Kevin Costner’s Rules for Living
By Susan Hornik
At the second annual AARP’s Movies for Grownups Film Showcase in Los Angeles, Kevin Costner participated in a fascinating Q&A for his upcoming controversial film, “Black or White.” In addition to executive producing, the veteran actor, with more than four dozen credits in film and television, has the lead role in the drama, which opens next month – just in time to be included in this year’s competitive Oscar race.
With a lifetime’s worth of incredible achievements, like any actor, Kevin Costner has faced his share of ups-and-downs. Even with the actor’s clout, his latest venture, Black or White, sat in development for years, and studios eventually refused to finance it. This led to his ultimate decision to fund half of the production costs himself, as a way to fulfill a promise he made to his friend and Black or White writer-director, Mike Binder.
Based on a true story, the film centers on an recently widowed attorney (Costner) who becomes emmeshed in a fierce custody battle with the paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer) of his bi-racial granddaughter, whom he is raising after his wife and daughter have died.
The racially themed “Black or White,” a hot button topic these days, is a passion project for Costner.
“I am not in the business of making message movies, but sometimes you just feel like something changes you a bit. I love baseball, but I didn’t know what baseball was until James Earl Jones told us that magical speech in ‘Field of Dreams.’ And I know what honor is, but I didn’t know what honor was like until I saw Spencer Tracy talk about it in the courtroom scene in ‘Inherit the Wind.’ Occasionally, we get to hear things that maybe we never forget for the rest of our lives. Maybe they help inform us. When I saw the courtroom scene (in ‘Black or White’), I thought it would help me in this (diversity) conversation.”
Costner who was born in Compton, California, feels the film will open up a dialogue about racism with all ages, which is why he pushed for the PG rating. “I didn’t want to wall this movie off to people under 17 years old. I wanted them to see this movie, because the best chance we have of working through this is our children.…my children don’t even think about that.”
“This movie was rewarding and made a big difference in my life and it just reminded me to follow my heart. A lot of people told me I was brave for making a movie that tackled controversial subject matter,” Costner said. “I must be the mongoose in with the cobra – I don’t know I’m supposed to be afraid. If you’re out there trying to make art, entertain and tell a story, there’s no reason why we have to cave in to conventional wisdom. What if everybody else is wrong?”
Costner has been chosen to receive AARP’s Career Achievement Award, which will be presented as part of the organization’s annual Movies For Grownups Awards on February 2nd, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in California.
Besides acting, producing and funding movies, Costner is one busy man! He’s also the headliner for Kevin Costner & Modern West, a rock/country band he founded after his wife inspired him to reconnect with award-winning songwriter John Coinman. Their Facebook page has over 280k followers!
“I wasn’t really sure after all these years how it might work,” Costner wrote. “I wasn’t really sure what to say. But if life has taught me anything it was not be stopped by the question or the unknown. F… it, what did I have to lose but maybe some of the best times of my life?”
He added: “I made the call to Tucson. ‘John what do you think?’ He never hesitated, willing to explore the idea. But it was always more than just an idea for me. It was a feeling that I had been unable to articulate. For a long time now I have felt the need to connect with people in a more meaningful way than just the autograph. I have found myself here and around the world in different situations where the only exchange has been just that…a quick signature on the run usually followed by a ‘gee, he’s taller than I thought.’
He continued: “I always thought that music could build a stronger, more personal moment for me. It would create the opportunity for a genuine exchange much greater than the movie, TV interview or magazine. It would be real, full of mistakes and without apology. But most of all there would be the chance to have some fun. The question was, would it work? I thought it could but I wasn’t really sure. I had been out on creative limbs before, and this felt familiar.”
Costner is the cover story for AARP’s magazine in January. Here’s an excerpt:
“On the eve of turning 60, Costner is conscious of the passage of time. When fear of his mortality comes calling, ‘I get on the floor with my kids and play harder,’ he says. He adds, “I’d love to live forever. That’s how much I love life.” Asked what’s on his bucket list, Costner lets out a chortle. “A lot of times you get a question like, ‘Hey, would you go to outer space if you had the chance?’ Maybe eight out of 10 people would say, ‘I’d get on that rocket in a second.’ You ask me? No. I’m staying here. I like it on Earth. I want to have as much time on this Earth as I can.’”
As part of AARP’s cover story, there is a summary of Costner’s Rules for Living:
Know thyself. “I wasn’t good at academics, but when I hit on acting, everything changed. I started to study. I was on fire. I had found my place. I wasn’t guessing anymore at what it was.”
Play tough. “People think things are easy for me. They’re not. I thought Black or White was worth making, just like Dances and Bull Durham. I think it only increased my desire because they were hard.”
Try, try again. “We don’t have to get to the ending, but if we think we’re on the right trail, we’re kind of OK. I wait for the big “No” to hit me, and when it doesn’t, I keep going.”
Remain curious. “If you can stay interested in what you’re doing, it will keep you younger. Being engaged in what you do will sustain you.”
Honor your commitments. “People need to stick with their word. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, their heart’s going to be broken if you don’t.”
Bet to Win: “You just gotta take that shot. When you shoot, you’re not thinking about losing. The guy who may be thinking about losing won’t take that shot. He has lost anyway.”
On his continued momentum:
“People say, ‘man, this should be the moment in time where you’re pulling back and catching some waves.’ I don’t think they’re wrong. But it’s not my way.”