Multi-talented with a Passion to Share Compelling Stories Up Close with Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner is more than an actor we’ve seen on screen for thirty-something years, he’s more than an Oscar-winning director, he’s more than a country singer, and he’s even more than an entrepreneur. Kevin Costner is a man of conviction, a man without fear willing to take risks, and a man full of faith and humility with a tender heart toward his family.
A household name and a silver screen favorite spanning decades, genres, and demographics, Costner’s work has affected many people in many different ways. Fan favorite films range from Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, to The Untouchables, No Way Out, and JFK. And not to be left out is his iconic Dances With Wolves.
Costner is always on the hunt for the next best script, that incredible story that must be shared. Not the story, as he points out, that will be a guaranteed box-office hit, or the story that will make him tens of millions of dollars – although he’s definitely seen that within his career – but rather Costner’s passion is for the story that you can’t shake out of your head because it forces you to feel, or challenges you. Most recently, Costner was gripped by the script for the film Black or White. Making this movie not only forced him to reflect on his own life, but he hopes the film will spark others to dig deeper within themselves as well. Risen had the privilege to catch up with this seasoned talent to talk about everything from starting race conversations, to sports, forgiveness and family.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Black or White isn’t just another film you are creating awareness for due to a contract… you felt it was so important you actually financed the $9 million production budget with your own family’s cash. So what was it about this story, that gave you such conviction to get it made?
Kevin Costner: I may be crazy but I thought this story reminded me of Dances With Wolves, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham… other movies that I’ve had difficulty making, but I’ve always felt they were just as important and turned out to be just as big as the biggest of movies. I thought Black or White, believe it or not, had that same kind of feeling in me. I’m not looking to try and go make a movie that deals with racism, but I certainly won’t run away from one. When I read this script and I heard how people were talking, I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is how people want to talk! This is what they hope gets said.” And that was the miracle of Black or White that I couldn’t turn my back on.
Risen Magazine: Black or White feels very relevant especially with the national firestorm of protests sparked by Ferguson, Missouri, in the past months and current race issues. How have you seen movies change people or at least shift perspectives?
Kevin Costner: When you start watching movies early as a child, what you start to recognize is who the hero is and who the bad guy is. And you think, “Okay, I want to be the hero.” We begin to learn who we want to be in this life. So as young people go to the movies, those are formative years. Now, you and I go to the movies, and we can see a lot of different types of movies but we are, who we are – we are fully-grown people. But all we can do is look at a movie and sometimes when race comes up we look at ourselves and maybe we see ourselves a little bit and we think, “I don’t want to be that.” Elliot [Costner’s character in the film] clearly isn’t a racist but he was unsure that his granddaughter would be safe there [in the black neighborhood] and that felt a little racist. It’s not overt; he was a little suspicious. And there was some reverse racism in this movie where they [black family] don’t think this old man [Costner’s character] can take care of the girl. The movie is really beautiful in it’s harshness. It’s a movie about family and the welfare of a child, and when issues of custody come up, that is when things start to go really awful.
Forgiveness is something that is ultimately our salvation – both in our personal relationships and with our own God, who by design is so willing to forgive us.
Risen Magazine: One of the themes in Black or White is forgiveness; what it looks like, how it’s given and received, even the way it manifests within. Talk to the power of forgiveness and if willing, share an example of when you’ve seen it within your own life.
Kevin Costner: What you see between these two families, even though it is a gigantic custody issue, when Elliot goes to the house for the first time, those people are hugging him. In another type of movie he might be scared to be there, but in this one he’s not scared to be there at all. This family is reaching out, apologizing, and feeling bad about the loss of his wife – it’s really loving. And because there is so much love, in the end, you see him really travel a distance and understand that he is going to be better off with this family helping him.
Forgiveness is something that is ultimately our salvation – both in our personal relationships and with our own God, who by design is so willing to forgive us. I think this movie is kind of a miracle in that it can be so harsh, so politically incorrect, but ultimately it’s about love. And it finds love in truth.
Risen Magazine: Parenting is also a strong theme, from how a child is raised, to values, responsibility, humility, and grace; so many rich topics. In your own upbringing being raised Baptist, how have those truths carried through your personal life and even been reflected in your career?
Kevin Costner: Maybe because early on I thought I didn’t have to be afraid of the truth. I’ve kind of lived a fearless life and I don’t know if that had to do with my upbringing and that if God is on your side, then no man can stand against you. I don’t need to be afraid of the truth. I’m not a perfect person, but I feel like the truth is just as entertaining as a lie so why not go for the truth. I’m a fallible human being just making my way through all of this, but I don’t have to be afraid of my own shadow and I occasionally get to make a movie that deals with issues in my own life that might help other people, because this movie helped me. Because I do see people of color, I do see that, and for a while I thought, “Does that make me a racist if I see a black person?” And what is articulated in this movie is, the answer is no. It’s my second, or third thought that might determine whether I am. I thought that was an incredible speech I was given in that courtroom [scene] and it helped me and I thought perhaps it will even help you.
Risen Magazine: In turn now, being a parent from twenty-somethings to toddlers, what do you hope your kids learn most from Dad? Or what if nothing else do you hope you instill in them?
Kevin Costner: My older children came to me and said, “We’re really proud of you for making this movie.” I love that they would articulate that to me. I love that they understood that I am not afraid and I hope that they conduct their lives that way. That it’s not all about them and that hopefully they can get involved in things that will affect other people. And I see that in their actions. They don’t have to do big things in their life, but they can affect the person working to their left or their right.
With my littlest children, I just talk to them – that’s all I do. I talk to them in language that is not dumbed down and I talk to them in a language I think they can understand about how they treat each other. Because that is where they learn how to treat others.
Risen Magazine: It’s been a great year already for you. You turned 60 in January, you have more than 50 films in your resume, and even though you were recently honored with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, fortunately for fans, you show no signs of slowing! You don’t reach this level without being surrounded by some great people. Who were some key people that played a major role in the trajectory or your career or advice that has stuck with you through the years?
Kevin Costner: Not so much advice, but I have to say my mom gave me the foundation of teaching me the value of dreams, but she never let that sentence go by without saying that work was going to be involved with that. It was going to be a lot of work. I have been helped along the way and I know who those people are and I always think to say, thank you to them whether publically or privately.
Risen Magazine: Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, For the Love of the Game – celebrated baseball films – of course other sports like golf in Tin Cup and football in Draft Day… you are returning to sports on screen once again but this time as cross-country coach in the true story McFarland, USA. What do you think are the most valuable life lessons we learn from athletics?
Kevin Costner: Athletics really fuel my energy. I played basketball, baseball and football as a little kid [and would play] until the streetlights came on, that is how I knew it was time to go home. You learn a lot playing sports and you also learn a lot about people. A lot times when you play sports you have to make up teams in order to have a game, and I could always see people that would let’s say, “stack the team,” so that they would win. You should know how to make a team so that there is a great game going on. You know who the best players are and you could tell a lot about somebody who would put all those players on the same team consistently. And I actually can see it in their lives now as adults and there is something about that. I’d rather have a better game than one I knew I would win. I do movies sometimes that I don’t know [if they are going to be outright winners]. Black or White was a movie that no one wanted to make. I thought it was valuable and took a movie that no one wanted and I think it is a winner. I think this movie will play for the next 100 years; that is what I really believe. Now will it? I don’t know that is up to you. For the ones that do like it and really support it, they are the ones that realize movies are much more important on how they travel through time, than how they do on their opening weekend.
…maybe sometimes I would have been wiser to let go. The problem is that sometimes by not letting go, I have achieved some of my greatest things.
Risen Magazine: You have a great knack for finding stories that need telling and I couldn’t help but notice it’s been more than a decade since you directed a film – Dances with Wolves, The Postman and Open Range – do you think there is another great story that would put you in the director’s chair again, or was that just a nice season in your career?
Kevin Costner: Yea, I think maybe I’d like to direct the second half of my career so I appreciate what you said, I love Postman, I love everything about it. And Open Range was a thrill for me to direct, and obviously Dances was my first movie I ever directed.
Risen Magazine: And it won seven Academy Awards, including a Best Director Oscar for you! Speaking of Dances with Wolves, and your films like No Way Out, to The Untouchables, and even your current movie, Black or White… there are situations beyond our control, how do you handle situations that are seemingly out of control in your own life?
Kevin Costner: I think a lot of my problems in life have been that I have tried to control everything. I don’t give up on stuff. And maybe sometimes I would have been wiser to let go. The problem is that sometimes by not letting go, I have achieved some of my greatest things. Other times, if I look back and I’m really honest with myself, I should’ve just let it go; maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. I know if I would’ve run up against my first resistance where Black or White is concerned, I would have never ended up with this movie. So I’m glad I hung in there. Somehow along the line I need to figure out, “When do I let go?” That’s been my struggle because it’s hard to scare me off of something I love.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Spring 2015
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