THE PARKINSON SHOW
Kevin's appearance on the Parkinson Show was recorded on 12 March 2001 and shown on Saturday 17 March on BBC Television. Michael Parkinson, interviewer and host of the show, has had a long and distinguished career in television interviewing countless politicians and celebrities over the years. The other guests on the show were Martin Clunes (British actor + director) and Lee Evans (British comedian + film/tv actor).
A text transcript can never truly reflect a television interview recorded in front of a live audience. We have tried to put across some of the atmosphere and hope that you will enjoy reading what Kevin had to say. As always he was articulate and thoughtful knowing when to inject humour at the right moment with skillful timing. Dress in black WeI know some of you like to know these things!) he looked tanned and relaxed. His incredible screen presence was even more apparent, perhaps due to the smallness of the TV screen! His appearance was a rare treat for fans in the UK and for those who receive the show in Ireland and Australia. we are working on some video stills to be included here, in the meantime, here is the interview:
Michael Parkinson: My final guest is one of THE great names of modern movies both as a screen idol and a film maker. His latest film is "Thirteen Days" an account of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war. In it he plays Kenneth O'Donnell, political advisor to President Kennedy - SHOWS CLIP.
"Ladies and gentleman - KEVIN COSTNER! Kevin appears to much applause and whistling.
Michael: I much enjoyed the movie - it's a policital thriller about the reality of us going to war in 1962 when we came within a hair's breath of doing it. One of the things that impressed me - I'd like you to tell me about it, is the way it shows you what a real power is. Here we have a moment in history where one man literally and his decisions stood between us and what was the figure? 150 million dead?
Kevin: Well that was if cooler heads prevailed. That was the initial number that people established. We throw our bombs - they throw theirs, but it certainly could have escalated to more than that. It's the use of power and in John Kennedy's case - and I wish I could salute him tonight - it was not the use of power that he exacted. He showed that kind of philosophy, that kind or courage that doesn't allow you to go to war cos it's easy to fight and it's hard to avoid war and the world owes a debt to John and Bobby Kennedy.
Michael: First of all let's establish how much of a historical document is this?
Kevin: Well it's not a documentary but it's certainly documents our lives, I mean er 30 years ago we came close to destroying ourselves and the sad part about the whole thing is that these bombs still exist - we're still pointing missiles at each other, and I sometimes feel like the world is asleep at the wheel - we don't realise..... that imminent disaster looms imminently......
Kevin: I HATE TO BRING THIS SHOW DOWN!!
Michael: No No! It's about time this show was brought to an intelligent level!
Kevin: I wanna say that I'd hire them both ! (referring to Martin + Lee ) but I'm not going to pay Lee per word!! (Much laughter + applause) But I would gladly have them, we're just gonna have to figure out another way!!
Michael: But what's interesting, in terms of the reassessment of Kennedy. I didn't realise before just how split his advisors were, in other words there's a situation that develops in the movie where he is the only man who is actively saying no we do not go to war
Kevin: I think the good thing about the movie is that it's not like the Americans have the white hat and the Soviets have the black - in our own country there were men voting for war and John Kennedy was a young man - he was a very very young man - and to stand up to the pressure of elder Statesmen er it was just... the pressure was enormous and the movie points that out and I think that when you watch a movie like this, I think you look at somebody like that and say "I wonder if I could be like that". "I WISH that I could be like that. And the good thing is that there ARE people like that - there are men and women out there who I believe were prepared to do the right thing
Michael: It's interesting I mean, if you think about the situation he was in... and today here we have a situation with President Bush who is not everybody's cup of tea and people are saying he's going to be a weak president, BUT they say he's surrounded by clever and wise people. John Kennedy was surrounded by clever and wise people and had he listenened to them we'd have gone to war!
Michael: It's interesting, fascinating. What struck me...
Kevin: I believe that people can grow into a job. I believe sometimes when you accept an awesome responsibility - you're an actor, suddenly you're directing and the responsibility steps way up, you're responsible for a lot of people and I think that somehow you step into the Whitehouse - the most powerful country in the world - and I think something must have to come over you, a certain wisdom that if you didn't have it going in you suddently realise it and not just for the President of the United States, somehow we've been thrust into a world leadership role and er you have to have your wits about you for the rest of the world.
Michael: Let's look at a clip from the movie which points at the division that there was within the inner cabinet if you like, particularly between the generals in the Pentagon and Kennedy himself... (Shows clip which is followed by enthusiastic applause)
Michael: It's interesting when you look at your career, and I guess this film will come in category, I mean you've made a lot of movies that you've been advised against taking and against doing, they go right the way through your career - Bull Durham, Dances with Wolves and Field of Dreams, was this another one?
Kevin: It was a difficult one to make because it doesn't immediately smack of a movie that's gonna make a lot of money but I don't think that your life has to be about that, I think you've gotta make the movies that move you and I've certainly made movies that you can laugh at, laugh with (he laughs) in certain instances. I've made historical movies and when this movie came along I just feel like it was a movie of our time, of our history er, we're living the legacy of peace so to speak and um I just kinda wanted to make it so if you like movies I believe you'll like this one.
Michael: Were you like?.... you didn't come from an acting family at all did you - like Martin?
Michael: There's a wonderful story told of you actually asking Richard Burton about acting...
Kevin: Yeah, I came from a very er humb...conservative background, my dad had one job and we...just.. my mother was at home and it was a wonderful childhood you know? Our backyard was our imagination and I only really realised that we didn't have a lot until we actually got out so I actually appreciate the way I was brought up um.. my children don't have that you know - the struggle that I have with them is to make sure that when they point at something I just don't automatically buy it you know? They have, to you know, learn about the world
Michael: Yes. But tell me - you're probably sick of telling the Richard Burton story but tell me it cos I...
Kevin: Well I was on my honeymoon, I was thinking about acting and er..I.. er saw Richard Burton on the plane and I couldn't believe that he was there! I desperately wanted to talk with him, I didn't know what I was going to say but I eventually went up to him and of course I know now what it's like to have people wanna come up to you and bless his heart he just saw me and I just....he was good to me and he could've gone the other way but he was good to me and we had a talk and I'm gonna keep that between me and Richard because that was something very private but I'll never forget him and one of the real great regrets that I have in my life is that I was never able to go up to him again in later years and tell him that I'd made the decision to act and that I'd had some success with it and what he meant to me so er we're gonna have to find another place, Richard and I, to talk
Michael: What gives you the most satisfaction? It's a question I asked Martin, I mean you've made some marvellous films as an actor, some films that will last a long time, The Untouchables and films like that, do you get as much satisfaction from that as you do say from something like Dances with Wolves which you directed of course..
Kevin: Yeah I do, I er.. I've been really lucky in the movies I've been able to make and as I travel the world I realise that the movies have different meanings to different people and across the board people will pick a different movie and that actually makes me happy. The movies run in different genres and that makes me happy, so I haven't like limited myself to just comedy or action, I wanted to have a full career and that doesn't always translate into big box office but it translates into something that makes me feel pretty complete as a performer.
Michael: Now the pressure on you to make commercial movies in Hollywood must be amazing I mean it's a commercial town and that's what it's about - it's about the dollar
Kevin: It is. It is for them and it's not for me but I think the two meet at some level. I feel like there's a responsibility for these movies to make money, that's why I've come to talk about it but I won't spit on my own life to make a movie just... for a paycheque. I won't do it, I don't have to do it.
Michael: Are you worried by what's perceived as a 'dumbing down' in the industry?
Kevin: Well, I know what you're talking about, um, I you know, I don't think one movie is more important than the other, for instance I just made a movie called Three Thousand Miles to Graceland where I play a bad guy, a villain and it certainly is an overt style and I hope you will see that when it comes, but it certainly isn't of the style of Thirteen Days. 13 Days has an importance but I truly believe it's not any more important than....than... um..
Somthing About Mary (Kevin gestures towards fellow guest Lee Evans who was involved in this movie) I think movies really play to people! It's important that people laugh, it's important that people are moved. I think movies when they're really at their best they're about moments that you'll never ever forget in your life and you can go right down the list from Spartacus to Dr Zhivago to.... I'm sure everybody out there - there's a kiss, there's a thing - there's something that you'll never forget and I think movies need to be about things you'll never forget and when they're not then whatever!....
Michael: You said when you made Dances with Wolves, you said that you finally er.. you "finally completed the picture you'd always had of the child you were" What did you mean?
Kevin: Well I grew up in the inner-city but the first movie I ever saw was How the West was Won" it was four and a half hours long, I was 7 years old and I went to see it and I didn't even leave for the intermission! You know nowadays I hear people don't wanna watch movies over two hours and I always wonder well, where the hell is everybody going? I go and I'm mesmerised. I think when I go to the theatre one of the great joys that I have is when the lights go out and the curtains open, something magical can happen. Just as often nothing does because it was maybe not a good movie, it wasn't thought out, it was a dumbed-down movie or something, but there's still to me - the little kid in me means that when that curtain opens I go "this could be great"! and when I saw How the West was won one of the first images I remember was I heard Spencer Tracey speaking and I saw Jimmy Stewart in a birch-bark canoe and from that day I was a mountain man and I lived in the inner-city and I was chopping down trees - I was... having problems with neighbours! My dad was having problems with me, I was trying to build canoes! I was trying to do all those things so I understand that when they say "if you're watching don't try this at home" cos it actually does mean something.
Michael: (Amidst his own + the audience's affectionate laughter)... And then you made a movie where you were in charge of your own herd of Buffaloe!!
Kevin: .. I had my own herd of buffaloe and you know we used our own money to make that movie. No-one really wanted to make Dances, every studio passed on it and passed on it for about a year or two years, it had about 27 passes and I had a couple of great directors that felt that it was too long or something like that and so at one point I said "I'm gonna make it - I might not make it as good as them but I'm gonna make ALL of it" and um you know I guess on of the things that doesn't necessarily play is my movies have a tendency to be longer and people always say we want them shorter and I understand that but I can't necessarily do that because I think in this life you have to have a style and you have to be about something and if it's not in vogue I don't think you should lose yourself. I think you should hold on to what it is because there are short movies and there are long movies and the truth is movies should be about what they are and no-one should be telling you how short because when you go to it and the curtain opens something magical should happen and when it doesn't, a lot of times it's because people manipulated with it and I resist and resent it. (A beat - Michael starts you say "How personally...? but Kevin growls "yeah" and punches the air . The audience claps and cheers.
Michael: How personal a movie was Field of Dreams?
Kevin: Well, Field of Dreams was another movie that no-one really wanted to make. It's a hard movie to describe but I really feel t hat Field of Dreams is our generation's It's a Wonderful Life and I was really pleased to be associated with that movie
Michael: You said again, something about that film, that you're a dreamer yourself and that's really what the film was about - the potentiality of dreaming...
Kevin: Right well I don't know what to say about that other than I've never lost.......I think um, I think Mark Twain said that if a man has never given up his childhood then he is absolutely living his life correctly, and I don't wanna give up the wonderment that I have,the first limousine I ever rode in I was 28, my children rode in limousine's since they were in diapers. I still..... the first limousine that came to my house I went out and took pictures of it. I still get to travel the world and the rooms I get to stay in still make me excited - I don't wanna lose the wonderment of things and I don't want to lose the ability to dream and I think er the biggest thing about dreaming is not being afraid to fail. If that's your dream then you have to go for it and what you have to do is resist the fear that comes with maybe failing to reach it
Michael: Yes that's the line in the film when the guy says I'm getting to be like my father, he never had a dream in his life...
Michael: I don't know anybody - any man - who watches that film and doesn't cry
Kevin: He says a word at the end too where he says.... he looks at his father and he says at one point when he looks at his father : he looked ancient* and I think sometimes, we're gonna get old but I don't think we have to get ancient and I think when you lose your dreams and you lose that sense of wonderment I think you do get ancient. (*This is the line from
the movie that you heard after this page opened)
Michael: Agrees. Can I ask you about another project that er was in line with you and that's Bodyguard II ?
Michael: There was a suggestion that Princess Di was to star in it. Was there truth in that?
Kevin: Well, I've talked about this and this is your Princess so I wanna be really respectful here and everything I ever said in the press has always been true whether it was written true or not. I had talked with Princess Di a couple of times. I explained to her that I was gonna try to make this movie for her and she was genuinely interested and without going into great detail we talked on the phone and she never committed to saying that she would do the film but I said that when I was done with the movie that I was going to show it to her and she was genuinely excited to see it. Sarah was a real good intermediary on my behalf...
Michael: Sarah Ferguson...
Kevin: Yeah - she was great and, remind me I wanna tell you one great thing about Sarah too before we get off - but we wrote the script and we had a pretty exciting script and the day the script was delivered to me we lost Diana and it was really.... it took the wind out of me and a lot of people were talking about your Princess and it was obviously around the world and everybody that could get in front of a microphone did and I wanna say this, I never did. For three months I never even mentioned that and I was devastated by it and about three months later a very good reporter, working very honestly somehow sussed the story out and that's when it hit the news and of course there were some denials that it wasn't going to happen or she never had talked to me and that is simply not true. She did. She was a very graceful woman and it's a great loss to all of us and I'm sorry for her husband and for her children and maybe this is the last time I'll ever have to talk about it but she was truly a beauty and missed
Michael: Beyond the obvious reason for having her, what was the reason for her, I mean you're not...
Kevin: Well I think we set a pattern for Bodyguard by using a real singer in Witney Houston, not an actress and so in protecting a real person the movie maybe had a chance again to break new ground because we think of her - thought of her - as all of our Princess. And the one thing I wanna say about Sarah really quickly is Sarah helped, and when it didn't happen one would think that in terms of just human behaviour that she might say well what about me? You know and she never did. She never ever inserted herself into the process either before or after and I admire her for that
Michael: But I mean nobody had that kind of charisma that Di had
Kevin: There's no question, but the human nature thing, I don't think we should overlook, it's a great thing that she never even mentioned anything like that
Michael: Yeah. OK. (Addressing Lee Evans): Well you've behaved very well..er.. young Evans (mock patronising tone) and we're delighted with you! (This referred to some joviality before Kevin came on about the other two guests meeting him in the Green Room which they had clearly enjoyed) And Kevin is really really pleased with you
Lee Evans: Really?
Martin Clunes: What about me!
Lee: Addressing Kevin - pretending to be extremely nervous - You know when you were mentioning about Fergie and stuff? I was trying to get your attention?
Kevin: I'm sorry
Lee Evans: That's fine. I was just... you were saying that we can't use Princess Diana cos sadly she's passed away and Fergie didn't say I want it and you know you were kind of looking out that way? I was going like this - you know - you put a wig on me Kev you know...
The audience and Kevin erupt into laughter
Lee : I mean a wig...
Martin: He's right!
Lee: What do you think? And Witney Houston she's tapping that microphone all the time? I can tap a mic! (Kevin really laughs at this) .......
Michael: Well listen, all the very best with the new movie..
Michael: And I hope it does marvellously, it deserves to, it's a good movie
Michael: And thankyou for coming on the show - KEVIN COSTNER...
HUGE round of applause. LOUD cheers. All coming from our house!