KEVIN Costner is having trouble hearing. “I play a lot of rock and roll. You’ll have to speak up,” explains the California native in what can only be described as a cowboy twang.
The Hollywood veteran, who sings and plays lead guitar with the country rock band Kevin Costner & Modern West, might be a little hard of hearing but he’s looking well, easily 10 years younger than his 61 years.
Since his breakthrough role in 1987 gangster movie The Untouchables, he’s carved a reputation for playing all-American guys. But for his latest movie Criminal, Costner’s finally been cast against type, as the psychopathic prisoner Jericho Stewart.
He admits he was shocked when first approached about the role, and initially declined the offer.
“I kept looking in the mirror, questioning, ‘Why me?’ I’m a cowboy, I play baseball,” he admits.
With his gruff voice, shaved head and violent demeanour, Costner is indeed unrecognisable in the film.
“I showed up in London with long hair and a beard. I was thinking we were going to start the movie in the prison but they didn’t. So I had to go into the make-up trailer and create that really severe look,” recalls the actor. “Slowly but surely. Jericho came crawling out. They put the holes and the stitches in the back of my head. and I started feeling a little bit like Frankenstein,” he adds. (Costner’s character undergoes groundbreaking brain surgery.)
Memory transfer might sound like the stuff of science-fiction, but the film’s writers, Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, were inspired by real cutting-edge scientific research in neurobiology, brain architecture and artificial intelligence. These suggest the processes that make up our innermost minds might soon be mappable and consciousness itself might become transferable.
“It doesn’t terrify me, and I’m not surprised by it,” states Costner, who’s fathered seven children. “I tell you, I would want it, if I thought I was going to lose track of someone I loved, if I couldn’t remember my children’s names...
“The problem with some science is that it always gets aborted into something that’s evil; where’s the line?
“It’d be nice to alter some people in this world that are like, off,” he adds, citing “some of these people who are running countries” as the ‘off’ people he’s referring to.
Costner has never shied away from political conversation, and only recently shared his thoughts on the US presidential campaigns, saying he doesn’t find it “entertaining” but “embarrassing”.
“It’s important who the president is and it’s important it be someone that has a vision and has a knowledge of the world, an empathy for the world,” he remarks. “Anybody who doesn’t show that really, in my mind, can’t be president. I look for someone who’s evolved.”
On his own evolution, he reflects that he’s “lived a life that’s not fearful”.
“And because I’ve stretched in my life, because I’ve risked things. I’ve had some really great successes and I’ve had things that have bruised me too,” explains the actor, whose directorial debut, 1990’s Dances With Wolves, earned 12 Oscar nominations, winning seven. He’s also experienced worldwide derision — for 1995’s Waterworld and his second directorial effort, 1997’s The Postman.
Is there anything else he wishes he’d done?
“I can’t think of anything. Life doesn’t scare me, and the idea of not being successful isn’t something that paralyses me,” he reasons.
In recent years, Costner has focused on acting, but he’s keen to get back behind the camera too.
“I’d like to play the second half of my career out directing. There’s a western I want to do, and some English people I’d like to come after,” Costner reveals, although he declines to name names.
“Europeans populated the West, and I hope when I approach some English actors they’ll say, ‘Yes’, and come play cowboy with me.”
Criminal is released on Friday
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