This interview + article by Matt Mueller in this UK film magazine was published just prior to Kevin's visit to the UK to promote Thirteen Days, but covers a large part of Kevin's career. 

Q: You've been involved with Thirteen Days as an actor and producer for a long time. What made you feel so strongly about it? 

"You have to pick the stories that you want to be involved with and the end game is you'd like to be a part of a hit.  But I think your moral obligation is to follow your own heart, and when I read Thirteen Days  I was moved by it.  It was just a great time for the world, in terms of looking back in history and seeing how we got ourselves into trouble and how we got ourselves out of trouble.  And the kind of moral conviction it takes to get out of trouble sometimes."

Q:What if something like this happened now with George W Bush as the man in the White House?

"I don't even know how to answer that other than we, as a collective citizenry, have to pray that the men and women around him have a higher sense of calling.  It sounds romantic but what else do we have to lean on at this point?  I know what you're asking and I think it's always a question mark.  If you look back in history, the other political players that could have been where Kennedy was - Nixon, Lyndon, Jonhnson - I think they would not have reacted the way John Kennedy did.  Kennedy chose negotiation, but those guys probably would have gone to war.  We're a society - at least in America - in which politicians do whatever  to get re- elected, and a lot of decisions that were being made at that time by Kennedy were certain not to get him re-elected."

Q: What are your own memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a seven year old in 1962

"I knew something was wrong, just the way my parents were deporting themselves.  People in the neighbourhood were building bomb shelters which, because I was really young, seemed like a really neat thing.  They looked like forts to me, putting sleeping bags and food down there."

Q: Kenny O'Donnell is not an instantly likeable character.  Are you playing against type, trying to move away from that early wholesome image?

"Sometimes to take the most interesting role might serve myself and the vanity of saying: "Hey look ma, I can act!" . But it would be the wrong casting. It would not have been effective if I'd played John Kennedy in Thirteen Days. It would have been a splashy little turn, but as a producer I can't just serve myself because it itches my acting bone."

Q:  So you're no longer afraid to come across as unlikeable on screen?

"I think what's more important is that your character is understood.  Kenny O'Donnell was no walk in the park and he wasn't somebody who played the political game.  His whole job was to protect John Kennedy - people had to go through his office to get to JFK - and that was enough for me.  I felt I needed to dress down so I dyed my hair.  John Kennedy was a golden type of personality and I didn't need to compete with that."

Q:  It's an ensemble movie - yet you stand back and let your co-stars shine.

"I've been around where I knew other actors were going to steal the scene and I don't compete with them.  When I played Robin Hood I knew the great role was Alan Rickman's and it didn't bother me.  I always think that leading actors should be called the best supporting actors because you're the only person who can support somebody like Alan and say: "Go for it - this is great."  Or you can be the opposite and say: "I don't like what you're doing, you're too damn funny.  Knock it off." And that's not my way."

Q:  Were you hurt about stories that came out about you recutting Prince of Thieves  because you thought Kevin Reynold's cut put too much emphasis on Rickman?

"It was true the studio wanted changes in the movie but it was nothing to do with Alan.  Alan was gold.  There were things that the studio wanted - and they were not gonna necessarily be done by Kevin Reynolds."

Q: What specifically did the studio want change about the film?

"They thought the relationship between Morgan Freeman and the Robin Hood character was stronger and funnier than Kev thought it was and they wanted to add some things back in.  I didn't think they were wrong but it wasn't my choice.  I never went into the editing room on that movie.  I think they wanted to know my allegiance to Kevin - would I walk away if they wanted to try some things?  And I wasn't going to because they'd put up a lot of money.  But I'm a pretty convenient foil for a lot of people".

Q: JFK was a movie that rocked the boat at the time...

"I thought JFK was the movie of the year, quite honestly.  I know Silence of the Lambs won the Best Picture Oscar in 1991, but I thought Oliver Stone really made the movie of the yea.r  I wasn't nominated on any level for JFK so we  knew the handwriting was on the wall."

Q:  Stone came in for a lot of flak.  What about yourself?

"I did, because people don't really know my political bent - some people think I'm very conservative and found out I wasn't, but it helped his cause because he knew he was gonna be flying in the face of all these conservatives.  I got some death threats over the movie.  But our version of history was much closer to the version that happened because everything else I've read  on it just doesn't add up."

Q:  Why so many sports movies? Are you a jock?

"I enjoy sports.  I get a real joy from playing sports but I don't look for those movies.  Oliver Stone wanted to know if I would do Any Given Sunday and it just didn't appeal to me."

Q: So, out of all your sports movies, which would you say is your favourite?

"I don't want to speak for your country, but in mine Field of Dreams is probably our generation's It's A Wonderful Life ."

Q:  There was a big break between you directing Dances with Wolves and The Postman...

"I didn't feel the need to do anything else.  I don't feel the need to direct.  I tried to get other people to direct Dances, but they wouldn't do it.  They all thought it was too long.  One director wanted to cut the Civil War sequence.  Another thought the white woman was very cliched and I said: "Well, then I don't have a story because it's about a language barrier and the white woman helps break it."  They were both very famous directors.  At the end of the day, I thought if it's going to be wrecked, I want to make sure I wreck it.  I wasn't at all sure that I would actually pull it off, but I was certain I wouldn't change it."

Q:  And you were vindicated by its success..

"That's one vindication, and if that's the only one you have, then you're going to be disappointed, because I liked The Postman.  The Postman was assualted, but I get a lot of great letters about it, I really do.  So I can't spit on that movie because everyone else does or wants me to because it didn't make money.  I mean, they released that movie the same day Titanic came out.  What's that about?  One person doesn't have to shoulder all the responsibility for why a film does or doesn't do well."

Q: So you don't feel you personally got blamed for The Postman's bad reception?

"I think blame is too strong a word. What are we blaming? Is this Vietnam?  We made a movie, it didn't make much money.  I'm gonna be really happy if somebody watches it in 10 year's time and really enjoys it.  I've never done a film for a paycheque, I've never done one to fill a time slot, and I've never done one to take care of an alimony payment."

Q:  Is there a kind of film or director that you haven't worked with who you'd like to?

"I wanted very much to do Traffic and at one point it looked like I was going to work on it.  And then, of course, Catherine Zeta-Jones had her relationship with Michael Douglas and it suddenly didn't happen.  So, I'd like to work with Soderbergh.  And Scorsese.  And I like working with first time directors.  Kevin Reynolds was a first-time director, as were Ron Shelton and Demian Lichtenstein, who I just did 3000 Miles To Graceland with.  I haven't tried to buffer myself.  I like rolling the dice."

Q:  There was talk of a Bodyguard sequel with Princess Diana.  Is that still on the cards?

"I do think about doing it.  We got a rewrite and it's not bad.  But we wrote it with Di in mind, and of course the tragedy happened so it lost a lot of steam for me.  It was written to protect her - it wasn't going to be taxing on her acting.  That was my number one obligation, that she'd come off good.  It's hard for me to think about it without thinking of her".   
April 2001