This article was published in one of the Supplements of The Times (UK broadsheet newspaper)  on Saturday 17th March 2001. We have included it because it balances out some of the 'Costner bashing' in the Telegraph piece, and also because in it, a journalist admits in print that the media's treatment of Kevin over the past decade has been unfair and has become  a 'favourite media sport'.  The article was accompanied by a particularly good picture which we will scan when we get time.


By Ed Potton

He has achieved considerable box-office success and Dances with Wolves won him Oscars, but Kevin Costner is still regarded with derision. His latest film may turn the tide.

In the baffling world of contemporary cinema, there are some sacred rules that must be obeyed. Meg Ryan must always star in romantic comedies. Joe Pesci must always play
psychopaths.  Woody Allen must always seduce attractive actresses a third of his age.  And anything Kevin Costner does must always be met with waves of ridicule.

During his two decades as an actor, director and producer, Costner has had to endure jibes and taunts from every angle.  The 'Material Girl' feigned nausea when he pronounced her live show "neat" in In Bed with Madonna. Commentators around the world barely contained their glee when Waterworld sci-fi yarn he produced and starred  in, failed to live up to its mega-budget promise.  What is it about Costner which inspires such scorn? Poor performances? His lacklustre turns in such forgettable movies as The Postman and Message in a Bottle were certainly nothing to write home about, but there are droves of far less talented actors working in Hollywood.  Is it because he is perceived as a control freak? He is alleged to have wrested control of several of his movies, but the man who some call 'the tsar next door' insists that: "I don't think my ego's out of control. I think I mean what I say". He caims that his interventions have rescued projects that were heading for disaster, and the fact that both The Bodyguard and Robin Hood did well at the box office adds some weight to his argument. 

Or do people poke fun at Costner simply because, with furrowed brow, his taste for all-American sporting movies such as the baseball drama Bull Durham and the golfing comedy Tin Cup and his penchant for such teeth-grating epithets as "neat", he is too worthy and wholesome for his own good?

"I'm a bit of a dinosaur" he admits, and perhaps he does belong in a different era. He certainly seems more comfortable in period pieces with defined moral battlegrounds. His best performances to date have been an incorruptible detective fighting the Mob in The Untouchables, a single-minded district attorney investigating Kennedy's assassination in JFK  and an Army officer befriending the Sioux Indians in Dances With Wolves, the epic that won him Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.

Like those characters, Costner enjoys flying in the face of popular opinion. Despite measuring only 5ft 2in when he graduated from high school in California, he excelled at basketball and  baseball.  After studying at California State University  in Fullerton, he initially went into marketing, but resolved to pursue an acting career after a chance meeting with the late Richard Burton on a flight from Mexico.

He made an inauspicious start, starring in a soft-core porn flick and seeing what would have been his big break in The Big Chill reduced humiliatingly to a brief appearance as a corpse. But the latter film's director, Lawrence Kasdan, made amends by casting him as a cowboy in Silverado  and within a couple of years the choice roles were coming thick and fast.

His heyday was to prove relatively shortlived however. Costner-bashing has been a favourite media sport for a decade now and, despite the fact that each of his new films is trumpeted as the one which will revive his career, success has not been forthcoming.

But Costner remains as stubborn as ever. "I stand up for what I believe," he says. "I don't know if it's always paid off for me because I've been ridiculed and humiliated."

His latest film is Thirteen Days a dramatisation of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in which he plays Kenny O'Donnell, a gruff adviser to the flamboyant Jack and Bobby Kennedy.  It is a splendid performance in which his hounded demeanour and refusal to bow to the majority view have an authenticity that you suspect is born of personal experience. Perhaps the ridicule and humiliation have, after all, paid off.