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Interview: Kevin Costner for "The Upside of Anger"

By Paul Fischer Friday February 11th 2005 10:29AM
Kevin Costner for "The Upside of Anger"

There is always something relaxed and playful about Kevin Costner, looking tanned and youthful at 50. Sporting a moustache, Costner seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts, both personally and professionally. Already receiving early raves for his comically sardonic portrayal of an ex-baseball player who falls for an often mean single mother of four daughters, in The Upside of Anger, Costner also loves being married the second time around to model Christine Baumgarten. The couple had dated for about five years when the Oscar winner finally decided to take the plunge and has no regrets about tying the knot again. "Well, I was glad to marry her," the actor says, laughingly. "I feel good about marrying her, and I was worried about it for a while," he admits.

Costner says that he was not sure he would take the plunge following his divorce from first wife Cindy. "I wasn't sure that I would, and I didn't date with that in mind," says the unusually open and circumspect actor, now also pondering at what phase their relationship is in. "She's younger than I am, as she's gonna be 31, and there's a lot of things that she's getting a chance to do, and I enjoy watching her do that, and kind of blossom as a person. She's a very good editor, and very kind of design oriented, so I'm enjoying seeing her do that, and I can actually see the cycle of what she's going through. She's my partner, in my life, and so I like her, I like that she cheers for me. When I do something good, I like knowing that I have somebody cheering for me, on a psychological level." And Costner is not ruling out having any children with this second spouse. "I know she's keen especially now that she's 31, so I guess we'll see."

Costner is happy in love, but equally happy in career, with his comedic supporting turn in Upside of Anger having received critical acclaim following its world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Costner says that he was attracted the character because he was somebody he understood after reading the script. "I saw it very clearly, as an American character and this as a very American movie, with very universal themes of men and women," the actor explains. "I thought it was a very original voice and it humoured me while challenging me, as a lot of the humour comes from very challenging themes. The scenes are funny, but we don't know if they are funny or if they are just a train wreck and we just watch in amazement. There is a lot of laughing out loud and some laughing in disbelief and that is kind of a pleasing cinematic experience and I think all of those things existed in Mike Binder's writing which is why I wanted to do it." Joan Allen stars as the film's often embittered and happy-to-drink matriarch, who finds herself involved with Costner's alcoholic ex-baseball player-turned-radio Dj, in the film, written and directed by Mike Binder, one of Costner's oldest friends.

The actor was unconcerned at playing a guy who is a bit overweight, and drinks too much in a role which required him to disregard ego. "I haven't really been that careful in my career and maybe I should have been, to make sure I didn't make a misstep. I had to put 20 pounds on for the movie, because he wasn't the kind of character to lift weights. I've played supporting characters before in movies like The War and recently in Rumor Has It, and for this, I started off thinking the movie was great. There is no use in being the head flea on a dead dog, because you can have a really great part and have the movie add up to nothing. They always have that potential, but I think you have to start off with a chance, and I think Mike is very close to being our generation's Woody Allen, but instead of all the movies set in New York, they are set in Detroit."

Costner also gets to work with a quintet of beautiful women of varying ages, from Allen to Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt, Keri Russell and Evan Rachel Wood, smilingly conceding that "they were all easy on the eyes and they were all happy to be working on an intelligent script. Mike handpicked all of them so they all felt they deserved to be there and wanted to be there. It was fun and there were moments that felt very real and very funny. These movies are all hard to do and this one was just as hard, but it was fun to watch them and it will be fun to watch their careers, regardless of what happens." In giving his younger co-stars advice on avoiding the pitfalls of Hollywood, Costner is both matter-of-fact and circumspect. "I don't think you can avoid the pitfalls and live a real life. Some movies do well and others don't, but you always have to remember why you did the movie. At the point it doesn't seem fun or productive and you should have the courage to step away instead of just doing it for the sake of doing it. They've all achieved something even at this age, so it's okay to say I was in a Hollywood movie once, and then take their kids to soccer."

Costner is more than happy saying that when it relates to his own perspective on Hollywood and stardom. "My life is a lot more than Hollywood, but I've always reserved the right to invent my life and to step out of it if I want to. So I kind of counsel myself and ask: Do I have the courage to do that? There is a lot of money in doing this, even if you don't like it and that can be the seduction, as well as the trap," Costner concedes, adding that his family, his children, and his life outside of Hollywood, are what keep him real. "We get caught up in the trappings of all of this and we want to be respected, and we want a little bit extra. Then when you see your children succeed, you realize that is the highest thing you can get. When my oldest daughter was a senior playing volleyball, I went to every game. She understood what she was part of and she went to every practice and every game, so when you try to add up what is important, I was very proud of her and I know those are the most important moments. I also know that outside my own family I need to conquer some things. I am a boy and I need to make my mark. I do that in movies and other ventures, so I try to live a very full life. I know most of it doesn't mean anything other than who is going to hold your hand during your last breaths."

Costner will next be seen in Rumour Has It, now directed by Rob Reiner, who replaced the film's writer, Ted Griffin, who was originally set to direct, but was fired from the project. "He wrote a beautiful script, which is why I did it, and I hadn't started work yet, when that particular thing happened. Ted's a friend of mine, and was at my wedding, so you can imagine how I might have felt for him., I've never really been able to uncover the mechanics of how that went down However, they brought in a world class director, in Rob [Reiner]. For myself, I made a career of working with a lot of first-time directors, so I'm not really afraid of that. and I've used a lot of first time people in other capacities, be it cinematographers and production designers. I worked at Raleigh Studios for a long time, and it's hard to get started, and somebody has to give you a chance, and so I don't do that all the time, but I do it." In that film, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who learns that her family was the inspiration for "The Graduate" -- and that she just might be the offspring of that well-documented event. Costner says it's by no means a sequel to the classic original. "This is quite an original comedy in its own right, and a lot of fun." A star for some two decades, Costner says that he remains as passionate about what he does now, as when he started. "I'm passionate about the work, you know, even though I don't like living in trailers, and that's a lot of the life of an actor. But I like very much to perform, and when I see something that's great, my own vanity comes out. I think maybe that this movie this will live forever and it will be passed on, and not dismissed." As for his life today and his place in Hollywood, Costner couldn't be happier on both fronts. "Well it's pretty great for me, it really is. But I like to think that I'm involved, and I think maybe, people are catching up. I've kind of been the same, and I think I've conducted these interviews almost the same as I had twelve years ago and I don't really change. I like long movies, and different kinds of movies. In 'Raging Bull,' he says you've never got me down, he's still standing, so I feel like that I enjoy making movies, I like the experience in the dark, that we continue to go to. I mean, the world still is evolving and changing so rapidly, we know what that's like, but still every one of us still find ourselves in a theatre, albeit it's your job, but if you step outside of yourself, there's many people who still go to the theatre, to sit in the dark, and watch a movie and they're still looking for something to change them, some fresh air, to feel some light. So, people that go to the movies feel strongly, and I feel strongly when I make them."

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