What the Hell Happened to Kevin Costner?

costner 2013

In the early 90’s, he was arguably the biggest star in Hollywood.  His films were hits.  His directorial debut swept the Oscars.  Kevin Costner was at the top of the A-list.  Twenty years later, his films go direct to video and he’s been reduced to playing Pa Kent in the new Superman movie.

What the hell happened?

Kevin Costner - Sizzle Beach USA

Kevin Costner – Sizzle Beach USA

Kevin Costner’s first film was a little gem called, Sizzle Beach USA.  The movie sat on the shelves until after Costner became a star and then was released on video to cash in.

Kevin Costner - Night Shift - 1982

Kevin Costner – Night Shift – 1982

Costner can also be spotted very briefly in Night Shift!  He plays “Frat Boy #1” in the party scene at the morgue.

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner – The Big Chill – 1983

Costner filmed scenes for the 1983 hit, The Big Chill.  He played Alex, the college friend whose suicide brings the rest of the cast together.  Unfortnately, Costner’s flashback scenes were cut and he ended up playing a corpse.  His face was never seen in the movie.  But he did lay still very convincingly.

Director Lawrence Kasdan was a friend and promised to make it up to him by casting him in another role later.

de mornay - testament

Meanwhile, Costner continued paying his dues in movies like Testament.

In Testament, Costner had a small role opposite Rebecca De Mornay.  She and Costner played a young couple who decide to leave town after losing their baby.

Testament was originally filmed as a an entry for the PBS TV series, American Playhouse. It received a small theatrical release before eventually airing on PBS. Reviews were mostly positive.

Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson - Fandango - 1985

Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson – Fandango – 1985

In 1985, Costner starred opposite Judd Nelson and Sam Robards in Kevin Reynolds’ coming-of-age comedy, Fangango.

Costner, Nelson and Robards played recent college grads who embark on a road trip circa 1971.  Costner’s character has broken up with his ex played by model-turned actress Suzy Amis in her acting debut.  Robards’ character is engaged but is having second thoughts about getting married.  Nelson played the friend with a car.

The movie started out as a student film by Reynolds while he was attending USC film school.  Steven Spielberg liked his student film well enough to fund a feature-length version of the movie.  But Spielberg was disappointed in Fandango and had his name removed from the final film.

Costner audition for the lead role in the student film but was not cast.  He auditioned again for the feature-length version and won the part.  He and Reynolds became good friends.  They would go on to collaborate several more times including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld.

Robards and Amis also had future collaborations.  Robards, the son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall, married Amis in 1986.  They had a son together but divorced in 1994.

Spielberg chose not to give Fandango a wide release despite mostly positive reviews.  Director Quentin Tarrantino has high praise for the movie which he was able to track down during its limited time in theaters:

Fandango is one of the best directorial debuts in the history of cinema. I saw Fandango five times at the movie theater and it only played for a fucking week, all right.”

Over time, the movie has developed a small but loyal cult following.

Next: Silverado and The Untouchables

Posted on August 20, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor, WTHH Director and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 223 Comments.

  1. i know you are not but i tend to think you trash costner acting too much no offensive your stuff is good. But costner has more range and charisma think you think. his next movie criminal could be a hit sounds dumb but gary oldman is currently on a roll with his hit movies so it can be a hit


  2. 10 Most Polarizing Actors Of All-Time:

    Kevin Costner

    Kevin Costner was actually considered to be something of a sex symbol in his day; sort of. He appeared alongside Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard, after all, and so for a generation of female admirers said role ensured him a place as something of a Prince Charming. Not quite so much for that scene in Waterworld in which he p*sses into a bottle.

    Nowadays, it’s weird to think that anybody might have ever thought of Costner as being particularly sexy; there’s an inarguable, all-American ordinariness about him. What’s worse, the world still never seemed to reach a definitive conclusion on whether or not the man could act, which has – in turn – relegated him to the pantheons of polarizing.

    There is evidence that he can “act,” albeit in a rather emotionless way. Dances With Wolves, perhaps his greatest achievement as an actor, director and writer, offers up Costner at his on-screen best. But there are a good number of performances that feel like proof of the opposite: Robin Hood, The Postman… like watching a wooden plank painted with a face.


  3. forrestbracket

    emotionless he display wide range of emotions in upside of anger so leave costner alone.


  4. 10 Incredibly Lazy Actors Who Keep Getting Work:

    Kevin Costner

    Of all the actors featured on this list, Kevin Costner is one who started out with the most promising career. No Way Out and Bull Durham were just the beginning of a string of hugely popular movies which peaked with Dances With Wolves and JFK.

    Following on from 1993’s A Perfect World the dud movies starring Kevin Costner started coming in thick and fast – Waterworld might not have been the commercial failure some have suggested (the theme park attraction based on the film actually made a sizeable chunk of the budget back alone). but it marked the period of his career where vanity started to go out of control.

    Yet while Kevin Costner has never returned to being the huge star he once was, nevertheless he’s worked steadily for the last twenty years despite having appeared in literally nothing worth writing home about.


  5. forrestbracket

    costner is not lazy even in bad reviews films like black or white he got great reviews . He was amazing in man of steel he was one of the few things in it that got good reviews . won emmy for hatefield. he tired taking risks after dances with wolves sometimes like jfk they pay off sometimes they dont but at least he tried. h even got golden globe nom for itn cup hes amazing actor.


    • The CineFiles Podcast: Episode 16:

      The CineFiles return with episode 16 of their ongoing podcast. Or, if you rather, THE CINEFILES: EPISODE 16 – SOUNDTRACKS. That’s right, we get into our favorite film score composers and soundtracks made up of our favorite music compilations. But first, we review the films we’ve recently seen (or re seen) ala THE DEPARTED, BROADWAY IDIOT, FLATLINERS, MOONRAKER, the Asian horror thriller SELFIE, I MADMAN, STRIPPERS VS. WEREWOLVES among others. We also give our thoughts on the latest Hollywood news. In terms of soundtracks, well, what more needs to be said? From Bernard Hermann to Elmer Bernstein. And John Williams to Hans Zimmer. You might prefer the eclectic punk mixed tape of REPO MAN to something like THE BIG CHILL. But you will agree it is a very broad topic and we attempt to cover as much as possible in episode 16 of The CineFiles podcast.


  6. forrestbracket

    I am putting this link to start arguments. Here is a link that talks about lists of movies that ruined actors career if you skip ahead to four minutes 8 seconds you will see they mention briefly ironically sometimes superman movie helps some career. Then they show clip of Costner in Man of steel.


  7. forrestbracket

    Leabu he turned down django and kill i think u should include that in the article it could resuracted his career


  8. forrestbracket

    here is video of top movies hurt actors career if u skip to 4 minutes 25 seconds u will they say superman is capable of resuracting some actors career they show clips of costner inman of steel


  9. Kevin Costner Would Like You To Know ‘Waterworld’ Is Very ‘Beloved’ Worldwide:

    Poor Kevin Costner is still steaming over 1995’s critical and financial disaster, Waterworld. The movie stands as a seminal example of an ego-driven nightmare with a bloated budget and few returns. Back in the day, the movie cost $175 million to make, which is nothing compared to today’s blockbusters, but it was one of the biggest gambles at the time. The film brought in only $88 million in North America, and its international take brought it close to breaking even, if one didn’t account for promotional costs.

    Most people agree Waterworld was an unnecessary and overwrought apocalyptic nightmare, but Costner disagrees. After all, The Postman fared much worse in theaters. Costner recently had a text conversation with critic Jeffrey Wells, who dutifully trashed the movie upon its release. Costner insists his movie is a treasure around the world:

    “I’m not sure you know how hard people work [on films]. I’m not sure you know how beloved the movie is around the world. Being hard [on a film] is really easy if you don’t know the underbelly of what [went into it]. When you do know the forensics of a movie — the participation and decisions of others that one has to stand in front of — you can’t help but see it differently.”

    Yeah, Costner is still very sore over the movie’s reception and ongoing joke status. It’s hard to blame him for being upset, but 20 years later, it’s time to let go, man. Let Waterworld take its rightful place amongst guilty pleasures for a select few moviegoers. Costner has a point, though, that critics and audiences rarely appreciate the work that goes into “the forensics” of filmmaking. Yet the job of a contemporary critic is to review a film for its audience appeal, especially in the case of a popcorn cruncher, which is likely what Costner was aiming for with Waterworld.


  10. costner is great actor always will be. Dont care how many flops he has.


  11. sorry about that. Like costner work too much. As you have seen from video i posted Man Of Steel helped his career more then people gave realize. It was first time in a while costner had his name next to box office hit.


  12. It wasn’t a pulp fiction type comeback but it gave him back from flop. He did turn down kill bill and django I think those films would helped more.


  13. I think having Draft Day taking place in Cleveland makes a lot of sense. Have you seen the Browns?


    • I’ve seen them, and they are ugly, as are their new uniforms, Boy, it must have been something to be a Browns fan in the 1950’s though; they were such a powerhouse.


  14. perfect wolrd made over 130 mill world wide it made up for mareting budget


  15. 30 mill isnt a huge budget isnt it possible a perfect world made enough worldwide to cover its lose in usa.


    • It’s possible. Even likely. But also irrelevant. Most movies will eventually break even. Breaking even is failing. You don’t hire Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood in the 90’s expecting to break even.


  16. yes it had high expectation . But i guess we can call it disappointment. not every movies breaks even there are lot of movies that do ok workdwide or flop


  17. He turned down kill Bill and Django. It was a dumb decision to turn down director known for resurrecting careers. Had he accepted those roles maybe his career would have improved.


    • Kevin Costner is a director too, so maybe he didn’t feel like he needed that type of assistance.
      Speaking of Quentin Tarantino, did anyone view the episode of “Iconoclasts” with him and Fiona Apple (I love Fiona Apple:-)? I think those two were a perfect match for that show.


  18. Wow, it’s like a walk down memory lane. I watched most of his older movies, and enjoyed quite a few of them.
    I was surprised to see that “A Perfect World” damaged Costner’s career a little. It was somewhat of a hit in my country at the time (unofficially, of course). I remember crying buckets when his character got kiled off.

    Same with “Revenge”. I don’t get it why people didn’t like it – I really enjoyed it and cared about the characters.
    “War” was a weirder kind of movie, but I still remember it, so it must have made an impression (not because of his character, though). And of course I still love “Robin Hood”. In fact it’s the first Costner movie I’ve ever seen, and my favourite ‘R.H.’ adaptation ever.

    O man, I had no idea that I liked so many of Costner’s movies, I sound like a fan (and I have the weirdest desire to watch “Postman” now… phew… I think it’s passed).

    Overall, I think Costner is a decent actor. Maybe he’s not great, but he’s likable and has a quiet charisma that I find very appealing. I hope for a mini-comeback.


    • Glad you enjoyed the article. It was never my intent when I started the site, but we traffic in nostalgia here. An awful lot of the content amounts to walks down memory lane. I should really buy some real estate there. A lot of times, it’s hard to remember how we saw stars and movies way back when. There was a time when Costner seemed like he could do no wrong. Of course that time is long since passed.

      I think he is experiencing a mini-comeback. Prior to the Hatfields and McCoys, Costner seemed to be completely forgotten. Now he’s getting some more high profile work. If anything, I think his career is cooling off again. But maybe another hit will come along. He has a very easy onscreen presence which should serve him well in supporting roles in his golden years.


  19. I grew up on his movies. He is my 2nd fav actor. He is a great not decent actor. A perfect world was not a flop it did more then ok worldwide. It just did not perform to studios expectations. Clint and kevin came off big hits and it was expected to do much better.It however contains some of kevin best work. Dances with wolves in a strange way kind of a disaster in disguse. Costner had to take money form his own pocket to fund it. There were reports movie was over budget and people expected to flop before it came out. They could not been further from the truth.The success of that film have Kevin an ego thinking he could do no wrong. Hes humble now.Longrun if you want see a mini comeback by him watch man of steel. Its closet thing to a comeback . Many article say he bounced back a bit after it. Speaking of a perfect world I find his costar clint bland . Kevin has much more range then clint .


    • Thank you, bodwaya, I’ll watch it. I got nostalgic after that article, so I guess I need more Costner in my life, lol.

      Of his later works I’ve seen only Mr. Brooks (bland and uninspiring) and, accidentally, “3 days to kill’. Unexpectedly, I liked the latter, even if it was a bit of mish mash of genres. The way Costner’s character keeled over every time he needed to off someone was (intentionally?) comical, as was the cartoonish villain girl, but I genuinelly enjoyed Costner’s performance either way. He did well, and the part of the movie about father-daughter relationship resonated with me – both for personal reasons and because of his acting.


  20. I found Mr Brooks interesting and though prov acting. Costner takes what could been one dimensional killer like he did a perfect world made it his own. Not a fan of 3 days to kill. I like action movie but i tend to think costner do sent always fit action movie mold. His strength lies in drama and comedy. 3 days to kill was cartoonish not meant to be taken seriously. I do wish in future kevin actually says yes to quinten HE would have owned kill bill. Kevin current popularity lies in nostalgic value. Hes the actor that the older generation remember as the guy who use to be huge. i don’t get how someone can say i use to like costner but he makes bad movies now? If you really like an actor u be with him through his good or bad movies. To me costner will always be a list . His movies where apart of my childhood. Much like hanks denzel and cruise where


  21. I think costner thought postman would end up like dances with wolves. It gave him over bloated confidence that he would be great director. He is good director though. He turned down air force one to do postman. Harrison ford who career was still had hot did not need that comeback. Costner stumbled upon his ego alot in 90s. Man of steel step in right direction. He took smaller role but was still apart of a successful film. Costner turned down alot of big hits. Like traffic(which i thought was sloppy) for 13 days shawshank platoon and apollo 13


  22. Mr brooks one of his best performances. Not every actor can stay on top forever. Look at Michael caine once a huge a lsit star now supporting actor in hits. If costner goes that route its no shame. Now caine respect from both generations. Hopefully q man throws him a bone.


  23. Dances with wolves gave him huge ego. Man of steel did give him chance to put his name on huge hit so things cant be bad for him now


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