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Kevin Costner - CRIMINAL

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STRIPLVINTERVIEWS

Interview
Kevin Costner
CRIMINAL
 
The strong, silent type has been a winning persona for actor, Kevin Costner. Fans gushed over the California native actor in the 1988 film, Bull Durham, playing the romantic down-to-earth baseball player who held his own going up to bat against co-star Susan Sarandon and her every seductive pitch to tease and taunt his character, Crash Davis. Costner became the “player” fans wanted to see on the big screen, with more baseball movies to follow for the actor with films, Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game.

But it was his epic Western that personified that strong, silent type of man who women swooned over in the 1990 film, Dances with Wolves, in which Costner plays a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, exiled to a remote western Civil War outpost, where he becomes an aberration in the military, as he falls passionately in love with an Indian tribeswoman and her native culture. Not only did the film skyrocket Costner to stardom as an actor, but it earned him great respect as a remarkable director as well, taking home a slew of Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (winning against Martin Scorsese’s huge mob hit, Goodfellas).

Romantic leads followed Costner with the hit film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and he received critical success the same year in JFK. But fans didn’t get to see the other layers of this actor’s talent until he changed his persona in ’93, playing the role of an escaped ex-convict who kidnaps a boy in the ’93 film, A Perfect World, in which he could spread his wings into a different kind of role.

The millennium sees Costner able to break free of the binding ties of romantic leads of the strong and stereotypically silent role in his film, Criminal, in which he plays a brain-damaged sociopathic convict who is implanted with the memories of a dead CIA agent. This is a far-cry from the character of Crash Davis in Bull Durham, and gladly so, as Costner incredibly takes on the film’s difficult role with ease. The action-packed movie stars other legendary greats like Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman. Costner sat with us and opened up about his deep respect for his co-stars and the film’s director, Ariel Vromen, revealing the necessity of good screenwriting with the film’s emotional moments to add more interest in such an action-packed movie.

STRIPLV: In your movie, Criminal, your character Jericho Stewart experiences a great deal of emotional and physical torment throughout his life. What was it like taking on that persona?
COSTNER: I could see it when I saw the whole movie—you know, in the script, that I could travel this journey. But I had to find a very violent person that worked with a sociopath that didn’t care about things. And it had to start with me with the very first scene, that just eating a hotdog, and I’m not gonna talk to these guys who are very serious, until I’m done with my cold, shitty hotdog. I’m gonna make them wait. And when he shot, he says a very simple thing: “You know it’s gonna take two of these. And so you realize that this is a guy who’s had maybe fun even running around until he just didn’t have any more strength. So, to me, that was an insight into him. The second was the severity of the look that I had to try to create once my hair was cut. For me, getting into it meant that I didn’t need to try to hide cosmetically; I tried to expose myself, which was the holes in my head, the stitches in the back of my neck. Those things were very important to me in the audience trying to go along with this big leap of faith type of movie, that memory can be transferred into mine. So I had to play it really real. I had to take all his prison instincts with me wherever I went, and they began to be confused by this other piece of information that was put in my head, and that created a lot of the confusion, a lot of the survival, you know, a lot of the resourceful things that I had to do during the course of the movie.
STRIPLV: How do you prepare for the film’s intense action sequences?
COSTNER: I like to choreograph my fights. And we choreographed that fight with the five soccer hooligans in a way that I thought the average person who couldn’t really do that could believe that, as opposed to just going in and five of them are standing and doing some kind of (gesturing Karate chops) Hah! Hah-Hah! The way he handled that was really fun, and we worked very hard on that. So then it got vulgar and it turned into a street fight. But there was a little bit of (gesturing choreography) start here, this guy comes here, I go around this way, this guy goes back, this guy’s trying to get out, shove him, hit. Those things are fun to me. And when they look real, that’s why we go to the movies. We wish we were that guy for a second. I’m not that guy—but I was playing that guy. And the way he is, even his childlike quality of not being able to open a bottle of medicine—it made him angry. And I think the joy of having coffee and speaking language that came out of your mouth, like speaking tongues, there was one of the few times he actually had joy, only to have that taken away from him by a guy who’s a bit of a snob. So then I have to go back to this criminal with him. But then as soon as I know he’s not a threat, which doesn’t take long, I go back to the joy of sugar. I haven’t been out in the open very much. And so I try to play that with a level of wonderment. 
STRIPLV: What was it like working in London with such an incredible group of actors such as Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones?
COSTNER: Well, I really needed them, because we weren’t afforded a rehearsal process. And these scenes were complicated. That waking up in the hospital was a complicated scene, but when I watch it in its entirety, I’m really proud of how that was acted. And I think the only reason we could is because those two guys are world-class actors and been leads in films; carried films. And so we each kinda tried to make it work for each other, you know, and tried to make this thing real. And we did. And we found these little bits of: teasing me with the pill, and finding myself in the mirror, and can you imagine looking at yourself and wondering: ‘How am I being so ethically, morally compromised?’ You know what I mean? You’re just worn out. And Gary being relentless, and I have no opportunity for recovery, which tells me that I have to play the movie with a constant pain.
STRIPLV: You mentioned that you were not aware of Gal Gadot before filming this movie. How has your impression changed since you met her and what was it like working with her?
COSTNER: Well, we were introduced on the first day. I thought I would be doing a prison scene, because I showed up in London with long hair and a beard. I thought that would be our first scene, but it wasn’t. The first scene was me in her bedroom, attempting to assault her, which meant I had to go cut my hair, I had to cut my beard, and I had to somehow come up with this look that would sustain us the whole movie, that was the Jericho look. And that was done in the privacy of a makeup trailer without the benefit of my director even being there. He was on the set. And I had to kind of figure that out in the next two or three hours before I showed up and said: “Hi Gal, I’m Kevin. And now we’re gonna do this scene where I’m, you know, attacking you.”
STRIPLV: Criminal addresses many modern technological advancements, both medical and tactical. What attracted you to the script that is interested in exploring these new realities?
COSTNER: Well, the level of detail that they had written in there—I was able to buy that. We know movies have to happen in a condensed time frame. So they had the right-looking drills. They had the right-looking room. They had all that stuff. But what we had were the great lines waking up: “What’s going on?” So I had to come out of that with a level of realism. You know, I don’t know, I haven’t seen the full movie, so I don’t know what lines were left in as they were putting him under. But I know that there were also some really clever lines that were there.
STRIPLV: Criminal is equally as action-packed as it is emotionally jarring. Tell us a little bit about what audiences should expect.
COSTNER: Well, I hope that they understand that there’s room for those things in action. There’s room for dialogue. There’s room for this kind of acting. Acting never slows action down, if the acting in a dialogue is strong. In fact, I think it actually accentuates the action that will come. Some movies can be wall-to-wall, and we’ve seen some movies like that that work. They’re pretty carefully crafted movies. But it’s really dialogue that kind of continues to link you. The scene between Gary and I in the interrogation room—it’s a rabbit hole that we don’t even go down, but at one point when he threatens me, I remind him of something I know about him in his life, and it freezes him for a second, about a knowledge of some past indiscretion. We don’t even know what it is, because like I say, we don’t go down that rabbit hole. But I think everybody appreciates writing that froze Gary for a second and allowed that scene to then progress farther. I had managed to turn the tables on him. I mean, that came from a Ryan Reynolds moment that was in my brain.
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