The more closely I examine my tastes and interests the more I realize how contradictory they must seem to those of you reading. I prefer to think, however, as Walt Whitman put it, that ‘I contain multitudes,’ like we all do, and that these multitudes make me a more interesting person.
It’s the only way I can find to explain the fact that when I was 16 years old I was completely smitten with both Morrissey and Kevin Costner.
My love of Morrissey and the Smiths is well documented in this blog as a cornerstone of my teenage years.
But what most of you don’t know is that my teenage bedroom also featured a poster of Kevin Costner that I’d gaze at for hours when I should’ve been doing my homework or sleeping.
I’d say Costner was the first really handsome actor I had a serious crush on. And I had it bad.
What’s to be expected when an impressionable young girl hears a sexy slice of dialogue like this from Bull Durham (1988):
‘I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.’
And that’s just the G-rated portion of the sales-pitch Costner’s character, Crash Davis, gives Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy as he attempts to seduce her. Words spoken by a man who seemed to know something I didn’t and I was sure could deliver.
Around the time his handsome face decorated the back of my bedroom door Kevin Costner was one of the biggest actors on the planet. He was everywhere, in no small part thanks to his directorial debut, Dances With Wolves (1990). He was on his way to being a star before Dances With Wolves with a lead role in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) and the gushy drama Field of Dreams (1989). When he won the Best Director Oscar for Dances With Wolves, Costner’s success behind the camera opened other doors for him as an actor. He scored leading roles in Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991), The Bodyguard (1992) and Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World (1993).
But Costner’s rise to Hollywood’s A-list was swiftly followed by a rather dramatic fall – not drugs or booze, but a series of box office flops that saw him move from A-list to B-list in the blink of an eye, thanks to the financial and critical disasters he spearheaded, Waterworld (1995) and The Postman (1997).
Costner went from Oscar winner to Razzie winner and for a while there it was easier to laugh at him than it was to adore him. That I had spent hours gazing lovingly at his face was a dirty little secret I couldn’t share with anyone. Until now, that is. It’s a new year, so it’s time to come clean.
I’m not suggesting that Costner is a great actor, say, in the way that Sean Penn is, but I do think, at his best, he has the charm of an old-fashioned romantic Hollywood leading man, perhaps not really made for the times in which he has found himself working. For many years now, I’ve thought that Hollywood doesn’t really know what to do with him, because when a strong script makes its way into his hands and he gets an interesting role he’s been sort of brilliant and really great to watch. Those of you who have seen him in Open Range (2003, he also directed), the excellent The Upside of Anger (2005) or The Company Men (2010) will know what I mean. I’ll say it loud and proud – Kevin Costner is a very good actor. He’s solid, dependable and immensely appealing, and one of the few redeemable parts in Zach Snyder’s reboot of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel, last year. His role as Superman’s earthbound father, Jonathan Kent, cemented his screen persona as both conventionally masculine and wonderfully tender.
But what I think has always come across in Costner’s performances is that he’s essentially a good man, sweet and kind, and someone, like Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck or Gary Cooper, who I imagine it would be really easy to be around. And in the end, if like me, you see watching films as an extension of the act of living, these are the people you want to spend your time with most of all.
(Costner will soon be seen in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I won’t be watching this one, but the trailer and posters – hanging in places other than my bedroom – support my argument that at 58 he still looks really good.)