Profile in Courage
In the political thriller Thirteen Days, Kevin Costner explores the Cuban Missile Crisis and how John and Robert Kennedy saved the world.
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Although Wyatt Earp and his second directorial effort, The Postman, failed commercially and critically, Costner makes no apologies. "I loved Wyatt Earp and I really loved The Postman, and no one can take those movies away from me," Costner says emphatically. "I would stack those films up, not in the world we live in today, but five years from now, where people can just watch them untainted. I would stack my movies up with anybody's movies. All their sequels included.
"And quite honestly," adds Costner, "I am haunted by the decisions that are commercially based. Absolutely haunted. In the rest of my life I'm a pretty tough character, but in that one aspect, I crumble. I mean, I don't do it in public, but I go back and I'm by myself. I just hate that you don't see every moment that I really wanted you to see, as a man. Because I make my films for men, from a man's point of view. And I always try to have great women characters in them as well."
But the alternative, Costner says, is that "I could make every decision that could cater to the biggest demographic and try to make as many friends as I could. All my decisions would be really flat and really safe. And I would go, 'God, I still didn't manage to make them like me.' Then I would hate myself. I would kill myself if I reduced myself to the lowest common denominator and then failed. I'd think, 'Shame on you, you miserable baby. You have successfully done nothing!'"
Costner is the first to admit that Thirteen Days is an anomaly in an era when teenage comedies and cost-cutting measures are de rigueur in Hollywood, and goes so far as to liken Thirteen Days to an art film by comparison. "Our demographic for this movie is shrinking, but I still had to make it," says Costner, who also serves as a coproducer on the film. "I mean, it's not a star turn for me, but it's important. It's important that we don't shy away from the subject matter. I wanted whoever sees this movie to know about our history. We're losing our legacy of greatness and our legacy of failure because we're just putting it behind us. But I'm in love with our history. So for me, it came down to 'What is your filmography going to look like in your life?' "I never try to anticipate the mood swings of what's commercial and what's not," he adds. "I've just always gone towards what I thought was a really good story."
Costner knows that there are still plenty of good stories left to tell. But whether he directs again remains to be seen. "Yeah, I'll direct again," he says with a mischievous smile, "when it's time for another beating." But what remains is his love for filmmaking. "Maybe it's an arrogance that I have, but I know the way I feel about movies is absolutely pure. And that's not to say I'm infallible and I'm the one who knows best, but somebody has to have a point of view about the movie and somebody has to pull it through. I don't tolerate anyone tinkering with them for commercial reasons. I just can't allow it--maybe that's the trouble with me. "But you know, I'm always so pleased at the letters I get from around the world about the movies I've done. And always when I get a great letter, it reminds me that most of everything you fight for is the reason you do it. I don't fight to fight, 'cause that's not my nature. I fight cowardice and I fight fear."
Based in Toronto and Los Angeles, David Giammarco is one of Canada's leading entertainment journalists.