INT: Kevin Costner

Interview # 1 Robert Duvall
Interview #2 Kevin Costner

For his latest comeback, Kevin Costner wisely chose to revive his career by making...a western? If you have doubts about the viability of a western in today’s marketplace, you’re not alone. Every major studio passed on OPEN RANGE, forcing producers to secure independent financing for the film, which cost just over $20 million to make. Just a few years ago, that would barely have been enough to cover Costner’s salary.

Judging from the excellent buzz it has generated, it looks like Costner just might have hit paydirt. I caught up with him in Los Angeles, where he talked enthusiastically about his experience making the film.


How influential were the classic westerns on your approach?

Those movies are influential, not so much in what they say, but they influenced me because they moved me at the time by what they were saying and what they were doing. The trick is not to make another SHANE; the trick is to go make your own movie that has a certain validness in the literature of it, in what it is saying. From the very first line, which is “A man’s trust is a valuable thing, Button. You don’t want to waste it for a handful of cards.” At that moment, you can know what the tenor and tone of the movie is. That language should be very clear to you – it should be like a gong. And I’m going to try to deal with it in a humorous way, in a romantic way, in a tragic way.

It’s not about what westerns don’t say; it’s about what they do say.

Do you think the country is in a better mood for westerns right now?

I have no idea about that kind of timing. I think that it may be just the opposite – maybe people are sick of our seemingly “cowboy” way. But I think these are good men who are trying to find their way.

Why was it time for you to do a western?

I don’t go looking for something; sometimes it finds me. I see the writing and I can’t turn my back on it. What I’ve really enjoyed trying to present to the public is an original look at a movie, something that’s entertaining and valid.

All of the other questions were already answered for me: nobody likes westerns anymore; they’re not good; they’re not commercial; you can’t sell them overseas; we’re not sure we’re gonna be able to raise money here; you’re not that popular by the way, either, Kevin.

They said all those things, to your face?

No, no. (Laughs)

But I’m not an idiot. And I think economics should drive any business. But I made this movie for just over $20 million. I think it’s a bargain. And a movie is worth more than its opening weekend. The value of a movie is: will you take it off a shelf five years from now and share it with somebody? Does it stand up? You guys are writers, so you’re in the best position to know. Literature can live in any decade, any century. OPEN RANGE starts with language. It has to have the obligatory horizons, right? Because the West had that. And the notion of running horses is always going to romantic to us, but you quickly have to move away from that and get into your story. And the success of Open Range – not on an opening weekend, but as a movie – will always be, for me, about the little things that it does. And what it tries to achieve and say in those little things.

You have great chemistry with Duvall in this, but he said there wasn’t much rehearsal time. How were you able to achieve that chemistry?

You start with a good script that no one is gonna change. I worked on the script with the writer for five months before I went to the actors.  Generally speaking, what people do is they go get the actors and they go, “Oh, we’ll fix the script.” I’m a little anal. I do it a little backwards. I go, “Let’s get this script right before we go out to an actor.” Because I don’t want to be messing with a script on a set. I want the actors to be confident. I want them to know that, and this is going to sound weird, that I’m in charge.

This is the script we’re gonna do. I want to take a away all of the fear that actors have – and they have it. They have insecurities, because they want to look good. They want to be important; they want to come off well. I think the only thing you do for that is you start with the writing. You get really great writing, you’re gonna get world-class actors. You’re gonna get world-class actors that will be in a western.

I hope that their performances aren’t diminished because this is in the summer. I hope that people realize what Annette Benning did, to be a supporting part in a western and play a woman her own age, without makeup. It’s very heroic. And I just hope that she’s recognized for that effort. Robert Duvall’s is an incredibly standout performance. This is not a regurgitation of LONESOME DOVE – I won’t pretend to say that it’s not a near cousin, but it’s a very stand-alone performance as an actor in a western.

How did you think of Michael Gambon for a western?

My casting director did. I don’t want to take her glory away. What I told her was I wanted to have immigrants, because they settled America. A lot of languages were floating out there across the frontier. That led to a lot of violence, actually: people not being able to communicate.

We just simply apply too many of our norms onto a western. That’s why, when westerns are bad and they’re too simple, they don’t tell us about what their real problems were. Then we suddenly realize that their problems were just like ours.

Your character, Charley Waite, is a good man who thinks he’s bad. Is he a distinctive character in that time and place?

He’s a distinctive man in that time and place, because he was really recognizable. Cowboys dressed differently. In American film, he’s a staple, because you have to have that kind of character in order to make a western film. You usually have to have the enigmatic character. The reason why they existed is, you just have to think back to our history. We just came out of the most violent war that we ever experienced. So, now you have hundreds of thousands of people disenfranchised - who have killed – who find their way out on the frontier. People who aren’t going to be pushed around, who maybe are going to push people around. You get a lot of sociopaths that were out in the west. 

There’s a formula to westerns. What you want to avoid is taking the obligatory scenes and doing them in a cliched way. As a film director, what you’re trying to do is take the obligatory scenes – there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with formula.  The obligation is to try to put an original spin on it.

You should be trying to raise the bar. Whether you do it or not, somebody else will judge that. But, you should be trying to raise the bar.

Source: JoBlo.com



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