every day in our backyard. My dad took us hunting and fishing and we lived for the moment he came home." His father was handsome, a Paul Newman lookalike. The kind of man, says Costner, "who looked great in a white shirt and Levi's". As, indeed, Kevin himself would, if only he'd ditch the brown slacks.
Poor Kevin. He is not remotely cool ("my kids think I'm cool," he offers, weakly). He has no edge, and takes himself very seriously indeed. He thinks it is a measure of his brave, pioneering experimentation that he changes his hairstyle a lot. "There are some actors who always have the same hair, you know?"
Of all the famous Hollywood Kevins - Kline, Bacon, Spacey - he is easily the most deserving of such a nerdishly un-hip Christian name. When he turned up backstage at one of Madonna's concerts in her movie, In Bed with Madonna, she stuck her fingers down her throat and mimed a violent bilious attack. The themes of his films are almost invariably constructed along the lines of slushy Utopian idealism, one man's battle to uphold decency in a despairing landscape of post-apocalyptic devastation. How dull is that? How cringe-making was the idea of Bodyguard 2, for which Costner famously claimed he had lined up Diana, Princess of Wales? ("The film is still in the pipeline, "says Kevin. "The writing just needs to take one more jump.")
Doesn't he long to be plucked from beige trousered mediocrity by someone like Tarantino or the Coen brothers, and given a new, bankable identity, as in the case of John Travolta? Would he embrace reinvention, or is he heading for the kind of cinematic obscurity (he is no longer in the ranks of Gibson, Cruise or Hanks) that will, 10 years down the line, find him accepting a lead role in, say, the Mark Spitz bio-pic?
It is a matter of some twisted pride to Costner that he declares his new film not remotely "box office" in its appeal. ("Box office success is a false god to me, a false indicator.") There is no romance in it, no gratuitous violence, and precious little in the way of exotic locations and special effects. But Costner feels strongly that the film carries a cautionary message for all world leaders. "The world is asleep!" "These weapons are still there, still pointed, only now there are more of them. It makes you realise that the life we enjoy is really very thin." Can a film have an impact beyond the cinema doors? "I think it can," says Costner. "Films do make an impact. People see the kind of love they wish they had, the kind of hero they'd like to be, the kind of places they'd like to visit..."
This tight, well-turned thriller may not win him any Oscars (least of all for his execrable attempt at a Boston accent), but it will certainly endear him to his fans. As the upstanding American citizen, family man and loyal husband, Costner plays a character so beyond reproach that, if you look closely in one of the opening scenes, you will see that he keeps his pants on under his pyjamas. Only on Kevin Costner could this ever look sexy.